By Musa Baba Adamu
The Senate, Tuesday, considered a critical bill that would shore-up the country’s foreign exchange earnings, as well as foster the diversification of the Nigerian economy from the exportation of Shea.
The bill which scaled second reading during plenary also seeks to establish the National Shea Development Council.
Sponsored by Senator Muhammad Enagi Bima (APC, Niger South) said the intent behind the move to establish the Council was to “provide guidance on the entire Shea sector by establishing National Shea Development Council for the restoration of the degraded Shea parklands including off-reserve forests, the establishment of more Shea parklands across Shea belt, promotion of the Shea value chain, job creation and empowerment of rural women in Nigeria.”
Leading debate on the bill, Senator Bima said, “Mr. President, Distinguished Colleagues, Nigeria is blessed with abundant natural resources including a number of cash crops. These include cassava, cashew, Shea, cotton, cocoa, oil palm, rubber among others. The value chains for these crops if developed, can generate a lot of employment. Of all these crops, the Shea tree has been one of the most neglected.
“The Shea tree known as “Vitallavia Paradoxa” is an important economic tree that plays a vital role as a sustainable means of livelihood for thousands of households across 22 States in Nigeria with over 3 million rural women engaged in Shea business. Nigeria is at present responsible for 62 percent (approximately 370,000 Metric Tonnes Per Annum) of global Shea nut production estimated at 600,000 Metric Tonnes.”
According to the lawmaker, Nigeria presently is not just the leading producer of raw Shea nuts globally, but also the nation with the largest stock of Shea trees in parklands.
“The Shea sector with the proper organization and investment can support government effort to diversity the economy,” he said.
Bima added that, “the present global annual demand for Shea is valued at about $4 billion and is projected to be over $10 billion by 2030.
“The main benefits of Shea to Nigeria include foreign exchange earnings, Women Empowerment, source of income generation, wealth creation, lives enhancement, food security, employment generation, rural infrastructure development, industrialization, reduction of deforestation and forest degradation, reduction in carbon emission and climate change mitigation.”
The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, after the bill scaled second reading, referred the same to the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development for further legislative work.
The Committee which is Chaired by Senator Abdullahi Adamu (APC, Nasarawa West) was given four (4) week to report back to the Upper Chamber.