Embracing Agroecology As Path To Food Security 

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With the rising food crisis putting 26.5 million people across the country at risk of acute hunger in the June-August 2024 lean season, experts and practitioners call on government to embrace agroecology as a panacea to the crisis, DAVID MAXWELL writes .

Population growth, insecurity and environmental challenges has pushed the quest for food security to the front burner. This is as traditional agricultural methods struggle to keep pace with the demand, especially in the face of climate change, farmerhear crises, terrorism and population growth among other factors. Despite being endowed with fertile lands and diverse agro-ecological zones, Nigeria’ faces persistent food insecurity, thus fuelling the call for a paradigm shift towards agroecology which government at all levels must embrace to address the current food crisis effectively.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), millions of Nigerians suffer from hunger and malnutrition, highlighting the pressing need for innovative approaches to food production.

Agroecology represents a holistic approach to agriculture that integrates ecological principles, traditional knowledge, and modern science. Unlike conventional farming reliant on chemical inputs and monoculture, agroecology emphasises biodiversity, soil health, and resilience to environmental stresses. Practices include crop diversification, agroforestry, integrated pest management, and minimal use of external inputs. 

The need to embrace agroecology has further pushes the call for organic agriculture to the fore. Groups like the 

Ibadan Go Organic Multipurpose Cooperative Society, Abuja Organic Farmers, Journalists Go Organic, and a number of others are springing up across the country in order to sensitise and train farmers on the need to go organic, while enlightening consumers to eat organic food in order to stay healthy.

On Friday May 28, the first organic foods and other products market was unveiled In the nations capital by the FCT Agriculture and Rural Development Secretariat in collaboration with Abuja Organic Farmers. after a two-day training programme.

Speaking during the launch, Director Administration, FCTA Agriculture and Rural Development Secretariat, Mrs Ann Ijeoma, said the market was introduced because it is very important for FCT and other neighbouring states to embark on organic farming and commercialisation, because of the health benefits.

“You see, organic farming is a very good system of farming. Because of what is happening now, it becomes very necessary to enlighten people on the need for organic farming.

“For instance, when they say people are suffering from cancer and other kinds of illnesses, it is because of what we eat. That is why we are initiating this organic farming and the market where patrons will patronise to get these healthy organic foods and products. 

“Organic farming did not start today; in fact we have been trying even before now to ensure that our farmers are enlightened on diverting from synthetic to organic.”

On how the citizens will know, Ann said the field officers who go to the farms to educate farmers of the market, so that organic farmers can bring their produce to sell in a place where every other food and product sold has been certifies organic.

She said the market which is located at the Secretariat will be replicated in all the Area Councils, and jingles will be developed and air for proper sensitization, along with newspaper stories.

Also the head crop production, Matthew Chukwudi Chime said, “The initiative is not new but new in the sense that we are trying to move from where we were to where we are now.

“A lot of ailments that are not known are ravaging the citizens’ health, yet there is this illusion that organic items are too expensive but I believe that organic products are cheap. They only appear to be costlier because of the natural and health processes and procedures the pass through which makes them the best.

“If you want to buy organic products, you must have money in your pocket. For instance, If you want to live long there is no other way to go than to use organic products,” he said.

The Secretary, Ibadan Go Organic Multipurpose Cooperative Society, and Sponsor, Ecological Organic Agriculture Initiative, Dr. Olufemi AyanfeOluwa, who trained members of the Abuja Organic Marketers/Organic Farmers in a two day programme, said the markets is a way of encouraging healthy feeding and enable consumers of Organic produce to have easy access to a place where they can purchase certified organic products.

AyanfeOluwa trained the farmers on several organic farming systems, and in the preparation of Organic pesticides, herbicides, organic livestock feeds among others.  

He warned on the certification processes, saying if one in the group of organic farmers in a cluster is disqualified during the certification processes, the whole members of the group is deemed disqualified, hence the farmers will keep to the standard of organic farmers.

He encouraged the farmers to go for certification as that was the only way their products would be accepted as Organic.

He also called on Nigerians to patronise organic products, saying it is best for their health.

In another training workshop held on Tuesday, June 11,  the resource persons all highlighted the importance of agroecology in salvaging the country’s current food insecurity, while calling on the government at all levels to embrace organic agriculture in order to salvage the environment and cater for the needs and health of the citizenry.

Proffessor Olugbenga Adeoluwa enjoined participants to embrace organic agriculture as the panacea to Nigeria’s food crisis.

On his part, Professor Simon Irtwange decried the non-availability of government standards for the ago ecology sub sector despite efforts made by farmers and researchers alike create one.

Participants stressed that by integrating agroecology into national agricultural policies and strategies, the government can foster research, provide technical support, and incentivise farmers to adopt sustainable practices. In this regard, initiatives like the National Adaptation Plan for Agriculture and the Green Alternative initiative can be leveraged to prioritize agroecological principles. They called on government at all levels to as a matter of urgency such policies and strategies to encourage organic agriculture and save the over 26.5 million people across the country projected to face acute hunger in the June-August 2024 lean season, a staggering increase from the 18.6 million people food insecure at the end of 2023.

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