Nigeria: FG to Use ‘Cactus Opuntia’ (Google / allAfrica / Daily Trust)

Read at : Google Alert – desertification

Nigeria: FG to Use ‘Cactus Opuntia’ Plant to Combat Environmental Degradation

The Federal Government has recommended that “Cactus Opuntia” plant should be used to combat desertification in Nigeria, Minister of Environment Mr John Odey has said.

He made the statement on Tuesday in Abuja at a sensitisation workshop on the “Utilization of Cactus Opuntia to combat desertification, organised by Interact Safety System Ltd.

He said that the plant was selected, due to its potential in erosion control and land rehabilitation, especially in the arid and semi-arid zones of the country.

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“Nature has equally presented us with good opportunities, which if properly exploited, will produce positive impact on the socio-economic developments of the region,” he said.

Odey said that the government would continue to promote partnership with stakeholders in its efforts to combat the environmental problems facing the country.

The Senate Committee Chairman on Environment and Ecology, Mrs. Grace Bent, described Cactus Opuntia as “the mother of all discoveries” because of its potential in combating desertification.

“We shall no more lament the state of environmental degradation in the north, ranging from desertification and deforestation in the area,” she said.


MY COMMENT (Willem Van Cotthem)

This week, the Federal Government is recommending the use of the Opuntia cactus to combat desertification.  Already in 2006 we described its potentials to play an interesting role in the daily life of people and animals in the drylands : see <>

Indeed, planting spineless varieties of Opuntia ficus-indica can be very rewarding, not only to combat desertification, but also to produce fodder for animals. These varieties are growing quickly with a minimum of water in the drylands of all continents. Cacti normally have a wide appeal to growers of ornamental plants, but they have only few economic uses. However, some species of cacti produce edible fleshy fruits (raw, jam, syrup). Some other species are used in living hedges or even for furniture. Commercial plantations of the spineless “prickly pear” Opuntia are already found in Brasil, Mexico and California. The disk- or racketlike, superposed parts of the Opuntia stems can be used as fodder. Goats, sheep and cows eat the fresh disks when these are cut into slices. One can also have the sliced disks sundried, grinded to flour and mixed with a bit of water for animal consumption. Feeding cactus slices or cactus flour significantly enhances meat and milk production. Opuntia plantations on contour lines help to limit erosion on slopes. Regular harvesting of newly formed disks for vegetative multiplication is easy.

I therefore recommend to apply these spineless varieties of Opuntia at the largest scale in the reforestation projects of all the  drylands of this world, in particular in the Sahelian countries (e.g. in the Green Wall programme).


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Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.