Iya Kazim has been in the business of herb selling herbs for over 20 years and made a name for herself in the trade.

She is known to provide potent herbs for various ailment from pile to malaria, typhoid fever, diarrhea, constipation, fibroid, and most especially different forms of sexual dysfunction in men.

By now you must be familiar with names like shepe, opa-eyin, ale, jedi, afato, gegemu. These are herbs soaked in alcoholic and known to boost sexual power in men.

Such alternative medicine has grown popular in Nigeria and many believers will tell you the real masters do not advertise on radio or TV; customers’ testimonies keep them in business.

Iya Kazim fits that profile.

Tucked in the densely populated Isheri Olofin community on the outskirts of Lagos is her herb joint. From here she also supplies retailers who sell ready-to-drink herbs in cups and nylon to willing customers across the city.

But the once bubbly shop has become a shadow of itself.

Usually a beehive of activities, Iya Kazim’s stall now has empty tables and chairs and one could tell that it has been a while it played host to dignitaries.

Iya Kazim is alive and she has not relocated either, but things are no more the way it used to be. Even the herb seller has been on the wrong side of the economic recession.

However, it is not that people are no more buying herbs but here is a woman being frustrated out of the trade she is passionate about.

You could feel the anger in her voice as she spoke about how hard it has become to gather herbs with which she makes her concoctions.

“All the useful trees and plants have been cut down with the forests that housed them turned into housing estates.

 “Herbs we used to buy at 50 naira now cost 200 naira and even then, we have to travel as far as Oyo state to get it and by the time we return to Lagos it would have lost potency.

 “All the experienced people who usually do the herbs gathering for us have been chased away by developers and those who claim to be forest reserve officials,” she lamented.

One option is to go into the forests by herself but the herdsmen have also taken over such spots with their cattle.

The Importing Option

In search of solutions, she embarked on a journey to Igbokudu village in Benin Republic. Her plan was to bring home some seeds to transplant.

Yes, she found some, mostly given to her free, but they failed to grow on her farm. She called it incompatibility with Nigerian soil.

Still in her 50s, hers' is not the regular shepe business. In fact, boldly written on her wall is a notice banning smoking of Indian hemp.

So you can understand why she is most pained by her inability to help nursing mothers who usually seek her help.

Although others are cutting corners by selling incomplete herbal combinations blended with plenty alcohol to deceive the consumers, Iya Kazim would rather not sell. She is that professional.

Now that buildings and roads have taken over the forests, what is the future for those essential services that depend on the rural areas to survive?

Urbanization is an unavoidable occurrence in every part of the world, as people are constantly in search of greener pastures.

While we are busy celebrating smart and mega cities, are we also trading priceless resources in our forests?

We are converting every available space into hotels, housing estates, schools, parks, shopping malls…etc. This may be good for the economy but the hazards it creates are alarming to the environment.

It is estimated that by the year 2020, the Nigerian population would grow to be over 180 million. This is big and should tell us there is need for control and properly manage our environment.

Let's be urbanized the Nigerian way.