Historical Background of Organic Agriculture in Nigeria
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. This is the last year of reliable figures.
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.
Dara/Eurobridge Farm, Organic Agriculture Project in Tertiary Institutions in Nigeria (OAPTIN), Olusegun Obasanjo Centre for Organic Agriculture Research and Development (OOCORD), …. are organizations and stakeholders that are involved in the development of organic agriculture in Nigeria.
Presently, certified agricultural products in Nigeria are: ginger, turmeric and lemon grass tea. In the case of livestock production, the standards for certification are being developed, while a few farms are transitioning to organic production.
Organic farming in Nigeria is beginning to emerge; from a cursory review of the sector in 2014, we have very few farmers adopting the practices under the tutelage of some institutions like universities, research institutes, or some private organizations.
Problems of Organic Farming in Nigeria
- Lack of Awareness
- Output Marketing Problems
- Shortage of Bio-mass
- Inadequate Supporting Infrastructure
- High Input Costs
- Non-availability of farm Inputs
- Lack of appropriate Agriculture Policy
- Lack of Financial Support
- Low production
- Inability to Meet the Export Demand
- Lack of Quality Standards for Bio-manures
- Political and Social Factors
Future Prospects of Organic Farming
Organic farming not only results in an economic benefit to the small- scale farmer but it also reduces pollution due to reduced nutrient run-off especially excess nitrogen. Increasing soil organic matter by organic farming has the added benefit of improving soil quality and thereby enhancing the long-term sustainability of agriculture. Organic agriculture also helps to conserve and improve a precious resource-the topsoil compaction, nutrient loss and erosion are common problems faced by farmers. Organic farmers use trees, shrubs, leguminous plants to stabilize and feed the soil, dung and compost to provide essential nutrients, and terracing to help prevent erosion and conserve ground water.
Some notable benefits are listed below:
- Employment opportunity
- Environmental and Human Health
- Farmers’ markets and food quality
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Potentials for organic agriculture in Nigeria
Nigeria, as any other developing country in Africa that is interested in advancing in organic agriculture, has multiples natural and human resources that can be harnessed to produce agricultural crops to meet organic standards.
Higher yields in low input systems are mainly achieved by the application of manure from integrated livestock production, composting and diversification. In humid areas where traditionally less livestock is integrated into the farming systems and little or no manure is available, organic yields depends on the availability of other organic nitrogen source. Nigeria being a developing country which has arid, semi-arid and humid climate could double its yield organically due to the favorable conditions existing in all the agro-ecological zones. Also the geographical location of the country is the best blessing from nature which provides the potentials for exploring virgin and untapped natural environment suitable for organic agriculture. The climate in the mountainous and plateau provide comparative advantage for the production of temperate crops which can be harnessed organically to increase yield of crops. The abundant natural resource in the country is another potential at the disposal of Nigeria to explore to develop organic agriculture apart from climate.
Water, land and natural forest and grassland play a functional role in any agricultural production. Even though the soil in the northern part of the country are low in nutrients and/or organic matter, the adoption of the principle of recycling and crop rotation in organic agriculture could help in restoring the nutrient to enhance production.
Total cultivable land in Nigeria is estimated at 61 million ha, which is 66% of the total area of the country. In 2002, the cultivated area was 33 million ha, of which arable covers 30.2 million ha. This shows that the country has untapped land resources of about 28 million ha which can be harnessed for sustainable organic agriculture.
About 60- 70% of Nigerian farmers are traditional rural farmers who by their nature of subsistence agriculture produce uncertified organic foods using localized and natural resources due to inability to secure synthetic inputs. Even though what they produce is considered non certified organic foods, their practices provide a good opportunity for easy conversion to organic practice.
In Nigeria, these groups of farmers exist in every community and their number is a substantial one that can be used in improving organic agriculture.
Optimizing Opportunities For Sustainable Development Through Organic Agriculture in Nigeria.
In developing countries, the development of organic agriculture is mostly through conversion from conventional agriculture and this can be applicable to Nigeria context. The existing plantations, orchards and vegetable gardens in the country provide a good source of annual and perennial crops and can also withstand conversion to organic agriculture. The hydro agriculture practiced in the valleys along the river network under the River Basin Development Authority is another enormous potential that could be fully developed to achieve sustainable development through organic agriculture. The forest and the grassland in Nigeria are home for wildlife which includes animals and plants that provide alternative sources of food for both human and animals. These wild products are found in large quantities and because they occur naturally, they can be harnessed, processed and consumes as organic foods. These wild produce that can be used organically are Shea butter, gum Arabic, berries, nut, honey, snails, and mushrooms among others. The introduction of organic agriculture into the curriculum of Nigerian universities, evolution of national organic agriculture network and the recent African Union’s decision to support organic farming and their subsequent leadership in promoting and further developing framework/strategies for organic policies such as the Africa Ecological Organic Agriculture Initiative and the IFOAM-Africa Union conference that took place in Nairobi in 2011 is a good move by the government in promoting organic farming. In spite of the several opportunities that abound in the country, Nigeria is yet to make its mark in organic agriculture in the region, continent and globally.
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Way Forward for the Development of Organic Agriculture in Nigeria
Challenges of organic agriculture in Nigeria are never permanent but rather stumbling block for the attainment of food security, rural development and environmental sustainability. Addressing these challenges require new institutional approach to development such as sustainable development and deployment of agricultural knowledge, science and technology which will draw on agro ecology, the science of applying ecological concepts and principles to the design and management of sustainable agro ecosystems.
In other to create awareness on organic agriculture in Nigeria, there is need to inculcate organic agriculture education in our school curriculum which will give foundation knowledge to young ones on the practice of organic agriculture and its benefits. Its inclusion in the universities should be boosted by research and government funding to sustain the programme. On the level of rural farmers, extension services should be enhanced and equipped to well inform farmers about organic agriculture and be encouraged to continue with their traditional way of farming and/or improve on it using organic principles and practices. Capacity building and training by government, research institutions, national and international organization for farmers should be encouraged.
Administration and policies.
The recent endorsement of support for organic agriculture by African Union and subsequent developing framework/strategies for organic farming should be implemented on national and local level in each country of the continent and also backed by friendly and favorable policies. In line with this, government should provide or encourage the production of organic inputs such as bio-fertilizers and bio-pesticides to the farmers in subsidized rates provide or approved certification agency that would promote certification of farms and marketing of organic foods internally and externally.
The Nigeria market is a priced market which does not support premium price for organic produces as such farmers income cannot appreciate to compensate for the much labor required in organic farming. There should be organized standard sales outlets for organic products to bring producers closer to potential buyers and consumers should be well informed on the health values of organic through advertisement and other means. Regulations and quality control measures should be developed and strictly followed to conform to international standards to attract foreign trade.
Organic agriculture is labor intensive especially in the conversion period from conventional agriculture to organic agriculture. This will require farmers to pay for labor. To encourage the farmer, government should provide funds in form of loans and/or provide guarantee to farmers in commercial banks to obtain loans to increase their production. National and international organizations should also encourage, so that organic agriculture could develop to full capacity for sustainable development.
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