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Nigeria to Start Artemisia Plant Farming Next Year

Nigerian farmers will by next year start commercial farming of artemisia plant in the country.

The plant, which has been reported to be potent for malarial treatment, was said to have been used to produce the Madagascar’s COVID-19 herb.

The Director-General of the Raw Material Research Development Council (RMRDC), Professor Hussaini D. Ibrahim, who announced this in Abuja, said the Council had almost concluded arrangements with the plant’s parent countries in Asia for the kick start.

“All things being equal, the process is on.

“We believe that by the next planting season, our farmers should commence commercial production of the plant,” the DG said.

Professor Ibrahim said already an Artemisia annua producers, processors and marketers association had been formed under the auspices of the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, adding that the plan is to ensure that trials are conducted under small scale farmers’ condition to ensure its success, proliferation and sustainability.

What you should know about the plant

Artemisia annua is a medicinal plant whose use has long been reported in China where it is locally known as qinghao.

Although, Artemisia annua is originally from Asia, it grows in many other parts of the world with sunny and warm conditions.

It was reported to have been used in Chinese traditional medicine for more than 2,000 years for treating a number of diseases, including malaria, as well as to relieve pain and combat fever.

According to the RMRDC, the Council had conducted trial cultivation of the plant in Enugu, Katsina, Taraba, Gombe, Kano, Plateau, Karu in Abuja and Ogun State and was very successful.

The commercial cultivation of the plant has been embraced in some East African countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Madagascar.

Our Agric Editor reports that trial runs were also done in Nigeria from 2005 to 2011 and the result was good but the overall objectives were not achieved.

According to the RMRDC, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has developed guidelines on good agricultural but and collection practices (GACP) for Artemisia annua, which if adequately followed, will ensure success of the initiative.

Madagascar uses artemisia plant for COVID-19 herb

According to BBC report, Madagascar attracted a lot of attention in April when the African island nation announced it was using a local plant to combat coronavirus.

A drink using artemisia plant extracts was promoted by its leader, President Andry Rajoelina.

However, there’s no evidence so far that this plant – whose compounds work against malaria – can combat Covid-19, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Why FG is introducing the plant to farmers

The increasing global attention paid to Artemisia annua and the World Health Organization’s support for global development of the plant has made it of global importance, experts in the agro sector said.

According to Mr. Kunle Opa, a botanist, the cocktails developed for malaria in different African communities may have been effective, the incidence of malaria is still increasing in rural communities.

Closely allied with this, he said, is the fact that the active ingredients in some of the medicinal plants have not been adequately characterized for standardization.

“The impetus for global development of A. annua is premised on the urgency dictated by the decreasing effectiveness of chloroquine, the main tool for controlling malaria parasite for over 50 years.

“As a result, countries in Africa are now rooting for treatment with drug based artemisinin.

“Most countries in East Africa, have tapped into A. annua development.

“Today, it thrives well in East Africa where the farmers are cashing on its value chain development, most especially, its production, crude processing into artemisinin and export of both the leaves and the product,” he said.

According to the RMRDC, agro -economic analysis indicates that worldwide, 17,000 to 27,000 hectares of land are required to plant A. annua required to satisfy global demand.

Present total area cultivated stands at 5000ha.

Thus a number of opportunities exist globally in A. annua development.

The opportunities cover the gamut of A. annua production, processing and marketing, the council noted.

How farmers will get the seeds

The Director-General of the RMRDC, Professor Hussaini D. Ibrahim, assured that negotiations were already on for the acquisition of Artemisinin extractors and that the initial focus is to import a 10 tonne capacity extraction plant which will be used for investment promotion, capacity building and if possible, development of necessary plants.

He said most of the seeds that were obtained from the earlier trials were converted to insecticides and sold out.

He said as a result, the Council would have to source for hybrid seeds from parts of Africa and Asia, which would be distributed to the farmers.

Local farmers ready, seek more enlightenment

Although, across section of local farmers expressed lack of knowledge of the plant, they welcomed any new crop that would augment their earnings.

Isa Alkali, a farmer in Bwari axis of the FCT, said he had never heard of the plant but noted that with proper enlightement about farming and marketing the plant, he is ready for it.

Mr. John Ndashe, a rural farmer in Garam, Tafa LGA of Niger State, said a nation-wide campaign should be carried out about the suitable land for the plant, amount of rain needed, the planting method, the fertilizer requirement, the harvest time as well as the market opportunity.

“With this, I believe many farmers will cue into it and it will benefit the country in the long run,” he said.

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