In times like this when the world grapple with the challenges of climate change, environmental degradation and exponential population growth, there is a need for an agricultural systems that come with a more proportional roadmap of sustainability advantages. Organic farming appears to be one of the healthiest and strongest sectors that promise to offer such.
Organic farming is a method of crop and livestock production that involves much more than choosing not to use pesticides, fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, antibiotics and growth hormones. This involves using techniques to achieve good crop yields without harming the natural environment or the people who live and work in it. Organic farming is a comprehensive system fashioned to enhance the productivity and strength of divergent communities within the agro-ecosystem, including soil organisms, plants, livestock and people.
According to the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), the main principles of organic farming are to produce food of high nutritional quality in sufficient, interact in a constructive and life enhancing way with all natural systems and cycles, encourage and enhance biological cycles within the farming system, involving micro-organisms, soil flora and fauna, plants and animals, maintain and increase long term fertility of soils, use, as far as possible, renewable resources in locally organised agricultural systems amongst others. A recent report by the Federation also has it that 43.7 million hectares of agricultural land are organic (including conversion areas) with 11 countries having more than 10 percent organic agricultural land. Out of the 2.3 million producers that were reported globally, more than three quarters are in developing countries with Uganda ranking first in Africa.
Organic farming if embraced has the ability to reduce the production costs of farmers because they do not need to buy expensive chemicals and fertilizers, this also protects farmers against health hazards. Organic farms save energy and protect the environment and also can slow down global warming. While Fewer residues in food in guaranteed, more animals and plants can live in the same place in a natural way and pollution of ground water is stopped. This is called biodiversity. Organic farming allays the fear of environmental degradation which is occasioned by working with agricultural chemicals in conventional farming systems. owing to many farm chemicals which require energy intensive manufacturing processes that rely heavily on fossil fuels, Organic farming also gives room for a more profitable and personally rewarding farming system.
However, Nigeria appears to be at the early stage of the development of organic agriculture with very few farms and projects claiming to be organic and even fewer operating recognized form of certified organic agriculture. This fact is further corroborated by a report by USDA Agricultural Service. According to them, ”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”. These statistics therefore show that Nigeria has been lagging behind in Organic farming.
If critics of Genetically Modified foods, antibiotics, and growth hormones would want to be taken seriously in a time when the world looks for ways to tackle food insecurity, then they should make concerted efforts to advance Organic farming. Indigenous organic farming knowledge, skills, technologies and crop varieties should be included in the modern organic farming activities in Nigeria. They must Set sustainable agriculture through organic practices as a priority. And a matter of urgency, Nigerian government must also review current policies and programmes and remove disincentives to organic agriculture for example, subsidies on agro-chemicals.
Finally, it is essential for stakeholders to know that Organic farming does not mean reverting to traditional methods. Many of the farming methods used over time are still useful today. Organic farming only leverage on the best of these and blend them with modern scientific knowledge. Organic farmers do not leave their farms to be taken over by nature; they use all the knowledge, techniques and materials available to work with nature. In this way the farmer ensures a healthy balance between nature and farming, where crops and animals can grow and thrive.