Recently, organic agriculture practitioners and other stakeholders in the system of agriculture converged on Ijero-Ekiti, headquarters of Ijero Local Government Area of Ekiti State, where they learnt that no fewer than 31 organic fertilizer companies operating in Nigeria are now involved in the Growth Enhancement Scheme (GES) initiated by the Federal Government for the promotion of the farming method.
The Director, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in Ekiti State, Mr Adeleke Komolafe, disclosed this while speaking at the Ondo/Ekiti Organic Agriculture Innovation/Technical Advisor Platform by the Organic Agriculture Innovative Platform (OAIP) in Nigeria.
At the one-day programme with the theme: “Organic Agriculture, Certification and Marketing”, held at the Ijero Local Government Hall in Ijero-Ekiti, Komolafe said during the GES scheme of the Federal Government from 2012-2015, Nigerian farmers were not afforded the opportunity to access organic fertilizers, but that in 2016, no fewer than the 31 organic fertilizer companies had shown interest so as to enable organic farmers access organic fertilizer.
While listing the advantages of organic agriculture against the inorganic traditional agriculture to include reduction of toxic food and low capital investment, the federal director advocated that organic agriculture be prioritised in schools while it should also be included in their syllabus.
He also called for intensive sensitisation in all parts of the country so that more nigerians will embrace the organic system of farming.
In a keynote speech on the occasion, National Coordinator of OAIP in Nigeria, Dr. Gbenga Adeoluwa, expressed the hope that all levels of government in the country would consider the establishment of special markets for organic farm produce and products.
According to Adeoluwa, the need for such markets had become necessary so as to ensure ready markets for organic products and thus encourage more Nigerian farmers to embrace organic type of farming, as against fertilizer and chemical-induced farming.
Adeoluwa, an organic farming expert said the Ijero-Ekiti gathering was an organic innovation platform to provide information and technical assistance to the about 300 practitioners of organic agriculture in Ekiti State, and their Ondo State counterparts, saying their products “must be natural and they must have come from inputs that are recognised and certified and approved for the organic systems.”
He however regretted that the last internationally-accepted record quoted for Nigeria in “land under organic agriculture in Nigeria in 2004” was 526, but said “I know that we have more because Ekiti alone has around 300 organic farmers, not to talk of Ondo State.”
He regretted that “Nigeria is monolithic when it comes to resource generation and since organic agriculture is fast growing, it has a lot of opportunities Nigeria can can into,” and charged Nigeria to look into the potential there are in organic farming, saying “the country must look into the principles that go into organic farming, which would give the country more income and better health.”
The Director of Justice Development and Peace Initiative (JDPI), Ekiti State, Reverend Father Emmanuel Akingbade, said the JDPI introduced Ekiti farmers to the organic farming and explained that now, they were “at the stage of encouraging the farmers to enter the proper certification level.” He said this was “the final evidence that what we are doing is real organic, because it involves a third party that is witnessing and giving you certificate that says ‘really, you are not faking consumers’.”
Represented by Mr. Lawrence Ige, Father Akingbade, who was the chief host of the event, said JDPI had been working with the organic farmers in Ekiti State from scratch, “but now they are at a higher production level. However, they want to enter proper viable economic market, but they need support.” The representatives of the Organic Agriculture Practitioners Association of Nigeria would visit the various farms, even without notice to actually verify the farms and see what they are doing to ascertain that what they are doing is organic farming.
The JDPI explained that “at the moment, there are 600 organic farmers, men and women, youth and adults who are registered with the JDPI in Ekiti State in all the 16 local government areas of the state.” He said their produce included yam, plantain, cocoa yam, cassava, maize, tomatoes and vegetables such as Amaranthus (popularly known as Ewedu); fruits such as pawpaw and pineapple essentially.
On what the JDPI does for the farmer, he said “at the moment, JDPI is involved in technical trainings and in the light of this, they have been able to facilitate the emergence of farmer groups in different communities in the 16 local governments. This led to the emergence of Apex Organisation, which is a body of farmers that are registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission.
They have their own strategy planning and it led to our involvement in the activities of Organic Agriculture Practitioners Association of Nigeria.”
With JDPI organising the farmers, the Public Relations Officer of Organic Agriculture Practitioners Association of Nigeria, Idowu Oduola, said soon they would have their markets, with the wife of the state governor as patroness in the state while the wives of the local government chairmen would serve as patronesses in their respective council areas.
Oduola noted that the farmers were already working and that they were being trained in what to do to get their produce certified, pointing out that one of the things that stand organic farm products out “is that organic produce are certified produce; they are traceable because if you buy any organic produce, you can trace back to the farm where that product comes from and the farmer that produces it through the label attached to that farm produce.”
The enthusiastic farmers were happy to show their products and produce. They were optimistic that with more awareness and training, the benefits of organic farming and its produce and products would greatly enhance the health of the nation.
Mrs. Olayinka Benedicta Adewoyin, who trained the farmers on organic vegetable production, stressed the importance of consumption of organic vegetable because of its health implications for the nation.