‘Younger gen­er­a­tions may send farm­ing to extinction’

Alamu Ogun­sola, who is in his 60s, has been deal­ing in co­coa and kola nuts for over 50 years. In this in­ter­view, he speaks on the process of plant­ing kola nuts, the chal­lenges at the farm, mar­ket­ing and myths sur­round­ing the fruit, which he feared may go

Daily Trust - - AGRICULTURE - From Ke­hinde Akinyemi, Abeokuta

Can you tell us where we are?

You are at Ala­pako in Obafemi area of Ogun State. I have about six acres of kola nut plan­ta­tion. In years past, it is more than that. How­ever, things have changed be­cause of weather and soil and also be­cause the Hausa people that used to come to the farm to buy the nuts are no longer com­ing due to the prob­lem of in­sur­gency there. It is now vice-versa, we have to be car­ry­ing the nuts to the mar­kets our­selves now. Yet, my wife will re­turn them un­sold.

That is why now we do not re­move them from the veil (those in bas­kets in the pic­ture) we just cut the pod and bring them out to carry to the mar­ket, be­cause we en­vis­aged that we may not likely have our cus­tomers to come and buy. Those we do not cut the pod can re­main like that for months, we shall be putting chemical to pre­vent in­sects from eat­ing them. And when we are ready, we cut them and bring the nuts out.

How does plant­ing of kola nut be­gin?

Well, we first clear the land. We then start plant­ing very near the wa­ter­side and later, af­ter about six months, we re­move them to start re-plant­ing them with about 10-feet gap, be­cause they are usu­ally very wide in branches, so we give such gaps. Af­ter that, we be­gin to ten­der it and be re­mov­ing the weeds for an­other five to six years, when it starts to bring fruits. That is where my fear lies. This gen­er­a­tion is not ready to be pa­tient as we have been and wait for seven years.

Does that mean the kola nut will go into extinction?

No, it may not for now, but, as I said, by the time we go (re­tire) there is go­ing to be prob­lem, there is no govern­ment to as­sist. To call boys to come and be do­ing the weed­ing, they charge ex­or­bi­tantly. They are not even in the vil­lage again; you can see that this vil­lage is com­pletely de­serted. But, when it is rainy sea­son, they will come back to plant maize, cas­sava and yam and that is all. So, if people like us re­tire, then any­thing can hap­pen to kola nut farm­ing in Nigeria.

How many of you are still in the kola nut farm­ing?

We are quite a num­ber, with var­i­ous acres. We have about 50 acres put to­gether in this area.

The govern­ment is not giv­ing at­ten­tion to kola nut like co­coa and I do not know the rea­son, thereby leav­ing us to savour both the good and bad of kola nut


But, kola nut farm­ing is very stren­u­ous and re­quires a lot of pa­tience. So, af­ter five years, we be­gin to har­vest ev­ery year and later af­ter about six years again, the soil be­comes weak and we have to clear them. We make money from the trees by sell­ing to be used as ply­wood by saw-millers. From the farm, we har­vest, we have late har­vest now, so the pods are no longer drop­ping them­selves. We cut the pods and re­move the kola nuts; we get about 12 or 10 in a pod. We then washed them and keep for about two weeks and spread them to add Ga­ma­lin to pre­vent in­sect in­fec­tion. There is a par­tic­u­lar in­sect, if it is al­lowed to get into kola nut tree, it will eat it dry. As I said ear­lier, if it was in years past, ours is just to take the Hausa to the farm to go and be pack­ing them. Our wives and chil­dren will take them to the mar­ket on mar­ket days to sell. A good pro­duc­tive tree can fetch up to five bas­kets.

What is the gain and loss of kola farm­ing?

Dur­ing har­vest is the gain, but af­ter har­vest noth­ing again, you have to start ten­der­ing them again and at that pe­riod, it is a loss. Again, this cri­sis in the north is giv­ing us prob­lem, but, thank God, the sit­u­a­tion im­proved a lit­tle bit this year (smil­ing).

So what is the dif­fer­ence be­tween goro (the nor­mal kola), abata (tra­di­tional/na­tive kola), and orogbo (bit­ter ola)?

This is goro (show­ing a pod). It is the one eaten mostly by the Hausa. It is what we have in abun­dance here. And those in Igbo land. But, I un­der­stand from his­tory that this is where you can get the best of kola nuts. They (Hausa) say it gives them strength and nour­ish­ment. In­ci­den­tally, I do not eat kola. As for tra­di­tional or na­tive kola, as the name im­plies, we un­der­stand it is mainly used by our elders for tra­di­tional pur­pose. The Hausa do not even go near it. When you get to Ogun­makin kola nut mar­ket (which was vis­ited by our cor­re­spon­dent later), you will dis­cover that only our people sell na­tive kola. There is no spe­cial thing, ex­cept it does not con­tain much in the pod like the nor­mal kola. For, bit­ter kola, I do not even have the farm, be­cause I will not live to wit­ness its har­vest. It takes about 70 years be­fore har­vest. So, if I have the farm now, I will not see it pro­cre­ate un­like kola nut.

Is govern­ment mak­ing any eco­nomic gains in kola nut farm­ing?

I do not think so. The govern­ment is not giv­ing at­ten­tion to kola nut like co­coa and I do not know the rea­son, thereby leav­ing us to savour both the good and bad of kola nut farm­ing.

Do you have any re­grets go­ing into kola nut farm­ing?

No re­gret at all. I am proud to be a kola nut farmer and my col­leagues are, too. If we get govern­ment sup­port we can trans­form our kola nut farm into new plan­ta­tion, as we shall em­ploy our younger ones with good money to pay them.

Fresh kola nut

Alamu Ogun­sola

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