By Itohan Abara-Laserian
Stakeholders in the organic farming space on Thursday in Lagos urged the Federal Government to institute policies that would promote organic farming so as to protect the country’s ecosystem.
The stakeholders spoke at the National Organic Agriculture Business Summit 2018.
The summit is aimed at addressing the various challenges facing the organic agriculture sub-sector, as they affect the people’s health and the environment.
Prof. Akin Abayomi, who manages a 300-acre organic bio-habitat forest conservation project in Osun State, said that there was urgent need for a paradigm shift towards the evolution of a pollution-free environment.
Abayomi, who is also an oncologist and internal medicine specialist, said that the focus should be on organic living that was free of pollution in the real sense.
“Taking organic foods in a polluted environment does not make sense; there is no point in doing that. Hence, we should change our thoughts from organic agriculture to organic living.
“If you want to kill a pest with an insecticide and you are exposed to the same chemical; then, you are killing yourself.
“There should be an urgent paradigm shift towards living in an environment that is free of pollution and doing things that are not harmful to the ecosystem.
“Organic agriculture in its natural habitat should be encouraged; while a stop should be made to the use of harmful chemicals that are harming the country’s ecosystem, ‘’’ he said.
Besides, Ayobami said that it would take over 200 years to grow a forest.
He, however, said that with the growing population of Africa and Nigeria in particular, the production of foods via genetic modification was inevitable.
Mr Ajibola Oluyede, the Chairman of NICERT Ltd., said that the movement for organic agriculture was beginning to gain ground, while the issue of certification needed a national plan to ensure international standards.
He said that efforts should be made to separate genuine organic farmers from the fake ones, so as to ensure that all organic produce in the market were of good quality.
“The Association of Organic Agriculture Practitioners of Nigeria (NOAN) has encouraged a practice which is built on the standards of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM).
“The association does certification for some members for the Nigerian practice but in terms of commercial recognition, our organic farmers ought to be accredited by the regulatory bodies involved in that.
“NICERT is credited to enforce European Union (EU) standards for organic products as well as other countries. Nevertheless, Nigeria does not have an organic programme through which bodies may be credited.
“However, if you are producing what is organic, it must meet international standards. We need certification for organic producers because any farming process that does not help the ecosystem is not organic,’’ he said.
Oluyede, who noted that there was a high demand for organic produce in many foreign countries, said that the demand was somewhat insignificant in Nigeria because of the absence of legal standards.
On his part, Prof. Victor Olowe, the National President of NOAN and an agronomist in the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), said that the association certified organic products for local consumption.
He said that the association currently used a process called Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) for local retail trade in organic produce, adding, however, that any plan to export organic produce would require third party certifications.
“On certification, NOAN certifies organic products for local consumption with the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS), which is satisfactory for local consumption and retailers.
“For a producer taking organic products outside the Nigerian shores, he will need a third party certification from the appropriate body.
“All organic products carry labels which distinguish them from conventional farm produce, they also carry the labels to facilitate traceability,’’ he said.
However, Olowe said that the level of organic farming was very low globally, adding that only two per cent of the total arable lands were allocated to organic agriculture globally.
He also said that the association was making tangible efforts to boost organic farming, while working towards the production a bill on organic agriculture that would set an agenda for the development of the sub-sector.
The summit was convened by the Ecological Organic Agriculture (EOA) Initiative in Nigeria, in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, NOAN and the Federation of Agricultural Commodity Associations of Nigeria, among others.