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Food production: Banking on organic farming



Food production: Banking on organic farming

In preparation for the 2018 National Organic Agriculture Business Summit in Lagos, stakeholders have indicated willingness to work extensively for complete development of the value chain for organic produce in Nigeria. Taiwo Hassan reports



Unlike other African countries, Nigeria is yet to develop its potential in terms of organic farming, even though she is an agrarian country with a track record of being the world’s leading producer of some crops at one time or the other.
Organic farming in an organized manner is still at an infancy stage in the country, and this has made practitioners of organic farming, who are indeed a few farmers and some non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to look at the precinct opportunities endowed in organic farming, which can contribute to Nigeria’s agric development, especially food productivity.
For many experts, the role of organic farming is yet to attain stardom in Nigeria’s agric sector. They insist that there is need for intensive awareness creation on organic farming systems in order to achieve potential maximisation of its premium benefits.
Brief history
Nigeria has over 190 million people, making it the most populous country in Africa. The country’s economic mainstay before the oil boom was agriculture.
Nigeria is blessed with both natural and human resources. Huge oil deposits in the Niger Delta region bring both economic benefits and adverse impacts to the environment and the nation as whole.
The practice of organic agriculture in an organized manner is still not attaining its potential in the country despite the application of organic farming systems.
Indeed, 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. Since then, efforts have been put in place to develop organic farming in Nigeria, especially in acquiring lands to practice the systemic farming.
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 organisations and stakeholders that are involved in the development of organic agriculture in Nigeria. These main stakeholders are: Dara/Eurobridge Farm, which is the known as the pioneer organic farm in Nigeria and produces lemongrass, turmeric, ginger, plantains and medicinal herbs, Organic Agriculture Project in Tertiary Institutions in Nigeria (OAPTIN), which organised 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 organisations 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.
The Summit
Speaking on the forthcoming summit on organic farming systems in Lagos, the Country Coordinator for Ecological Organic Agriculture (EOA) Dr. Olugbenga Adeoluwa, said that organic farming systems will occupy the front burner of the 2018 National Organic Agriculture Business Summit (NAOBS).
He said the summit would be organised in conjunction with the Association of Organic Agriculture Practitioners of Nigeria, where they are looking at collaborating with other stakeholders for a complete development of the value chain for organic produce.
To him, the summit will serve as a platform for organic agriculture farmers, consumers and interested members of the public to exchange ideas and services for job creation.
“The value chain strategy will strengthen enterprises, business relationships, services, market structures and the business environment, so that they can channel more benefits to the poor, while creating more and better jobs for the people,’’ he said.
He added that the summit will also address issues relating to quality control, value chain development, retailing networks and appropriate packaging for agricultural produce.
The coordinator also stressed the importance of promoting organic agriculture from primary schools to higher institutions of learning to improve the health of the people and the environment.
“We will continue to work with schools, hotels, health givers, tourism practitioners and other stakeholders to make Nigerians live healthy life,’’ he said.
Adeoluwa urged Nigerian farmers to embrace organic farming to enable them reap the gains of the farming system.
It is a known fact that the taking-off of organic farming in Nigeria has been facing numerous challenges and this has hindered the growing of organic agriculture in the country.
Particularly, lack of awareness has been described as one of the challenges facing the thriving of organic agriculture in Nigeria despite being in the 21st century.
It is a fact that many farmers in the country have only vague ideas about organic farming and its advantages 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. Also, there are output marketing problems. Organic farmers are of the opinion that marketing and distribution of organic produce is challenging, unlike in the developed countries. It is found that before the beginning of the cultivation of organic crops, their marketability and distribution at a premium over the conventional produce has to be assured. One has to get certification before his good is sold. Inability to obtain a premium price, at least during the period required to achieve the productivity levels of the conventional crop will be a setback. More emphasis is usually placed by the government on policies to increase food production with little or no consideration on how to distribute the food produced efficiently and in a manner that will enhance increased productivity. In other words, food marketing by farmers and their families, mostly in the immediate post-harvest period usually involves a lot of costs and in Nigeria these costs are so high that lowering the costs through efficient marketing system may be as important as increasing agricultural production.
In addition, there is also shortage of bio-mass, many experts and well informed farmers are not sure if all the nutrients with the required quantities can be made available by the organic materials.
They are also of the view that the available organic matter is not simply enough to meet the requirements.
The crop residues useful to prepare a high grade natural, organic fertilizer are removed after harvest from the farms. And they are used as fodder and fuel.
Even if some are left out on the farms termites and other insects destroy them. The small and marginal cultivators have difficulties in getting the organic manures compared to the chemical fertilizers, which can be bought easily, if they have the financial ability to procure them. However, they have to either produce the organic manures by utilizing the bio-mass they have or they have to be collected from the locality with a minimum effort and cost.
Another major problem is inadequate supporting infrastructure. In spite of the recent pronouncement by the African Union to assist in the development of organic agriculture in the continent, the federal and state governments are yet to formulate policies and a credible mechanism to implement them. NOAN is sensitising the Federal Government to produce policy on organic agriculture, accreditation and certification for organic produce.
No certifying agency yet to regulate and ensure compliance with international organic production system. The trade channels are yet to be formed and the infrastructure facilities for verification leading to certification of the farms are inadequate.
Lastly, high input costs. The small and marginal farmers in Nigeria have been practicing a sort of pre- organic farming in the form of the traditional farming system.
They use local or own farm renewable resources and carry on the agricultural practices in an ecologically friendly environment.
However, the costs of the organic inputs are now higher than those of industrially produced chemical fertilizers and pesticides including other inputs used in the conventional farming system.
According to an industry source, groundnut cake, neem seed and cake, organic fertilizer, silt, cow dung, other manures, etc. applied as organic manure are increasingly becoming costly, making them un-affordable to the small cultivators.
Last line
Currently, about 70 per cent of the Nigerian farmers think they practice organic agriculture by default because of the prohibitive costs of chemical fertilizers and other agro-chemicals but true organics is a certified production method that would boost food productivity.

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