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Alternative medicine therapy as a measure to prevent drug and chemical residues in fish produced in South West, Nigeria

Replacing drugs and chemicals with medicinal plant therapies in commercial aquaculture production

Photo of Olayinka Oridupa
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Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

University of Ibadan

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Researcher Institution

Website of Legally Registered Entity

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 3-10 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?


Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?


Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

South-West, Nigeria which covers 16,409 km^2. This is the western region of Nigeria

What country is your selected Place located in?


Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

I was born over forty years ago and raised in this region of the country, with my ancestry in this part of Nigeria. I am familiar with the terrain and the kind of trades that the people engage in. The culture and lifestyle of the people support the largest consumption of animal protein the country. This makes my people the most susceptible to the hazards of drug and chemical residues from food animal sources.

Owing to the large coastal region and watersheds in South West Nigeria, commercial fish production is estimated to be over 400Mtonnes, which accounts for almost half the total fish production from Nigeria. The large population and diet of the people in the region also encourages consumption of fish. This explains the location of a considerably large percentage of commercial aquaculture farms in this region of Nigeria. Previous studies have shown that farms which the largest scale of production are also located in South West Nigeria from where they produce fish and distribute to other regions of the country where they have wholesales and retail outlets.

Development of alternative medicinal therapy using medicinal plants to be adopted for commercial aquaculture production will not only prevent the horizontal and vertical transfer of drug resistance. It will also ensure the production of organic food with plant-derived medications which are safe for use in fish and other species, biodegradable and eco-friendly

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

South West Nigeria, one of the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria, is home of the Yoruba people. It is located in the rainfall forest with vast watersheds which feeds the forest and a vast coastal line with significant inland water bodies. It consists of six states namely Ekiti, Oyo, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo and Osun States. Yorubas are known for their ancient kingdoms of Benin and Oyo Empires, the originators and custodians of the ancient bronze technology of Western Nigeria.

The old Yoruba empires transverse about four West African countries (Nigeria, Benin Republic, Ghana and Togo), with the largest population and main settlements in Western Nigeria. The people are known as descendants of Oduduwa, a warrior king with seven prominent sons who founded different parts of the region. Although there are ethnic diversities among the peoples, they are integrated into a formidable people with a common language, culture, belief systems, amongst others. The people are basically farmers, hunters and fishermen by profession.

These people are known for their wits and are the holders of the intellectual property of Nigeria. They highly price formal and informal education with currently the largest population of educated individuals (male and female). Yorubas dominate the higher centers of learning in all regions of Nigeria.

The people pride in our lavish celebrations of births, weddings, birthdays, house-warming and burials usually characterized by generous food servings laced with large pieces of animal protein (fish or meat). It is a mark of honor to serve a guest food with a sizeable portion of animal protein. The local foods are a major part of Yoruba culture with the characteristic culinary acumen of the women. The people traditionally tend the land to farm food and cash crops, and the waterbodies for fishing, while the hunters scavenge the forest for game.

The Yoruba people traditionally have a closely knitted family system where children are raised, marry and still live together with their parents helping with raising the next generation. Good nutrition is considered an essential part of upbringing of children. Women are considered well cared for when they are well fed, and by extension the children. The system has been perpetrated through generations with parents living with their married children till they die. This avails the ageing members of the community the opportunity to be involved with raising the grandchildren and the children in turn get to learn how to care for their aged grandparents. Feeding and care of the young and old is thus ensured with more work time available for the working-class parents.

Yoruba culture supports consumption of sizeable portions of animal protein which makes us the most susceptible to exposure to drug and chemical residues from animal protein in Nigeria. Provision of safe and wholesome foods of animal origin will ensure generations of Yorubas (about 39.5 million people) are protected from exposure to the hazards of development of drug resistance, diseases of unknown origin, among other menaces of drug and chemical residues in foods of animal origin

What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)


What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?


Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

Aquaculture constitutes a rapidly growing industry worldwide due to the growth of human populations and also demand for good nutrition which essentially includes animal protein. This has led to a concomitant increase in number of commercial aquaculture farms and larger scale of production. The people of South West Nigeria are known for the high animal protein content of our diets. The level of intensive fish farming has increased fish susceptibility to disease outbreaks and has necessitated the use of drugs and chemicals directly, and as additives to fish feed.

A wide variety of drug and chemical classes are currently used in Nigeria for aquaculture production as prophylaxis and curative purposes. These include antibiotics (e.g., penicillins, fluoroquinolones, sulfonamides and tetracyclines), anthelmintics (e.g., benzimidazoles and avermectins), disinfectants (e.g., hydrogen peroxide and malachite green) and hormones for boosting growth and performance of animals. Alongside the benefit of improved productivity, the risk of residues of these substances is a challenge that has been a growing menace in the world over. Some of the drugs and chemicals currently used in Nigeria have already been banned in several countries in Europe and the United States.

Drug and chemical residues in the resultant animal or fish tissue and products pose the greater risk of becoming a health hazard to the consumers. Consumption of fish tissue and products with drug and chemical residues above maximum residue limits (MRL) poses food safety risks, public health challenges and limit international trade opportunities. Development of multidrug resistance, drug hypersensitivity reactions, carcinogenesis, mutagenesis, teratogenesis and disruption of normal intestinal flora and hormonal balance have been related to drug and chemical residues in tissue of food animals and fish.

Substantial evidences have linked sub-therapeutic use of antibiotics in farm animals to potential health hazards. By the year 2050, these Nigerians will have been continuously and consistently exposed to drug and chemical residues from fish tissue and other animal protein sources. This will increase the prevalence of health challenges related to drug and chemical residues and emergence of new drug-resistant disease agents.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

The current challenge posed by drug and chemical residues in food animals meant for human and animal consumption is of a global scale. The scale of food animal production increased as an intervention to provide adequate animal protein source for the growing human population. Fish is a relatively cheap source of healthy animal protein. Drugs and chemicals were used to combat animal diseases and promote growth. This initial intervention increased available animal protein but gave rise to the issue of residues and the attendant health and environmental challenges currently experienced.

Our research vision proposes an alternative means of meeting the rising demand for animal protein while preventing the health challenges of drug and chemical residues in food animals. Bioactive substances from natural (plants) sources will be used for treatment of diseases, immunomodulation and enhancement of growth. These medicinal plants are readily available in Nigeria, easily cultivated and affordable which will further reduce the overall cost of fish production. The bioactive substances are biologically safe for the fish, easily metabolized and excreted, and do not accumulate in the environment.

Fish and fish products available in Nigeria will meet the minimum required standards, be wholesome and fit for human and animal consumption. Furthermore, trade opportunities will be opened up for export of aquaculture products from Nigeria to the EU, United States, amongst other countries.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

Replacement of drugs and chemicals with medicinal plant remedies in aquaculture will safeguard against the exposure of humans and animals to residues. Occurrence of diseases such as cancers, drug-resistance in organisms, hormonal disruptions and many other health hazards associated with drug and chemical residues from food animal sources will be terminated. Safe and wholesome fish and fish products will be available for the nourishment of the people.

Reduction in the cost of production using the cheaper medicinal plant therapies for disease management will also encourage aquaculture production and open international trade opportunities for the farmers. This will in the overall boost the economy of this region.

 These medicinal plants also will not further contaminate the environment as they are biodegradable and ecologically safer. Currently, the level of environmental pollution from contaminant sources related to aquaculture and other food animal production is increasing. A reversal of this hazardous process will enable the environment regenerate and decontaminate itself.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

South West Nigeria is located in the rain forest of West Africa with a population of about 39.5 million people. The region is bounded westward by a vast coastal line with water sheds in the mainland which feeds the lush rain forest. The people of South West Nigeria pride in our way of life, food, culture, dressing and our warm receptive lifestyle. Our families’ interconnection is maintained through generations with strong cultural heritage passed down to younger ones. The people live together in closely knitted family settings of about 2-3 generations in each household consisting of grandparent(s), father, mother and the children. The families share common meals with good proportion of animal protein sourced from fish, beef, goat meat and chicken, among other animal protein sources. Fish, being the cheapest source of protein is consumed in large quantities across South West Nigeria. This region also has the highest concentration of small and medium scale fish farms, and is home to the fish farms with the largest scales of production in Nigeria. Fish is supplied to other regions of the country from fish farms located in South West Nigeria.

This region is one of the most densely populated in Sub-Saharan Africa as shown in the attached picture. The growing human population has placed a higher demand on commercial fish production which led to increased used of drugs and chemicals for fish disease treatment and prevention, as well as growth promotion. Residue levels in fish and fish products from this region have been shown to be above internationally acceptable maximum residue limits for several antibiotics (e.g. gentamicin, tetracyclines), hormones (testosterone, diethylstilbestrol), endectocides (ivermectin) and chemicals (atrazine, malachite green). The current hazards of drug and chemical residues is of growing concern among people in the region, with health challenges of increased prevalence of cancers, infections caused by multi-drug resistant organisms, hormone disruption which previously have been traced to residues in animal protein consumed by humans and animals.

The dense population and dietary pattern of the Yoruba people puts them at the highest risk and most susceptible to develop adverse effects of drug and chemical residues due to the continuous and consistent dietary exposure. Other in-contact human and animal populations are also at risk of horizontal transfer of drug-resistant organisms which may cause diseases of catastrophic magnitude in case of a major disease outbreak. There is also a continuous contamination of the environment through drug and chemical residues in fish pond waters which are released into streams, rivers, lakes and other water sheds. On-shore fish farms also use drugs and chemicals which are increasing the contamination burden in the larger water bodies such as the ocean.

The alternative method of profitable and sustainable fish production by replacing synthetic drugs and chemicals with medicinal plants is therefore important for the survival and safety of these vast populations. Medicinal plants have been used for centuries without the issue of bioaccumulation in tissues of food producing animals and biomagnification in the environment.

Traditionally, the Yoruba people are vast in the knowledge of herbs. It is noteworthy that Yoruba slave settlers in the Americas were renowned as the community healer for their prowess with herbs. The same knowledge and technologies have been passed down generations, howbeit incomplete due to our lack of effective ancient recording system. However, some of the knowledge which survived through generations and others that have evolved over the centuries are been scientifically verified, validated and standardized. These bodies of knowledge are been utilized in drug discovery and development from natural sources to revolutionize treatment and prevention of several diseases in humans and animals.

The focus of this vision is to conduct further research to establish specific medicinal plant remedies with the bioactivities, safety and dosage regimen for specific fish disease or management protocols. There are pockets of research on-going which this effort seeks to harness for the benefit of large scale fish production. There is the need to scale up the level of medicinal plant remedies to match the current need for the magnitude of fish production needed to feed the growing population in South West Nigeria. The available resources in the flaura and fauna of Nigeria are sufficient to support sustainable use of medicinal plant therapies. Propagation plans is also included to ensure continued perpetuation of the medicinal plants in their natural uncontaminated environment. 

Introduction of these indigenous knowledge of the people following scientifically proven evidences of bioactivity, safety, regimen of dosage and regulated formulations will change the current trend of drug and chemical residues in fish, as well as other animal sources of protein. These medicinal plants are cheaply and readily available, easily cultivated and ecofriendly. Several preliminary researches have shown the bioactivities of these medicinal plants in experimental settings. Further in-depth research needs to be conducted on larger scales in other to extrapolate experimental results to farm settings. Replacement of synthetic drugs and chemicals with medicinal plants in fish production will eliminate the cost of synthetic drugs and chemicals, reduce the overall cost of production, increase profitability and ensure availability of safe organic fish to the common man in this region and the environs supplied fish in the neighbouring regions. Trade opportunities will also open for export of fish and fish products to other countries and continents. This will increase foreign exchange generated and enhance the economic growth of the region. The environment will also be preserved in the course of the three decades.

Furthermore, a change from synthetic drugs and chemicals to medicinal plant therapies will safeguard the life of the vast population in the region and preserve future generations. It is important to note that nature is richly endowed to provide remedies that can take care of man and his needs. The role of man is to care for nature in order to maintain the balance required for sustainability. Man needs to return to the proper use of the nature around him and reduce the on-going pollution from anthropogenic activities so the earth can clean up herself and rejuvenate. Then, the wise words of the Greek Doctor who is known as the father of medicine, Hippocrates, will be true. Our food will become our medicine and our medicine become our food.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Website


Join the conversation:

Photo of Itika Gupta

Hi Olayinka Oridupa  Great to see you joining the Prize!

We noticed your submission is currently unpublished. Was this your intention? We'd love to have your submission included in the Prize. Even if you've not started populating your Vision just yet, by publishing your submission you can make it public for other teams in your region to see, get in touch and possibly even collaborate with you.

You can publish it by hitting the "Publish" button at the top of your post. You can also update your Vision at any time before 31 January 2020 by clicking on the "Edit Contribution" on top. If you need inspiration or guidance, take a look at the Food Vision Prize Toolkit.
Here is the link to the Prize Toolkit:

Look forward to seeing your Vision published by 31st January, 5:00 pm EST

Photo of Olayinka Oridupa

Hello Itika Gupta,
I was still filling out the application. I have submitted and published it now.
Looking forward to the next stage.

Thank you.