Despite campaigning and advocating by promoters of organic farming to ensure that farmers become part of the agricultural system, only insignificant fractions have aligned themselves with it.
Organic or traditional farming is a production system that avoids or largely excludes the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, growth regulators, genetically modified organisms and feed additives for livestock.
Although the system, according to experts, is a bit cumbersome, its advantages far outweigh its disadvantages. It is widely considered a much more sustainable alternative in terms of food production, as the practice improves biodiversity, which results in better soil quality and reduces pollution from fertilizer or pesticide runoff.
Reports indicate that before the advent of inorganic or conventional agriculture, farmers of old carried out crop rotation, composting and other processes in a way that benefits the environment and biodiversity, because they feared hurting other people in the ecosystem.
But now, as efforts are directed towards returning to the agricultural system because of its health benefits and environmental benefits, many dragging and discouraging responses taint the efforts.
The common question that demands answers from concerned stakeholders and other Nigerians is why the results of the intensive campaigns are still not encouraging.
The President of the Association of Organic Agriculture Practitioners of Nigeria (NOAN), Dr Jude Obi, who said the problem stems from the fact that farmers are already used to conventional practices and other forms of production agriculture, said the process of adopting organic farms is very slow.
He said: “Farmers and in fact all those who practice agriculture are already accustomed to conventional practice and other forms of production system, and the dynamics of change are important in this respect. The adoption process is very slow. Information about organic farming is spreading, but intensive advocacy is needed and not yet available as change will happen as quickly as expected.
While undermining the claim that it is impossible to achieve pure organic farming, Obi said, “There are principles and practices. There are clearly stated standards and procedures. Compliance with these standards and procedures makes the process organic. These are internationally accepted practices.
“In the certification process, consumers participate and ensure that it conforms to acceptable criteria, so it is possible. Consumers who commit to consuming organic food will reject any process that goes against their expectations.
He attributed the disheartening responses to the hesitation of States and the absence of the required policies. “The state will support other practices on inputs, equipment and advocacy, but turn a blind eye to the organic farming campaign.
“Organic practice is more profitable than conventional. The only difference is that it is labor intensive and knowledge intensive. You know that any knowledge-intensive and labor-intensive practice will pay off. Any profitable business must be properly planned and executed and this is the requirement of organic farming.
The body’s former public relations officer, Mr. Taiwo Oduola, linked the disheartening attitude of farmers to the tedious nature of the farming system. “Organic farming can be tedious because our fathers in the days before the advent of conventional farming did their farms, crop rotation, composting and activities through the organic farming system, to promote environment and biodiversity.
“Suddenly, with the advent of this synthetic thing, they found farming more interesting and easier – when they come under attack from pests, they just buy insecticides and sprays… but feeling the inconvenience, they brought organic farming back to us, but the way they pushed conventional farming with synthetics was not the same way they push that.
Oduola noted that if a process was adopted for about 30 to 50 years, changing it would require a more laborious approach. “Organic farming has a lot of enemies – GMO producers, chemical and fertilizer producers fight organic farming underneath, because they spend a lot of money on their own distribution and sales. So organic farming is out of self-interest now, when they push it to you, you’ll decide whether to take it or not if you know the benefits.
“Campaigning and advocacy is never enough, we are trying to push the agricultural system towards the ADPs, but it is not easy. It is those who know that organic farming is good for health who go there. We need a well-organized organic agriculture extension system, which is lacking in Nigeria; I know it is expensive, but it will help the country a lot.