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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Nigeria Can Earn Billions From Moringa, other Local Medicinal Plants - - Sheriff

I stumbled on this interview and wants to share with you. Please take time to read!
There is a high turnover in the global herbal market spearheaded by China, India and Thailand. In this interview with WINIFRED OGBEBO, the Managing Director, Nigeria Medicinal Plants Development Company (NMPDC), a parastatal of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Zainab Ujudud Sheriff, speaks on the mandate of the organisation and what it is doing to make Nigeria a top earner in the global herbal market.
What stage is your agency now in terms of herbal cure development?
As you know, the Nigerian Medicinal Plant Development Company, an organisation of the federal government, tackles the issue of malaria. We are aware that the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended the introduction of the current drug we are using for malaria, called the Artemisinin Combination Therapy (ACT).
The federal government thought it wise to set up a local company that can produce the raw materials got from a plant that is indigenous to China. We had to do some research to see if it could be domesticated. The good news is that after two years of research findings in different zones, research findings showed that Artemisia can grow in many parts of this country, but preferably in the north because of the content of artemisinin.
It's richer from the leaf gotten from the northern part of the country. So, with that as a starting point, we decided to widen the gap from Artemisinin Development Company to Nigeria Medicinal Plant so that we would be able to explore over 8,000 tissues of medicinal plants that we have, so that Nigeria can also promote its own. We felt that it's time we looked at what we have and see how we can add value.
There is a current resurgence in natural medicine all over, with $100 billion annual high market being spearheaded by China, India and Thailand. When you come to the African continent, Nigeria has nothing to show. So it's an opportunity for us to participate in that global market. We can only do that by defining and identifying our own medicinal plants, developing and processing them for value addition.
This is what we are doing currently. But, specifically, we can't do everything at the same time. We take it step by step. The domestication of artemisinin is a success story. We have identified six plants from the different zones of this country, prominent to each zone, easily grown, that have great potential for health, economic and nutritional benefits and can also lead to job and wealth creation.
In the North West we have Moringa Oleifera. The local and common names are drumstick , 'zongale', 'ewe-iye' and 'okweoyibo'. In the North East we have Hibiscus Sabdariffa. The local and common names are sorrel, rosselle and 'zobo'. In the North Central we have zingiber officinale. The local and common names are ginger, 'citta' and 'junja'. In the South South we have vernonia amygdalina.
The local and common names are bitterleaf, 'shuwaka', 'ewuro' and 'onugbu'. In the South West we have ocimum gratissimum. The local and common names are scent leaf and 'effirin'. In the South East, we have telfeiria occidentalis. The local and common names are pumpkin leaves and 'ugu'.
These are plants that are very simple, readily available and can be cultivated even at home. But we are looking at their potentialities and commercial value that can generate revenue to this country both internally and externally. Ultimately, we are looking at job creation for our people, particularly the women. If you go to the market, you will see that it is the women that do most of this cultivation. We prefer them so that we will be able to give them more value for their products.
In what ways are you collaborating with the Nigerian Institute of Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD)?
I am glad you said research. The NIPRD is a research outfit with a mandate to research, and we have our own mandate to commercialize: to look at all those research findings and put them into products that can be commercially viable. This is what we are doing. Some of these plants that I have mentioned to you have already been researched on; even the NIPRD has done some work.
So what we do is to add value to our commercialization of our products, by asking them to do some simple research and development (R&D), to identify the content we want in the medicinal plant. For example, we are able to involve them and collaborate on the value of the artemisinin plant. They have been able to do that R & D for us, which has shown that our artemisin is commercially viable. That means it has great potential and Nigeria can cultivate it. So, that is our collaboration with NIPRD. We are interested in getting money; they are more research-based.
Talking about the artemisinin plant, have they been cultivated?
I can tell you that. Even if you want to go now, I can take you to Idu where you will see the wet season cultivation going on. We have about seven hectares of land there. We also have 18 hectares of land for the cultivation of artemisinin going on in Katsina State.
We are currently cultivating six hectares. We do both dry and wet season. In Kano, Kadawa, we have 15 hectares which we cultivated during the dry season. This is to show to you that we have these plants now, which we are cultivating in Nigeria.
How many years are we looking out before their development into therapeutic effects?
We have started by packaging four products which we have introduced gradually into the market. From these basic products we are talking about, we have what is called the Artemisia, the anti-malaria tea herb. We have the Artemisia tea plus, a combination of Artemisia and Moringa. We have the Morinvite powder and the Morinvite tea made from Moringa. These are four products that we have started.
We are also going to do all the rest. This is what we call phase one. Phase one to us in the company means that we have something to show, that this is what we can present as we go into phase two. Phase two will involve extraction - what we call herbal technology of extraction and separately extracting the Artemisia to get the artemisinin.
But we need to have that facility; that is one of the challenges we are facing. If we are able to get that facility, the extraction technology, for example, we will be able to extract Moringa to get about 13 to 15 different products. So we need to have that extraction facility.

For hygienically processed, potent moringa leaf powder and other moringa products such as moringa seeds, Moringa oil, moringa tea, moringa balm, moringa cleanser, moringa capsules, Moringa roots, moringa flower powder, and/or consultancy, call Mr. Solomon Ternder on +2348065387819, +2348122964741. Or mail to [email protected]

From Artemisia, we get the artemisinin which will be processed further to get the basic raw materials that can be used to produce what we need. So, we have something to show and we are still in the process of further value addition and diversification of such products.
What about the traditional medicine practitioners? Are you collaborating with them?
When you say traditional medicine practitioners, there are two issues there. You talk about their practice and you talk about their products.
This company does not have the mandate to regulate the practice of traditional medicine practitioners. That mandate is with the Federal Ministry of Health. But when you talk about products - since we are looking at indigenous products, indigenous plants - you know that most of these traditional practitioners use these plants, so they could be source of information. So where necessary, we would collaborate.
From the health angle, they have an association which is recognized by the Federal Ministry of Health, and I happen to be the pioneer head of traditional medicine practitioners when I was in the Federal Ministry of Health. So I know they are there, but they need to have a law. There is a Bill currently at the National Assembly, and if that law is not passed, you cannot regulate the practice; so they can give anything and a lot of people can take wrong medication.
What are the challenges?
As long as there is existence of mankind, you're bound to have challenges. Nobody is free from it. But what is important is if you can surmount the challenges. This is a pioneering company and you know what it takes to run it. We are still at the embryonic stage, so there has to be patience, and a level of guts, to persevere and to be very focused. Look at our vision and mission; we are here to set a pace and we believe we can achieve that, but we need both the technical, financial and political support.
Yes, political support is impressive. Financial support could be better, and for technical support, we are on it because most of the staff members here, if you look at it, we have some technical groups here and we have some who are agric, science, pharmacists and the supporting staff. We have issues of marketing our products and public awareness, which is what we are doing.
Now, given the income potential of herbal products, especially those of China and India, do you see Nigeria falling into that income group?
You know, Nigeria is blessed with very good arable land; we have 79 million hectares of arable land. We have not been able to explore up to 25 per cent. That means Nigeria has the potential to cultivate these medicinal plants that are peculiar to it. Also, some of these plants we have that are indigenous to us may not be found in other countries, so we have that opportunity to go into the market to compete. Let me give you an example: Moringa, as I mentioned earlier, the greatest producer of it globally now is India, and it generates $6 billion annually from Moringa.
So, if Nigeria is able to bring the medicinal plant of Moringa into the global market, then it can lead to job creation and wealth, and improve the economy of this country. Bitterleaf and so many plants we have discovered, which you feel are so simple, are the ones to lead us.
You must look at what you have, look inwards and start from in-house. If we don't look inwards, we will continue to be a consumer country. Even if you buy all the products from China, there's nothing greater than your own. So it is time for all of us, particularly the scientists, to take this challenge and bring out value from our own indigenous plants.
When will you start exporting these products?
We have started showcasing and exporting some of them. We just had a participation in Gambia recently. If nothing, we had some presentation of our products. I am interested in developing products even if it is for the West African market first because of the politics involved in the international market.
Gradually, the value of your products will speak for itself. If you have a good product, it will go many places, and Nigeria Medicinal Plant Development Company wants to set the pace. I want to look at other international products, like Body Shop.
They have a lot of natural products and I am sure you are aware that almost 80 per cent of the raw materials used by the Body product is sourced from Africa. So we can showcase by using our company as a pioneer.

For hygienically processed, potent moringa leaf powder and other moringa products such as moringa seeds, Moringa oil, moringa tea, moringa balm, moringa cleanser, moringa capsules, Moringa roots, moringa flower powder, and/or consultancy, call Mr. Solomon Ternder on +2348065387819, +2348122964741. Or mail to [email protected]

This article is Originally found on this website, and edited on this blog by me.

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  1. I found your website the other day and after reading a handful of posts, thought I would say thank you for all the great content. Keep it coming! I will try to stop by here more often.

  2. Thanks, Khairul, for stopping by. I appreciate your encouraging comment. I will do more, by God's grace. Blessings!

  3. Yes. These are from an interview Mrs. Sheriff did with NTA . Very enlightening


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