A pressing need to popularise organic farming in Nigeria
Nigeria is a deeply blessed African nation in terms of natural resources and tillable land. With the discovery of petroleum as a viable source for steady income, growth and a development area for the country, the government has steadily focused all its energies there. As a terrible fallout to this development, Nigeria has become almost wholly dependent on importing food to meet its own food security needs. Complete neglect and failure to build indigenous agricultural systems for food security independence, as well as employment have landed the nation in a deep mess. With massive disparity between high and low-income groups, and only a minute fraction of society benefiting from the riches of the petroleum industry, and are in a position to afford rapidly rising prices of imported food.
Some alarming facts and figures* to consider:
· 70% of Nigeria’s economically active population is employed in the agriculture sector
· While 75 percent of the land is suitable for agriculture, only 40% is in current use
· Yet, nearly 240 million people, or one out of every four persons, of sub-Saharan Africa, lack access to adequate food
This is grossly unsustainable, and it’s time for Nigeria is to address the struggle to solve its own food and agriculture problems. This is doubly essential because in terms of subsistence, a vast majority of the population is still engaged in agriculture and associated jobs or vocation. There is a need to revamp, popularise and back with robust policy a strategy to elevate the position of agriculture in the nation.
The world over, it is being considered that organic farming could provide answers to secure the food needs of a future with a rapidly increasing population. It may be a good time to consider the benefits of organic farming, a system that includes everything from farm to table, looking out not just for the produce but also the economic and social wellbeing of the community whose hands work to grow that produce, as well as the eco-systems that enable this, with a keen focus on long term sustainability. According to this Rutgers Paper, “A community food system is a food system in which food production, processing, distribution and consumption are integrated to enhance the environmental, economic, social and nutritional health of a particular place.” And for a system like this to thrive, sustainability – economic, environmental and social – is vital.
What are some of the prevailing issues that have caused Nigeria’s agricultural systems to fail?
- Poverty: Despite 75% of Nigerians being full-time farmers, they’re only engaged in tilling small plots of land to feed themselves. As a country, Nigeria has not been able to cash in on and elevate this into a policy-backed sector. It is believed that Nigerians are not lacking food, as much as the crippling poverty levels that keep them from buying food or land and raw materials to expand their agriculture.
- Illiteracy: Illiteracy has meant many of the existing farmers are not well versed in modern farming techniques, and they remain largely ignorant about advances in the sector. This has held them back on all fronts.
- Lack of roads, water and electricity: Many rural farming communities are still struggling with a lack of basic amenities like roads, water and electricity.
- Lack of food processing and storage know-how: a combination of illiteracy, ignorance, lack of vocational development and infrastructure like water and electricity means a severely stunted knowledge of food processing and storage. This heavily impacts the availability fo food.
- Lack of modern farming techniques and know-how
Besides the proven environmental conservation benefits, organic farming has also established a potential to benefit economic self-reliance, increasing soil fertility and a greater degree of sustainability and future prosperity. However, these benefits are lost on a Nigerian farming community whose immediate concern is a desperate need to meet the food requirements of a teeming population. The conventional answers to this are in large-scale modern agriculture. But that comes at a huge cost and hit to sustainability.
According to this research paper on the need for popularisation and policy to drive organic farming, addition, many farmers already practice organic farming that is not certified. Moreover, several organic farming inputs such as organic fertiliser, organic compost and are already existing in the system. One needs to only leverage and popularise them, by increasing awareness and providing a push through policy.
While food insecurity is a very real global phenomenon, it is pronounced and highly visible issue plaguing developing nations such as Nigeria. The good news is Nigeria is blessed with abundant fertile land, abundance in human resource as well as an existing history of agricultural practice. The time is ripe, to build on this and bring the benefits of organic farming to the people of Nigeria.