NIGERIA: Coconut Trees As Substitute for Timber, coconut trees might go into extinction


Nigeria recession has lead its citizens to sort for alternatives for expensive items. The prices of building materials have increased above expectations. Builders and prospective house owners are desperately embracing ways of cutting cost, to cushion the effect of the lingering recession.

Recently, Nigerians have embraced the use of Coconut trees, as alternative to timber for structural uses, especially for roofing purposes.

As at last September, a piece of 2 by 2 plank (timber) sold at the rate of N250, while 2 by 3-N350; 2 by 4-N500 and phasing board at the rate of N1, 300. But recently, 2 by 2 sold at N270; 2 by 3-N450; 2 by 4-N550, while phasing board is sold between N1800 and N2000.

The price of a coconut tree is relatively cheaper compared to timber, which is one of the reasons for the high demand for it. The price is however, subject to the area of purchase.

For instance, in the rural areas, a coastal area where coconut flourishes, a log of the coconut tree, which can produce as much as 25 pieces of 2 by 4 planks, it is sold as low as N2,500 to N3,000, depending on bargaining power.

However, the coconut tree merchants, go as far as other communities to get quality trees, majority of which are over 50 years, which can stand the test of time, for as long as 30, 40 years, when used for construction purposes.

Akinlolu Mufutau, President of Coconut Growers Association of Nigeria, confirmed that the trees are very strong for building and could last for an average of 100 years.

In addition, this development, has also provided jobs for those forced out of employment and those seeking to make ends meet, as they have found another means of making money, with a ready market out there for coconut trunks.

A carpenter, Mr. Kasali Sulaimon, rated coconut trees as one of the best materials for rafter, compared to planks from palm trees, which are also commonly used.

But a timber dealer, Mr. Yemi Omotowoju, who condemned use of coconut trunk said those who use coconut trees, with the aim of cutting cost, would regret doing so later in future. He noted that a lot of them still go around to buy timber to replace the coconut tree plank, describing such as waste of time, energy and money. He further noted that the problem with coconut tree plank is that it is not mature before being hewn for use, which makes it very feeble and unqualified for construction purposes. “Coconut trees from Ogun State falls under this category. They are not mature and when used and rain constantly falls on it, it deteriorates and the building becomes threatened.”

Also, Bamise Oguntola, a bricklayer, majority of the houses he handled in recent times, coconut trees were used for the rafter. This, he also linked with the price, noting that if quality coconut trees are procured, they can substitute timbers, whose price is rising daily. He noted that aside for rafter making, those building shops now prefer the use of coconut tree planks as replacement for steel poles, adding that some areas are also embracing the use of coconut trunk as electricity poles, since brick poles are not affordable.

“I can tell you that coconut tree is the best alternative to timber now. In the days to come, if prices of timber refuse to come down, more and more people would patronize sellers of coconut tree planks.”

The Executive Director, Doublem Enterprises Development Centre, Mr. Muhammad Mustafa, warned a few weeks ago that if the cutting of coconut trees for construction works continue, as currently being witnessed, its usefulness as an economic resource will not only run out, there is the possibility that “in the next 50 years coconut tree will go into extinction” Coconut tree also serve as a source of beautification of the society.

He further said that the government needs to discourage people cutting coconut trees for building of houses and cutting down coconut plantations in order to provide land for housing and other economic activities.

Nigerians are only concerned with cutting cost at the moment but fail to look into what the future holds. However, the Nigerian government should critically look into the matter in order to balance up with cost and the future of coconuts.

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