For several decades now, the concept of organic farming has been gaining traction in literature and Agricultural summits organized across board. Academics and Professional farmers from different walks of life now show keen interest in the best farming practices that maintain and improve soil fertility, structure and biodiversity, and reduce erosion.
Organic farming is a practice of the cultivation of crops and rearing of animals without the use of any synthetic farm inputs such as fertilizer, pesticides and the likes but by the use of traditional inputs such as green manure, compost manure, crop rotation, and other cultural practices to eliminate pest and manage diseases. According to the Directorate General for Agriculture and Rural Development for the European Commission (2009), Organic farming can broadly be defined as the form of agriculture that relies on techniques such as crop rotation, green manure, compost and biological pest control, and mechanical cultivation to maintain soil productivity and control pests, excluding the use of synthetic fertilizers and synthetic pesticides, plant growth regulators, livestock feed additives and genetically modified organisms. In other words, organic farming uses fertilizers and pesticides but excludes or strictly limits the use of manufactured (synthetic) fertilizers, pesticides (which include herbicides, insecticides and fungicides), plant growth regulators such as hormones, livestock antibiotics, food additives, genetically modified organisms. It is the production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystem and people by relying on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions. It combines tradition, innovation and science for the benefit of the environment and good quality of life.
Organic farming began with a group of agricultural scientists and farmers, and later expanded to become a major source of food for many consumers. Initially, organic farmers were reacting to the industrialization of agriculture, which consumers were largely unaware of. It was not until the contrasts between organics and industrial farming became overwhelming that organics began capturing the attention of consumers.
Organic agriculture is still young in the country, with less than fifteen years of practical existence (Abdullahi and Kutama, 2012). As at 2007, Nigeria had 3, 154 hectares under organic agriculture, of which 50 ha were fully converted (Willer and Kilcher, 2009). Practitioners are still few despite the great potential for organic agriculture. The following are the main stakeholders:
- Dara/ Eurobridge Farm.
- Organic Agriculture Project in Tertiary Institutions in Nigeria (OAPTIN)
- Olusegun Obasanjo Centre for Organic Agriculture Research and Development (OOCORD),
- Nigerian Organic Agriculture Network (NOAN),
- Organic Farmers Association of Nigeria,
- Organic Fertilizer Association of Nigeria,
- World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF),
These were the few organizations that were promoting organic farming practice in Nigeria.
Problems of Organic Farming in Nigeria
Lack of Awareness
Many farmers in the country have only vague ideas about organic farming and its advantages as against the conventional farming methods. Use of biofertilizers and bio- pesticides requires awareness and willingness on the part of the farming community. Knowledge about the availability and usefulness of supplementary nutrients to enrich the soil is also vital to increase productivity. Farmers lack knowledge of compost making using the modern techniques and also its application. The maximum they do is making a pit and fill it with small quantities of wastes. Often the pit is flooded with rainwater and result is the top of the compost remains under composted the bottom becomes like a hard cake. Proper training to the farmers will be necessary to make vermi-compost on the modern lines.
Output Marketing Problems
Organic farmers reported that marketing and distribution are difficult obstacle, concentrating in only developed countries (cnn, 2008; Magkoset al., 2006). It is found that before the beginning of the cultivation of organic crops, their marketability and that too at a premium over the conventional produce has to be assured. Organic food was initially therefore credence good. One has to get certification before his good is sold. Inability to obtain a premium price, at Least during the period required to achieve the productivity levels of the conventional crop will be a setback. More emphasis is usually placed, by government on policies to increase food production with little or no consideration on how to distribute the food produced efficiently and in a manner that will enhance increased productivity. In other words, food marketing by farmers and their families, mostly in the immediate post-harvest period usually involves alot of costs and in Nigeria these costs are so high that lowering the costs through efficient marketing system may be as important as increasing agricultural production (Amodioet al., 2007).
Shortage of Bio-mass
Many experts and well-informed farmers are not sure whether all the nutrients with the required quantities can be made available by the organic materials. Even if this problem can be surmounted, they are of the view that the available organic matter is not simply enough to meet the requirements. The crop residues useful to prepare vermin compost are removed after harvest from the farms. And they are used as fodder and fuel.
Inadequate Supporting Infrastructure
In spite of the adoption of the NPOP during 2000 (Parrot and Marsden 2002), the state governments are yet to formulate policies and a credible mechanism to implement them. There are only four agencies for accreditation and their expertise is limited to fruits and vegetables, tea, coffee and spices. The certifying agencies are inadequate, the recognized green markets are non-existent, the trade channels are yet to be formed and the infrastructure facilities for verification leading to certification of the farms are inadequate (Morison 2005).
Lack of appropriate Agriculture Policy
Promotion of organic agriculture both for export and domestic consumption, the requirements of food security for millions of the poor, national self-sufficiency in food production, product and input supplies, etc. are vital issues which will have to be dealt with in an appropriate agriculture policy of Nigeria. These are serious issues the solution for which hard and consistent efforts along with a national consensus will be essential to go forward. Formulation of an appropriate agriculture policy taking care of these complexities is essential to promote organic agriculture in a big way (IFOAM.ORG, 2012).
Benefits and Prospects of Organic Farming
Organic farming not only results in an economic benefit to the small- scale farmer but it also reduces pollution due to reduced nutrient run-off, and N leaching (Nyamangara and Berstron 2008). Increasing soil organic matter by organic farming has the added benefit of improving soil quality and thereby enhancing the long-term sustainability of agriculture (Laird et al.; 2001). Organic agriculture also helps to conserve and improve precious resource-the topsoil, compaction, nutrient loss and erosion, organic farmers use trees, shrubs, leguminous plants to stabilize and feed soil, dung and compost to provide nutrients, and terracing which prevent erosion and conserve ground water (Parrot and Marsden,2002). Some notable importance of organic farming and their impact in the society is presented below.
In a survey of 1144 organic farms in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland, researchers found that organic farms employed more workers than conventional ones (EJF, 2007). This difference persisted when factors such as the size of each farm (organic farms are typically larger) are taken into account. The researchers concluded that there would be 19% more farming jobs in the UK, and 6% more in Ireland, if 20% of all farms became organic (Piha and Giller, 2003).When properly adopted in Nigeria therefore, organic farming would increase more farming jobs by more than 20 % considering the population size of the farmers in the country.
Environmental and Human Health
Unlike conventional farms, most organic farms largely avoid pesticides (Hester, 2007). Some pesticides damage the environment or with direct exposure, human health. Children may be more at risk than adults from direct exposure, as the toxicity of pesticides is frequently different in children and adults.
Farmers’ markets and food quality
The markets for organically produced crops are strongest in the North America and Europe. Price premiums are important for the profitability of small organic farmers. Farmers selling directly to consumers at farmers’ markets have continued to achieve these higher returns. In the United States the number of farmers’ markets tripled from 1,755 in 1994 to 5,274 in 2009 (Wikipedia,2012). In the same vein, organic food is widely believed by the lay public to be healthier than conventional food (Magkos, 2003). Animals fed organic diets appear to be slightly better health and reproductive performance, but similar tests in humans have not been performed.
Organic farming is environmentally friendly. This is because it is well known that chemicals have destroyed many beneficial insect species and have caused environmental degradation. For instance, Korean researchers had reported that avoiding pesticides in paddy fields encourages the muddy loach fish, which effectively control mosquitoes that spread malaria and Japanese encephalitis (Bourn and Prescott 2002). The ever increasing threat to ground water pollution from inefficient and indiscriminate use of fertilizers and pesticides respectively, demand much concern. These threats are eliminated in organic farming systems since natural pest control is practiced. It is confirmed in California that Organic tomato production without synthetic insecticides does not lead to increased crop losses as a result of pest damage (Letourneau and Goldstein, 2001). In-fact, Organic farmers’ primary strategy in controlling pests and diseases is with the use of prevention method (Bourn and Prescott 2002).
Organic farming also provides energy for microbial activity and this has been suggested as an indicator of change for soil properties (Agren and Bosata, 1998) because the size and activity of the microbial quotient is directly related to the amount and quality of carbon available (Bourn and Prescott 2002). Therefore, increase in microbial quotient. Organic farms, often explores biodiversity than conventional farms because it is usually with more trees, a wider diversity of crops and many different natural predators, which control pests and help prevent diseases.
According to USDA’s agricultural research service, manure application in organic farming are better at build-up the soil than no-till despite tillage (Bourn and Prescott 2002). Increasing soil organic matter by organic farming has the added benefit of improving soil quality and thereby enhancing the long-term sustainability of agriculture (Paul, 2011). Organic agriculture also helps to conserve and improve precious resource-the topsoil, compaction, nutrient loss and erosion. Organic farmers use trees, shrubs, leguminous plants to stabilize and feed soil, dung and compost to provide nutrients, and terracing which prevent erosion and conserve ground water (Parrot and Marsden, 2002).
Kutama, Abdullah, Umah, Binta and Ahmad. 2013. Organic Farming in Nigeria: Problems and Prospects. Global Advanced Research Journals of Agricultural science. (ISSN: 2315-5094) Vol. 2(10) pp. 256-262.