Getting Nigerian Farmers into the Mainstream of Nature Farming
Nature Farming in Nigeria
Since the inception of inorganic fertilizers and other farm chemicals which accompanied the use of machines in commercial farming, most commercial and wealthy farmers have abandoned the natural and ecofriendly way of food production and seamlessly adopted inorganic farming methods which are commonly perceived as being more economically viable in commercial scale and also enhance rapid soil fertility and pest extermination or reduction. This has been the case with many Nigerian farmers leaving Nature (organic) farming in Nigeria to be majorly practiced by poor farmers who actually do not have the financial buoyancy to afford chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Nature farming is evidently not popular among most commercial and even well-placed subsistent farmers as they can afford the cost of fertilizing their farm the chemical way. This means that in Nigeria, nature farming is majorly enhanced by the inability of farmers to afford the use of farming chemicals. Very worrisome is the fact that their output proportion is relatively small when compared to Nigeria’s total food output. This means that most Nigerian consumers have little or no access to organically produced foods. This equally means that most of our exported foods which are likely produced by commercial farmers who obviously adopt inorganic farming methods are non-organic. Little wonder why lots of our farm produce were being rejected at the European border in 2012 and 2014 on the grounds of excessive chemical content.
Getting more Nigerian farmers to be involved in nature farming
It is no longer news that many countries of the world especially south Korea, have actually place ban on the importation of inorganic foods. Others like china, USA, India etc. are gradually discouraging inorganically produced foods. It can equally be observed that in recent years, the price of organic foods and the market share of naturally produced foods are sky rocketing by the day. This clearly illuminates the fact that the future of natural farming is very interesting and thus one can categorically say that the future of agriculture is organic. Therefore, Nigeria which is an agrarian country needs to key into this trend.
In this regard therefore, Nigerian farmers (especially commercial farmers) who are hitherto inorganic farmers need to move away from chemical farming regimes to organic farming regimes with no perception of risk as evidences from countries like Sri Lanka, India and Korea to mention but a few has shown that farmers who completely moved from chemical farming regimes to organic farming regimes have had no crop loss or reduced productivity. Here, the Nigerian government will need to start an agricultural plan (with relevant stakeholders in agriculture fully involved) which is aimed at building a toxin- free nation and enhance this transition by supporting organic fertilizer producers and sponsoring researches into more commercially feasible organic farming methods.
There is further need for national consciousness to be raised among the populace through awareness programmes. Here, the relationship between food quality and production method and the health of the final consumers should be emphasized. This will encourage patronage of naturally produced foods. This can be done in schools, hospitals and public gatherings and majorly through the media on platforms such social media.
It is equally imperative Nigeria to create a national foundation which will encourage long-term commitment towards the movement in protecting natural resources of water, land, soil vegetation etc. This foundation can work in partnership with the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement (IFOAM) and organic farmer associations in the country. This foundation could be a public -private enterprise which will have the government on one side and association of organic materials and organic food producers on the other side. This way, the movement in favour of nature farming will be successful as the main objectives of the foundation will alignwith the core objectives of the respective partners.
Furthermore, this public-private constituted foundation will work with extension agents to help farmers apply the knowledge and principles of organic farming in the smartest way to ensure high level of productivity and returns on investment. This may involve training farmers on cheap methods of composting manure and mixing it with other specific organic materials, to produce very rich fertilizers. Training on the use of natural predators, inhibitors, repellants and pheromones to keep predators and pests away will be equally done.
Importantly too, government will in consort with other relevant partners such as NGOs, development partners, international bodies, farmers, companies who can provide biological inputs for sustainable agriculture, companies who can market and export organic products, standards institutes, organic certifiers, educational institutions etc. must be committed to start an agricultural plan aimed at building a toxin- free nation. This can be made a policy to commit the relevant stakeholders and the government itself.
The ministry of agriculture (which represents the government’s interest), will work to ensure that the policy for the promotion of ecofriendly food production is consolidated. This may equally include providing greater technical support for organic farmers while partnering with the Nigerian export promotion council to ensure a seamless export and import procedure for organic foods.
NGOs (especially agricultural and health focused organizations) will collaborate with development partners and international bodies like multinational corporations to garner support for nature farmers. the support may come in the formof financial empowerment and provision of technical support to organic farmers.
Educational institutions and research centres will be required to conduct more researches on organic farming especially with regards to the development of crops that are more aggressive feeders and are resistant to most pest and disease types. The research may also cover simplified methods or producing high quality organic fertilizers that are specific to crop needs so as to completely make farmers independent of inorganic fertilizer use. Noteworthy is the fact that these research findings on improved organic farming methods will be promptly released and made accessible to farmers and extension agents for onward dissemination to farmers.
More so, as a business strategy, companies involved in the production of inputs for organic farming such as organic fertilizer and pesticide producing firms will need to key into this movement as it will have a multiplier impact on their business on the long term. They can key in by supplying organic farm inputs at very reasonable and competitive prices for farmers. this will encourage increasing number of farmers to profitably venture into nature farming even with minimal capital. This will create a huge customer base for these companies as the farmers get established and more dependent on organic farming.
Similarly, companies who are already into or interested in venturing into marketing and export of organic foods can engage in a contractual agreement with farmers to produce organic farm produce for them and get compensated. This will equally that the cost of input will be supplied by these companies and farmers are compensated for their labour.
Finally, standard organization of Nigeria and other related regulatory bodies, and organic certifiers will be required to analyze and issue certification for product which meet the product quality standard recommended by the International Federation for Organic Agriculture Movement (IFOAM). This will boost consumer confidence on the product quality and willingness to pay the extra cost which goes with organic food products.
Since inorganic farming is evidently not ecofriendly and results in biodiversity loss, we must all encourage nature farming and it builds the ecosystem and biodiversity. We must heed to the warning of the United Nations which states that WE MUST STOP BIODIVERSITY LOSS OR WE COULD FACE OUR OWN EXTINCTION.