Agricultural issues two

Siam weed, Chromoleana odorata . In Nigeria it was known as Queen Elizabeth (2) weed. Its first emergence and spread was noted at the time that Nigeria became independent. Queen Elizabeth attended the celebrations and wore a hat with some flowery theme, which the Nigerians thought bore a very close resemblance to the flowers of this new weed. Quite pretty actually.

The serious side of this story was, as I understood it, that the weed was being studied by a research facility in the Cameroons who obtained it from Asia. When they completed their research it sort of found its way across the fence and the rest is history.

When I started work in the Mid West of Nigeria in 1970 the weed was widespread and well established and every year it edged further west towards Dahomey, now Benin.

It smothered everything in its path and during the already too short rotation of the shift cultivation of the fast growing population, any regeneration of even a semblance of secondary bush was nil. When the farmers returned to this patch it was simply burned off and all the nitrogen was lost.

 

The government supplied seedlings of mixed species of forest trees to help regeneration and even paid the farmers to plant them after they finished farming in a particular area. But more often than not the money was kept, while the bundles of seedlings were rotting away. It is a pity, that although the problems were understood, the political will and courage was lacking in seeing the implementation of those schemes. When education fails to change a system which worked perfectly fine a hundred years earlier, but not now, when the available land cannot sustain an ever growing population in that manner, a scenario for disaster is created.

 

Sustainable forestry is also anathema in those regions. Several forestry companies were operating in the South of Nigeria at the time. The forest was deep enough that even elephants were still roaming around. There were quotas but logging went on illegally, and not just by Nigerians. A lot of rafts of illegally obtained logs found their way to Lagos via the lagoons all along the south coast.

Deforestation is a huge problem and not just in that corner of the world. Mongabay is an informative website about that issue. If you are interested, also a few interesting sites about a shift in tilling methods. Nothing new really but maybe only starting to trickle through.

If you have the time and are interested, here are a few more links I found, illustrating exactly the point I’m trying to make.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/6288445.stm
http://www.fao.org/docrep/x5390e/x5390e02.htm
http://fusion.sas.upenn.edu/caterpillar/index.cfm?lecture=9

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7603695.stm



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