Nigeria needs to extract more value from kola

Nigeria needs to extract more value from kola

As LAUTECH Nanotechnology research group partners PANAFSTRAG on treasure of plant

With Nigeria’s position as the world’s largest producer of kolanut, accounting for about 55.06 per cent of the global output, the country is yet to fully extract the economic gains of the produce, according to industry players. As at 2021, the world production of kolanut stands at about 311,331 tonnes, with Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroun, Ghana and Sierra Leone, occupying the second, third, fourth and fifth position behind Nigeria, accounting for 99.80 per cent of global production.

The nut is traded across countries beyond West Africa. It is exported to USA, Europe, Mexico, India and China. In 2022, kolanut was priced at $2,500 – $4,800 per tonne.

Kola is a perennial cash crop that is grown because of its seed – kolanut. It is widely cultivated in West Africa, but now found in Asia, South America and the Caribbean.

It is rich in chemicals that give it stimulating effects when eaten. Caffeine found in it along with other chemicals make kolanut to have a bitter taste.

Kolanuts are widely used in folk medicine to treat different ailments. These include, diabetes, overweight, pains, cough, malaria, infertility, dysentery, typhoid fever, herpes, rheumatism, arthritis, skin, respiratory, mouth and intestinal infections.

However, despite the array of benefits and more, coupled with the economic gains, Nigeria has not only failed to expand its cultivation, but also neglected the provision of material resources that can be deployed feasibly in biotechnology, catalysis and nanotechnology for its enhancement.

It was based on this concern and many more that the Nanotechnology Research Group (NANO) at the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso, is partnering the Pan-Africana Strategic and Policy Research Group (PANAFSTRAG), Lagos to organise the first international conference on Kola plants.

This is meant to discuss the various benefits of kola nut, bitter kola, wonderful kola, monkey kola and their relatives beyond consumption. The hybrid conference, slated for between May 6-9, 2024 will be chaired by the acting Vice-Chancellor of LAUTECH, Prof. Razaq O. Rom Kalilu, while the Executive Secretary of PANAFSTRAG, Major-General Ishola Williams (Rtd), will be the Co-Chairman.

The keynote speaker is an erudite scholar and a Pan-Africanist, Prof. Omotoye Olorode who had worked on the genetics and breeding of kola nut. Plenary speakers from USA, Nigeria, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire would also present papers.

The leader of the LAUTECH Nanotechnology Research Group, Prof. Agbaje Lateef highlighted the importance of the conference to rally scholars, policy makers, regulatory agencies, industrialists, farmers and other stakeholders to deliberate on the immense importance of kola plants for sustainable development – from biology, nanotechnology, agriculture, engineering, humanities, phytomedicine, toxicology, trade, circular economy to product development.

He reported their previous investigations whereby different parts of kola nut – seed, seed shell, pod and leaf have been used with a focus on biotechnology and nanotechnology to produce enzymes, food supplements, and nanoparticles.

The group demonstrated the production of different nanoparticles by kola nut for the first time. These include silver, gold calcium oxide, magnesium oxide, titaniumoxide, silver-gold and titanium-silver alloy nanoparticles, which have been exploredfor applications in agriculture, environment and healthcare.

Similar reports by various authors have also shown that kola nut can be used in producing biofuel, catalysts, dyes, animal feeds, enzymes, biofertiliser, activated carbon, and pesticides.

Their extracts also offer protection against corrosion of metals. These products can be applied to achieve sustainable development agenda – zero hunger, affordable and clean energy, clean water and sanitation, good health and well-being, and industry, innovation and infrastructure.

In his remarks, the Executive Secretary of PANAFSTRAG, Williams commended the efforts of LAUTECH Nanotechnology Research Group for the innovative investigations, which caught the attention of his organisation to undertake an in-depth study and analyses of the challenges of political stability, safety and development in Africa.

PANAFSTRAG with its very limited capacity has a mandate to encourage creative minds and productive hands, especially in tertiary institutions, as Africa and the world need our nature-based products within a circular economy.

Peyman Taeidi

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