Organic Farming Practices In Nigeria: History, Problems And How To Move Forward
Organic farming is a process which involves the use of natural food sources and nutrients for farming practices (crop production and animal production). Man-made products and chemical enhancements for farming processes are to be discarded when practicing organic farming in Nigeria and other parts of the world.
Organic farming demands that the farmer lets go of the use of chemical and synthetic additions like growth hormones, antibiotics, fertilizers and such in both the planting of crops and the rearing of animals. This farming process is aimed at improving human and environmental health.
History Of Organic Farming In Nigeria
Inorganic farming gained its world popularity sometime in the 20th century. Prior to this time, organic farming was most likely the means of farming which was used by the ethnic groups in Nigeria. As time went on, the practice was slowly phased out of the society in favor of a more technological and chemical based type of agriculture.
This organic method of agriculture which was previously abandoned by Nigerian farmers is gradually being picked back up. The process was re-introduced into the Nigerian society about a decade ago. Organic farming is gradually becoming a common trend in the country again. Although it has not been embraced as it should be, it has definitely made some progress.
Those who practice this method of farming in Nigeria are a small percentage of farmers. This is probably mainly due to the fact that, organic farming is yet to be properly acknowledged and established by the Nigerian government. The mode of farming gets its support mostly from Non-governmental organizations and private farming corporations. But these bodies are making more impact as the years go by.
Organic Farming Practices In Nigeria
Organic farming has been said to be the best way to improve the future of agriculture not just in Nigeria but worldwide. Organic farming does not just center on crop production but also on animal production. This type of farming has several specifications which have to be met before it can be considered up to standard. Crop farming and animal production each have laid down requirements and methods with which farming practices should be carried out.
Organic Farming Practices (Animal Production)
When rearing domestic animals of any kind in an organic manner one of the first things to take into consideration, is the environment where these animals are being reared. Whatever environment picked should be as close as possible to the natural habitat of the animals being reared. Be it poultry birds, pigs, cows etc. The animals are to have enough freedom to roam, perch, peck, graze and generally display their natural behavioral patterns.
Extra provision should also be made for their housing needs. But such provision should not in any way restrict these animals. The structures should permit the animals to roam indoors and outdoors at will. It is for this reason that the free range system is the most favored method of organic animal farming. Enough land should be secured for this purpose.
Organic Animal Breeds
When selecting breeds of animals for organic animal farming, it is expected that whatever breed of domestic animal being chosen should be from organic parent stocks. Meaning the birth parents of whichever animal is being bred should have been raised under organic circumstances. Many farmers compromise in this regard as it may prove difficult to secure good organic breed of animals required in large numbers.
Natural Feeding And Supplements
Although these animals are allowed to roam free within a particular environment, feeders and water drinkers are made available to them. They are not solely dependent on their environment for the provision of food and water. The animals are also going to be provided with food supplies which should be healthy and made completely from natural ingredients. These feeds should contain good and adequate nutrients and vitamins to aid the proper and natural growth of these animals.
To maintain or treat diseases among organic animals, medicinal herbs and spices are usually made use of. The animals are to naturally build and depend on their immune systems to help them fight against diseases of any kind. They are also left to grow naturally rather than being pumped with various kinds of chemical based growth supplements.
Organic Farming Practices (Crop Production)
The basic organic farming rules also apply to organic crop farming. When planting organic crops, the process should eliminate synthetic and chemical additions which could prove hazardous to humans and the environment.
The natural health of the soil should be the priority of organic farmers at all times. For this reason, synthetic fertilizers and crop enhancing chemicals are not to be applied to the soil before, during or after planting. These chemicals are said to end up polluting natural water supplies as the chemicals eventually end up in water bodies like oceans and rivers. Instead of making use of such chemicals, organic manures and various purely organic substances are to be added to the soil. This aids the soil in building its organic matter and naturally increases the soil nutrients.
Practice Of Crop Rotation And Cover Cropping
The preservation and restoration of soil nutrients using natural practices like crop rotation and cover cropping is favored by organic farmers. Crop rotation is a farming practice where different types of crops are grown on a particular piece of land over a period of time. This method helps maintain a balance of nutrients in the soil. This is because while some crops may require certain nutrients from the soil, some other crops on that same soil could help deposit and thereby replenish these nutrients. Crop rotation could also help in the prevention of pest and plant diseases.
Cover cropping is another farming practice which helps in repairing the soil; it replenishes the soil of its lost nutrients, help fight against diseases and pest, protects the soil against wind and water erosion. Between planting seasons cover crops like oats, wheat, and rye can be planted to help heal, protect and improve the general health of the soil.
The use of inorganic pesticides in any form is prohibited in organic crop farming. Synthetic pesticides have been proven to contaminate these crops. This in turn could be harmful to the consumers of these food crops. The pesticides which are allowed to be used in organic crop farming also have to be organic in nature. Various types of organic pesticides containing the required spices, herbs and fruits can be mixed and used to take care of the issue of pests.
Problems And Challenges Of Organic Farming In Nigeria
Organic farming has encountered quite a number of setbacks especially in Nigeria. These challenges are the reasons behind its slow progress in Nigeria. Some of these challenges include:
The capital needed to startup an organic farm in Nigeria is quite high. Due to the nature of organic farming, securing everything it will take and getting adequate facilities to properly meet the necessary standards, requires that quite a lot of money be spent.
Lack Of Organic Farming Resources
Nigeria is grossly lacking in this regard are there are hardly any facilities which manufacture organic foods, drugs, supplements etc. most often than not organic farmers have to find a way to meet the organic needs of their farms. Also, securing organic breeds of animals for rearing as well as organic seeds for planting crops in Nigeria is a rather difficult task.
Low Public Awareness
Quite a number of people are not aware of organic farming practices in Nigeria. Neither do they understand the importance of organic farming to human health and the environment. This is perhaps a major challenge organic farming faces in Nigeria. A consumer who is not aware of the process and importance of organic farming will hardly seek out these products.
Low Export Marketing Standards
Presently Nigeria is not allowed to export organic products due to low standards in organic goods and the lack of a certified official organization for organic farming. Organic products in Nigeria have been unable to meet the necessary world standards for organic farming. Therefore whatever organic goods produced, are sold only within Nigeria as these goods will not be accepted as organic products in other countries.
Low Level Of Production
Due to the difficulty in meeting the adequate requirements for organic farming, few people are willing to venture into this kind of farming in Nigeria. Fewer farmers venture into organic farming on a commercial scale. Therefore the production of organic goods in Nigeria is quite low.
Fear Of The Risk Involved
There are more than enough products and services available for inorganic farming practices while there are few available products and services for organic farming in Nigeria. A lot of money is required for organic farming and should anything go wrong, the farmer stands to lose quite a large amount of money. A lot of farmers would prefer to stick with what they considered to be safer grounds rather than bear this risk.
Inadequate Government Support
So far the Nigerian government has made very little contribution to organic farming practices. The few agencies available for organic farming operate independent of the government. The Nigerian government also has no known organization or facilities for organic farming.
If the government gets involved in organic farming practices, it will definitely go a long way in promoting and developing organic farming in Nigeria. Increasing the popularity of organic farming in Nigeria is a process which can definitely be hastened by the involvement of the Nigerian government.
Organic farming products have good and healthy benefits for both humans and the environment. It is certainly a farming practice which should be encouraged in Nigeria and given the necessary support to ensure its success.