Pharm. Zainab Sherriff is the Managing Director, Nigerian Medicinal Plants Development Company (NMPDC). In this interview with LINUS OOTA, she speaks on the mandate and aspirations of the company for the agricultural sector.
We want to know the overview and mandate of the company and its achievement so far.
It was incorporated in 2007 as Artemisinin Development Company with the mandate to cultivate Artemisia annua, extract Artemisinin and carry out synthesis to produce the basic raw material for the production of Artemisin-based Combination Therapies (ACTs), the first line therapy for malaria as recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The company saw the need to incorporate other indigenous plants, alongside Artemisia annua from the vast variety of about 7365 medicinal plants available in Nigeria; thus the change of the company’s name in 2010. These plants were chosen for their nutritional value, health benefits and potentials in generating revenue from the geo-politcal zones.
The plants are Moringa oleifera (Zogole) North West, Veenonia amydalina (bitter leaf) South South, Telfaria occidentalis (Ugwu) South East, Ocimum basil (ginger) North Central.
The company kick started under the leadership of the them special adviser to Mr. President on manufacturing Alhaji S.Y Abdulkadir, we took over as a new management in 2008 to continue the mandate, we decided to carry out what we called tryers, you can not go further until you prove that that plant can grow well in the Nigeria soil and not only that it can also give you the content you want for your raw materials, we did two tryers in all the six geo-political zones, south east, Enugu, south south, Calabar, south west, Ogun, North east, Taraba, North west, Jigawa and North central, plateau state.
Having done this tryers we realize that the plant is well adopted to the Nigerian soil, not only that it yield positive and very encouraging , that means the artemisia we want, but the story is that the plant can grow in any part of this country, but it grow more preferably in the north because of large farmland and given the high artemisa content, that was the first major steps of this company.
So while we say it is a success story of Nigeria is that the plant that is grown in china can also grow well in Nigeria, that was the first mandate, the second one is that having cultivated it, you need to process it, in processing it you need to acquire what we called extraction plant, that extraction plant is technology, that means you need to go back to the owners of that initial plant which is china by partnering with them to give you that technology, that is why the company was set up to be the public private partnership (PPP) driven so that we can take part of it to be able to have extraction plant in the country.
What is the support of the federal government to this project?
I will tell you that the company is under the federal ministry of agriculture and it has been given out support and you know is not enough because one of the arm is to privatize the company and we want the government to derive political will to make the company viable to attract investors, that is why we have taken this first steps, the support is there but not good enough could be better and lam sure when they see what we have done with the little we have, they will vote for more support.
What measures are you taken to acquire the extraction plant for the country?
Very good, Good in the sense that we have looked forward and got the technology, and all we need to do is to buy that technology, so it is hope that the federal ministry of Agriculture or through interested investor, we could be able to acquire a 10 truck capacity extraction plant that can be able to extract 10 tonnes of artemisia cultivated daily, so the advance steps is we got another provider for the extraction plant, we do hope that the government can give us the necessary financial support to acquire that.
What is unique about Nigerian artemisa plant?
No, the plant is indigenous to china, so it is grown in china, it is grown in Thailand, some part of Europe countries even in US, so Nigeria too have join the lead and in Africa it is cultivated in Kenya, Uganda even Ghana here cultivate it, but l will want to say specifically in Africa, we have one main extraction plant in Kenya set by a movakis company from swisszerland, we also have a small extraction plant in Uganda, but along the west African sub-region, no country have been able to set up that extraction plant company, if Nigeria can do that, it can take care of 250 million African people in taken care of this raw materials for malaria, it is an advantage for us really and even the African continent in general because the one l told you in Kenya are mange by the whites.
What are the terms of cultivation of artemisia plants in Nigeria, I mean the level of production in a year?
I said earlier that we did two tryers, during our tryers we use about one hectare of land in each of those state, now that we are happy, we now did what we called expanded cultivation, we have to take it gradually because we have not set up extraction plant, if you have this plant, you can now go into out grower, so we did expanded cultivation of about 405 hectares now we are also expanding, we have 18 hectares in Katsina given to us by katsina state government, we have 10 hectares in Kano (kadawa) and then we have 16 hectares last year in karo and then this year we are also cultivating currently, we are doing dry season cultivation, the plant is an annual plants, so that means you can cultivate it twice in all year round, both dry season and rainy season, but you know we are doing the dry season in kadawa, we are going to do the rainy season in Idu where we are given about 5 hectares and them the katsina 18 hectares, we can go as far as roughly 50 hectares, we can not go beyond that because we need to have the extraction plant that will determine us to increase our cultivation, we don’t want to be the case of asking farmers to cultivate and you don’t have processors, this is the case of cassava, you ask people to cultivate and then you can not buy it. So you must have what its takes to buy from your farmers, if we have the 10 tonnes capacity extraction plant, we are sure of embarking on what we called quick investment, daily cultivation of 10 tonnes capacity or 20 tonnes depending on the capacity of the plant, a hectare of Artemisia cultivation will give you 2 tonnes of the plant, so if you are using for example, you want to get 20 tonnes, that means, they will use 10 hectares, 10 hectares will give them 10 tonnes, and them each tones of Artemisia, this is the active ingredients that you need to process, so if you look at it, if Nigeria decide to buy 10 tonnes capacity extraction plan, it therefore take you to quick investment which will take three months, if daily you process 10 tonnes, even if it is hybrid you are processing 100 tonnes and this will give you 200 tonnes of Artemisia, so if you do that, process it for three months, it will determine the quality of hectares you will use and that will led to wide job creation for the farmers and usually for them to get about 200 tonnes of Artemisia, you use about 2000 farmers.
Filed Under: Agriculture