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This miracle plant will save Northern Nigeria from insecurity, farmer-herder clashes, desertification and improve our milk production

When some months ago, my consultant/forester told me that Lucina (Leucaena) could double the milk production of a cow, I thought he was exaggerating.  So…

When some months ago, my consultant/forester told me that Lucina (Leucaena) could double the milk production of a cow, I thought he was exaggerating. 

So I decided to check out the evidence from the scientific literature. Yet, I still didn’t believe the first paper that turned up. Is this real? The same Lucina that I’ve planted in my house and schools and have donated to our tree-planting partners? 

So I read some more but even AI joined the chorus that lucina has a protein content of between 25.25% to 30.81%! 

And while it wouldn’t double milk production as my forester said, research shows that it will increase it by up to 20%. This is money because it’s a solution to many of our animal feed problems. Another paper says: “Calcium, phosphorus and potassium appear to be adequate.”

What is Leucaena?

Leucaena (Leucaena leucocephala) is a multipurpose tree legume with high nutritional value. Its leaves, in particular, are a good source of protein, fibre, and various micronutrients.  

Leucaena is also a fast-growing, nitrogen-fixing tree legume that has been widely adopted in many parts of the world.

Nutritional Composition of Leucaena

Here’s a breakdown of the nutritional composition of Leucaena leaves:

Crude Protein: 23.3% – 25% (dry matter basis)

Crude Fiber: 11.4% – 17.2% (dry matter basis)

Ash: 11.4% (dry matter basis)

Metabolizable Energy: 2573.8 kcal/kg (dry matter basis)

Calcium: 0.38% (dry matter basis)

Phosphorus: 2.9% (dry matter basis)

Mimosine: 0.38% – 4.5% (dry matter basis) (Note: Mimosine is an antinutritional factor)

Tannins: 1.6% (dry matter basis)

Essential Amino Acids: Present in adequate amounts

Minerals: Rich in potassium, magnesium, and sodium, with moderate amounts of iron, zinc, manganese, and copper

Leucaena leaves have potential as a protein supplement in animal feed, particularly for ruminants and non-ruminants. However, the presence of antinutritional factors like mimosine and tannins needs to be considered, and strategies like proper processing and inclusion levels can help minimize their impact.

Humans can also roast Lucina seeds and eat them as snacks or use them as a coffee substitute.

Leucaena as a solution for Northern Nigeria

Senator Saminu Turaki, a former governor of Jigawa State, told me how he made his money.  “Take an idea,” he said, “and turn it into a project.” 

The essence of the senator’s insight is that an idea is nothing by itself. You’ve to ensure that it works (pilot), then bottle it, then you can scale it to solve big problems. It’s time to scale the planting of Leucaena in Arewa.  

Northern Nigeria has one primary problem that has given birth to a zillion other problems: lack of year-round vegetative cover. Due to its impressive attributes, Leucaena has the potential to solve this problem. Here are a few ways we can take benefits from the plant in Arewa. 

Benefits to Animals

Leucaena improves milk production, weight gain, and fertility in animals. It is also used to treat certain animal health issues.

Which Animals Can Eat It?

Ruminant animals like cows, goats, and sheep can eat Leucaena, as well as non-ruminant animals like pigs and chickens.

Benefit to the Soil

Leucaena enhances soil fertility, prevents erosion, and supports beneficial microbes. How does it do this? 

Nitrogen Fixation: Leucaena is a legume that has nodules on its roots, which contain bacteria that fix atmospheric nitrogen, making it available to the plant and other nearby plants.

Soil Erosion Prevention: Leucaena’s extensive root system helps hold the soil in place, preventing erosion and landslides.

Organic Matter: Leucaena’s leaves and branches add organic matter to the soil, improving its structure, fertility, and overall health.

Soil Aeration: Leucaena’s deep taproot helps break up compacted soil layers, improving soil aeration and water penetration.

Benefits to Humans

Leucaena provides food, medicine, and income opportunities for humans.

Its Toxicity and How to Minimize It

Leucaena contains mimosine, a toxic compound that can be harmful to animals and humans. However, proper processing, drying, and feeding practices can minimize its toxicity.

How to Use it to Mitigate Farmer-Herder Clashes in Nigeria

Leucaena can be used as a feed supplement to reduce competition for land and resources between farmers and herders.

How to Propagate it and the Average Seeds a Tree Can Produce

Leucaena is one of the easiest plants to multiply and can be propagated through seeds or cuttings. Indeed, this plant is one of our secrets at 200MillionTrees in reaching our goal of planting 200 million trees in 10 years. This is because a mature tree can produce up to 10,000 seeds per year. So we need only 100 trees to produce a million trees. 

This way each state in the North can produce 10 million trees every year from planting just 1,000 trees. We’ve started this process and call on our compatriots to support us. Because we’re going to do this with or without government support. 

How to Make Money from It

At an individual level or as a private enterprise, Leucaena can be sold as animal feed, used for soil improvement, or processed into various products like tea, coffee, and medicine.

In our case, at our ranch in Bida, we’re planting it to feed cattle but one must be careful in feeding the animals the right way because Lucina keeps a bad company called mimosine, a toxic compound that can cause hair loss, poor growth and goitre. 

This anti-nutritional presence is only 0.38%. But to mitigate its adverse effects one must take some processing measures such as combining it with some mimosine-degrading microbes such as yeast. You can also dry or ensile to reduce mimosine. 

Already, 200MillionTrees has included Leucaena as an important component of its tree-planting initiative to save northern Nigeria from farmer-herder clashes. And because it’s a nitrogen-fixing legume, it will improve our soil in the soil-poor parts of the region. Let me know if you want to partner. 

 

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