Many people call him The Tree Planter because he plants trees and he has been planting trees since 1984. In this interview, respected Ijebu high chief, Giwa Bisi Rodipe who will be clocking 80 in a few months time talks about his love for planting trees in the past 35 years.
“I am a graduate of Timber Technology, Yaba Trade Centre. What we did was Timber Technology not Forestry. My foray into Tree Planting dates back to 1984. How did it happen? Years back, I used to go to some of Ogun State’s forest and it occurred to me that we can’t be dependent on government forest alone. So sometime in 1984, I went to the forest for allocation of Timber (it must be 150 years old). A tree was cut down and the fruit fell on my laps. I grabbed the seed and I asked the Timber contractor what is this? He said that is the seed. From education, when you have the seed you can plant. So, I brought the seed home. That was in 1984. I planted 500 of the seed. Even though I am not an expert in afforestation and tree planting. But by Gods divine blessing the 500 seeds germinated, but because of inexperience only about 25 survived. I didn’t do much until the year 1999 when I was on the delegation of Afro-Asian Business Forum to Malaysia. It was organised by the Japanese government and many African countries went to Malaysia.
We were attached to industries. The industry where I was attached, every director, every Engineer there had a plantation of their own. When we close I usually join them in their plantation. That is when I realised we were deceiving ourselves in Nigeria. Everybody concentrated on Plantation and Forests, either in Agriculture or Palm Kernel or Rubber. When I saw this I then came back and looked at all those trees I planted in 1984 that I did not care for and started caring for them and in the process, I started buying lands within my area because the issue of illegal fellers is a big issue. So I don’t want to go far to go and plant trees in a forest far from me, where illegal fellers will go and cut. So I have my forests within my neighbourhood that I can see. It’s a 1 hour or 2 hours drive.
When I started this I never knew I will be appreciated by even those in the Federal Ministry in Abuja. I also joined in Tree Planting in Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria I have a forest there. That is what has been happening. The truth is you cannot talk of nature without Forests because the entire globe started focusing on forestation. The human race started from hamlets and later grew into cities. When you are talking of forests you are talking of renewable resource. It is renewable so we are supposed to develop it. What we are witnessing today is that people are harvesting without planting. Nigeria has lost more than 60% of its forest land and we continue to lose more yearly because there is no serious re-forestation even though most of our universities have Forest departments and you have forest graduates. What amazes me is that Federal College of Forestry was established the year of my birth. 80 years ago, and yet we don’t have forests to show for it. And one of the oldest research institutes in this country is FRIN Federal Rovest Research Institute at Ibadan and yet we don’t have forests. So this is a serious issue.
We have shown through our various publications that planting trees could be profitable. The only thing driving everybody off is the long gestation because everybody now wants immediate cash. Buy land and plant trees.
How do you manage your Furniture company Bisrod Furniture & Your Plantation?
Both are inter-related. Bisrod uses the products from my plantation as raw materials. It is Bisrod that has been funding it, even though some uninformed people thought I am getting foreign funding. That is not true. I don’t get foreign funding, it is my company BISROD that is funding my investments in Tree Planting. Most of my trees are now mother trees. They are producing seeds in multiple of hundreds of thousands. If Nigeria is a country where tree planting in taken seriously, I will make a lot of money by selling the tree seeds. I have been to a Seed back in London, I have seen how it is done. We can do the same thing here. It is like a Cold Room. It’s like a Refrigerator. All seeds are collected and put through scientific treatment, chemical treatment before they put it in the refrigerator seed bank.