Organic Farming for youth farmers: How feasible?

In Nigeria, certified organic farming is still in its baby stage, while majority of the local farmers practice organic farming by default without being certified some are certified and well included in all the organic farming associations, hence there is need for its actualization, awareness, popularization, management and policy. Organic farming is therefore a holistic production management system that promotes and enhances agro-ecosystem health, including biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. Its major aim is for the production of safe, highly nutritious food and long term sustainability of the environment. Researchers have discovered that chemical fertilizers and other agro-chemicals used in conventional agriculture does not only destroy the environment by altering the natural balance of the ecosystem and in many cases affect food quality with the intake of minerals such as lead or excess copper by crops which are dangerous for human consumption and has been traced to be the source of one of the most deadly disease in the world called Cancer.

The practice of organic agriculture in an organized manner is still new to the country, with less than ten years of application. As of 2007, Nigeria had 3,154 ha under organic agriculture of which 59 ha were fully converted and managed by a few farmers and NGO’s, with little government involvement. However, it was reported that in 2010, land under organic production increased to 11,979 ha with 517 producers. In spite of the low level of activities in organic agriculture in Nigeria, the practice has great strengths that can be exploited to accelerate development. There are organizations and stakeholders that are involved in the development of organic agriculture in Nigeria.  Dara/Eurobridge Farm, which is the known as the pioneer organic farm in Nigeria and produces lemongrass, turmeric, ginger, plantains and medicinal herbs, Ope farms too is one of the leading organic farm in Nigeria and the farm produce and many others as listed below:

• Organic Agriculture Project in Tertiary Institutions in Nigeria (OAPTIN), which organized a pioneering network in 2004. Its activities focus on capacity building and networking of academics in organic agriculture

• Olusegun Obasanjo Centre for Organic Agriculture Research and Development (OOCORD), which was established in 2007 and is the first of its kind in Nigeria. It focuses on research and development in organic agriculture

• Nigerian Organic Agriculture Network (NOAN), which was formed as an initiative of OOCORD and designated to be an umbrella body for organic agriculture activities in Nigeria in August 2008. Its function is to network organic agriculture organizations in Nigeria

• Organic Farmers Association of Nigeria, Organic Fertilizer Association of Nigeria, “Nigeria Go Organic”, “Ibadan Go Organic”, are other organic stakeholders in the country

• World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) WWOOF is a network of national organizations that help volunteers to live by and learn organic farming properties. WWOOF has a passionate team who believe in the potential of organic farming in Nigeria. They bring volunteers from around the globe to work on farms in Nigeria and also work to promote organic agriculture among the Nigerian population. Conferences and seminars were also held to promote organic agricultural practices in Nigeria such as a National Conference of Organic Agriculture held in 2005 and the first West African Summit on Organic Agriculture which was held in University of Ibadan, Nigeria in 2012. Similarly, Universities in Nigeria organized projects and summer programs on organic agriculture in 2010 and 2011 to train farmers, researchers and other interested groups. These activities helped to rekindle hope for farmers who are interested in organic farming. The recent pronouncement by the African Union to assist in the development of organic agriculture in the continent, of which Nigeria is a front runner, will also help in boosting organic agriculture.

The Principles of Health, Ecology, Fairness, and care are the standards from which organic agriculture grows and develops. They express the contribution that organic agriculture can make to the world, and a vision to improve all agriculture in a global context.

 Principle of Health: Organic agriculture should sustain and enhance the health of soil, plant, animal, human and planet as one and indivisible.

Principle of Ecology: Organic agriculture should be based on living ecological systems and cycles, work with them, emulate them and help sustain them.

Principle of Fairness: Organic agriculture should build on relationships that ensure fairness with regard to the common environment and life opportunities.

Principle of Care: Organic agriculture should be managed in a precautionary and responsible manner to protect the health and well-being of current and future generations and the environment.

It is important to know all of the basic principles of organic farming so as to effect excellence in the organic farming area. The old and the rich value what they eat, they value what is used to produce what they eat, and they are inquisitive about the source of what they eat, majestically disrupting this area would go a long way in helping the old maintain their healthy balance, eating and at the same time help them in developing a healthy lifestyle and helping Nigeria increase her life expectancy rate. We have seen how farmers have doubted the reliability of organic farming, they have question it existence to conventional farming but they also keep seeing the validity of organic farming so organic farming is feasible In Nigeria.

Demerit of Organic farming

Additional Labour Demand

 There is additional labor demand in Organic farming because of higher presence of weeds. This requires 10% more labour in man-hours. Labour scarcity and costs are problems in the area. This can be a serious limitation to widespread recommendation of organic farming.

Lack of Awareness

It is a fact that many farmers in the country have only vague ideas about organic farming and its advantages as compared to conventional farming methods. Use of bio-fertilizers and bio-pesticides requires awareness and willingness on the part of the farming community. Knowledge about the availability and usefulness of supplementary nutrients to enrich the soil is also vital to increase productivity.  

Lack of Technical assistance

 Nigeria presently have few expert in the aspect of organic producer of food and this affect the scene when it comes to organic production of food.

Lack of Appropriate Inputs

Sourcing of appropriate inputs for organic farming is not easy because of lack of appropriate inputs such as bio-fertilizer and bio pesticides.

Merit of organic farming

Increase in Employment opportunity

 In a survey of 1144 organic farms in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland, researchers found that organic farms employed more workers than conventional ones (EJF, 2007). This difference persisted when factors such as the size of each farm (organic farms are typically larger) are taken into account. The researchers concluded that there would be 19% more farming jobs in the UK, and 6% more in Ireland, if 20% of all farms became organic. When properly adopted in Nigeria therefore organic farming could increase the number of farming jobs by more than 20 % considering that the population of the farmers in the country could expand as opportunities grow in organic farms.

The Human health and Environment

Unlike traditional farms, most organic farms mostly avoid pesticides. Some pesticides can damage the environment if overused with direct exposure causing most farmland to be shift cultivated for some time, human health as well. Children may be more at risk than adults from direct exposure, as the toxicity of pesticides is frequently different in children and adults. Reduction and elimination of chemical pesticide use is technically challenging but it reduction in usage might go a long way in decreasing death rate in Nigeria

The farmers’ markets and food quality

The markets for organically produced crops are strongest in North America, Europe, and Japan. Price premiums are important for the profitability of small organic farmers. Farmers selling directly to consumers at farmers’ markets have continued to achieve these higher returns. Organic food is widely believed by the lay individuals to be healthier than conventional food.

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