Organic Agriculture Stakeholders Converges in Akwa Ibom

Organic Agriculture Stakeholders Converges in Akwa Ibom

 Group photograph of participants at the 2020 NOABS held @Ibom hall, Uyo Akwa Ibom

Group photograph of participants at the 2020 NOABS held @Ibom hall, Uyo Akwa Ibom

The 2020 edition of the annual National Organic Agriculture Business Summit was successfully held at Ibom Hall, Uyo, Akwa Ibom  and had in attendance both virtual and physical participants The event was phenomenal and impactful and the precautionary measures against the COVID 19 pandemic was not ruled out. It included various activities such as plenary presentations, business fora, colloquium, and of course a cultural dance group welcomed all with their unique melody and dance moves.

The event was attended by  stakeholders in various area of organic agriculture , presenters both virtual and physical were Prof. Raymond Auerbach, University of West Cape Town South Africa, Dr. karfa Diallo, Enda Pronat, Senegal, Niemattalah Elamin, UNCTAD, Switzerland,  Dr. Benoit Gnonlonfin, FOA, United Nations, Venancia Wambua, EOA Initiative in Africa, Dr. Edna Akpan, Akwa Ibom State University, Uyo, Ms. Louise Luttikholt, IFOAM Organic International, Bonn, Mr Ernest Aubee, ECOWAS Commission, Abuja, Chief Daniel Asuquo, Member, Federal House of Assembly, Abuja.

Notable guests of honour included the Honourable Commissioner of Agriculture, represented by Dr. Uyobong Uko, the State Director, Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Dr. AdeOluwa O.O, Country Coordinator, EOA Initiative, Nigeria, Chairmen, National Steering Committee, North, Southwest and South Eastern Region, Prince Peter Bakare, Alh. Luqman Oladapo and Prof. Nkiru T. Meludu respectively, representatives of the Project Implementing Partners were equally represented.

The President of Association of Organic Agriculture Practitioners of Nigeria, Prof. V.I.O. Olowe, who was inevitably absent physically joined in virtually, in his opening remarks, he welcomed participants on behalf of the Association and wished them a successful outing. Dr. Uyobong Uko, the State Director, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in his goodwill message stated that he is a lover of agriculture and organic agriculture, there is need for a paradigm shift from the subsistent level to the commercial and exportation level, with the inclusion of labeling, branding and premium price placement.

Dr. AdeOluwa, the Country Coordinator, EOA Initiative welcomed all participants, he informed that the focus of the EOA is to mainstream organic agriculture into the national system, he made mention of the deceased stakeholders who were Mr. Adeolu Adewoyin and  Jordan Gama, he added that their efforts in organic agriculture movement will be greatly remembered.

This year’s annual summit covered major issues on organic agriculture with one or two lessons learnt through the strata of program lined up for each day. At the colloquium session, Ms Niematallah during her virtual presentation pointed out UNCTAD approach to Voluntary Sustainability Standard (VSS) ,  which among others include land use planning, the environmental impacts of production, community relations, she hinted that developing countries experience capacity gaps in capturing the potentials of VSS to catalyse sustainable development through trade. She added that UNCTAD has developed an approach to help stakeholders, especially smallholder producers and MSMEs in producing countries, create a policy environment capable of maximizing the benefits of VSS adoption.

Mr. Oyewole Gbadamosi, the Project Manager, EOA Initiative in Nigeria took participants through export requirements for organic agricultural commodities. He stated that there are rules and agreement guiding movements of produce for exports the WTO-SPS set standards for food security, animal health and also protect countries from damage caused by entry, establishment or spread of pests, and from risks arising from additives, contaminants etc.

Dr Edna Akpan, a member of the Association and a presenter at the event stated that bringing women and young people into organic agriculture opens up new horizon and that it is important to include women, youths and the vulnerable as they have a lot to offer in terms of organic agriculture.

The communiqué of urged all appreciate the efforts of the umbrella body for Organic Agriculture, Association of Organic Agriculture Practitioners of Nigeria and all private stakeholders in the sector should be encouraged to join the Organic Association in order to ensure proper grassroots development and appropriate coordination of the sector.

The breakout sessions of the event, grouped into four, the curriculum development group gathered to discuss on the modalities for the incorporation of the curriculum of organic agriculture into the 2021/2022 academic year in colleges of agriculture across Nigeria the meeting had in attendance Mr. Nsan Nsan Tiku, a representative of National Board of Technical Education. The business and trade forum  discussed issues of export and trade in organic produce, participants were informed that in export business , the international buyers bid for the best of the produce, organic produce are on high demands in international markets ,  and that it is advisable that farmers produce for both domestic and export purpose to enable a favourable return on investment (ROI), organic preservation methods, factors that affect exports and trade of organic produce. At the farmers forum, the challenges faced by farmers in areas of funding, inputs, sales and produce that are  demand driven were discussed and the way forward were discussed.

Awards were presented to the governor of Akwa Ibom State, Mrs. Udeme Udonya, Mrs. Ebere Agozie for the governor of the year, organic farmer of the year and media personality of the year respectively. The next annual summit was scheduled to hold in Abuja (2021) and Oyo State (2022).

Organic Produce Consumption, The New Normal in Nigerian Homes

Organic Produce Consumption, The New Normal in Nigerian Homes

 

A cross section of Sellers and Buyers at the Organic Market Day

A cross section of Sellers and Buyers at the Organic Market Day

Organic foods could offer more health benefits than conventionally delivered products according to scientists form the UK, Poland, Norway, Italy, Denmark, Switzerland, Greece and Turkey. This is because conventional produce contain nutrients and chemicals that are injurious to human health and wellbeing. Organic meat and milk are cases in point, they provide 50% more of the omega-3 fatty acids that are important in human nutrition. People choose organic foods for three main reasons: improved animal welfare, the positive impacts of organic farming and the perceived health benefits. There are however compositional differences between organic and conventional foods. The switch to organic fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy products would provide significantly higher amounts of dietary antioxidants and omega-3 acids.

A visit to the traditional market day which usually holds on Thursdays of every week at  the University of Ibadan Teaching and Research  Farm affirms  the acceptance of organic agriculture and healthy foods in Nigeria.  The market is comprised of products such as snails, palm oil, greens, garden egg, maize, green peas, waterleaf, pumpkin leaves, yam, neem oil, plantain, okro etc.

Various stakeholders at different levels of the value chain were questioned, the random interview pointed out the essence of the purchase of organic produce. Adebayo Owolabi, a marketing officer at the market stated that  organic agriculture inculcated a farming culture which allows fairness to customers and producers and the environment alike. Mrs. Oyetoun Alonge, one of the co-coordinators of Teaching and Research Farm also stated that her venture into organic agriculture was due to her passion for provision of safe and healthy  food for the family and the general public.

Mr. Ebenezer Oguntimehin an organic farmer who was also an organic farmer at the market made it known that organic produce are non-chemical and is market driven, he added that organic farming , though tedious but the return on investment is considerably high.

Consumers of these produce were not left out, Mrs. Onyebuchi Salako pointed out that she prefers to shop for organic produce as result of the new trends in area of prevention of diseases associated with foods grown using chemicals and to maintain a healthy lifestyle. According to Mrs. Onyebuchi, these products are more expensive than other inorganic produce but it is wiser to purchase them.

Prof. Mrs. Adeyeye Adebola also claimed that organic produce are healthier, tastier than others with terrible chemical in them, she added that the shelf lives of these produce are longer. She advised all consumers to patronize organic produce to avoid diseases in the future. She also stated that organic produce will be generally accepted in the near future as it this has a long term effect.

Various challenges faced at every level of the value chain include: poor and level of awareness on organic produce, organic produce not readily available, low level of acceptance by organic consumers, scarcity of organic seedling, lack of funds for grass root farmers. Expectations from organic agriculture organizations were as well listed out and these are in areas of provision of subsidy on organic inputs, encouragement of organic farmers by giving necessary supports in areas of packaging and value addition, provision of grants to farmers , increasing the level of awareness  on organic agriculture, creation of platforms for farmers to showcase their produce/products(farmers’ hub), assist in increasing the market share.

Participatory Guarantee System (PGS), A Quality Assurance Arm of the Association

Participatory Guarantee System (PGS), A Quality Assurance  Arm of the Association

A team of Inspectors at a member’s farm in Ogbomosho

A team of Inspectors at a member’s farm in Ogbomosho

Participatory Guarantee System is a second party Certificate scheme, an internationally approved standard and sets of guidelines for inspection of farmlands. it is a locally focused quality assurance system that certify producers based on active participation of stakeholders. They are built on these key elements which include shared vision, trust, transparency, learning process which ripples into the following:

  • Principles and Values that enhance livelihoods.
  • Norms conceived by all the stakeholders.
  • Clear, pre-defined consequences for non-compliance.
  • Documented management system and procedure.
  • Mechanisms to verify compliances, sustainability to all stakeholders in the agriculture value chain.
  • Provision of consistent seal or labels as evidence of organic status.

All these and more are very important areas of PGS, organic farming rely solely on the above as this ensures that the farming practices are streamlined to suit the collective global standard required in organic agriculture. The scheme is opened to members of Association of Organic Agriculture Practitioners of Nigeria as it is the only organization adopted as the umbrella body for organic agriculture organization in Nigeria. There are however three types of certification which are:

  1. The first party which is the individual claim by the farmer or processor, this is based on the personal obligation of the claimant of his testimony being authentic.
  2. The second party which involves the participatory guarantee system.
  3. The third party is that made by a statutory body in charge of certification.

The Association does the second party certification, here, a group of inspectors to visit the farmland of the farmer, the inspectors checks the farmland and the environment and see that the farming practice is in conformity with the laid down rules, when the farmland meets the requirements, they are certified organic but if not, will be given the rules and procedures to follow and the number of years to be given to allow for regeneration and sanitization of the farmland.

This is one of the services provided to members of the Association at relatively low cost and this is a continuous exercise as organic agriculture entails a consistent routine checks and updates needed for an unbreakable trail of quality food production.

At the online training organized by the PGS Committee of Association of Organic Agriculture Practitioners of Nigeria held on October 26-27, 2020, participants were familiarized with the standards in organic agriculture. It was pointed out that before one can benefit from organic system, evidence has to be produced, and minimal requirements have to be met. There are laws governing the process and it varies from system to system, organisations to organisations, and that there is no one omnibus standard

Having your farm certified enables increased price for products, increased marketability, satisfaction of producing a clean product with minimal environmental damage, product assurance for purchasers and complete traceable system for products from the consumer to the farm.  PGS also enable you assess yourself, and the items on the certificate are the produce you are allowed to trade, compliance with the organic agriculture process is very important, self- acclaimed organic certification is not acceptable and signing of pledges is involved.

It is worthy of note that after inspection by the PGS team, the farm, if found to be in non-compliance with the organic standard is not a one off process, conversion can be made, due process will be spelt out to the intending organic farmer, period of conversion will be communicated. The exercise is yearly and is subject to renewal.

The Association Flags Off State Chapters

The Association Flags Off State Chapters

Organic Agriculture has indeed gained ground and this is owed to the efforts of the Association of Organic Agriculture Practitioners of Nigeria in ensuring that farmers from all parts of Nigeria  share in the idea and objectives of the association.

2019 has its share of emergence of State Chapters  to ensure a larger percentage  of agricultural sector is occupied by organic farming as  against the land area  used in organic agriculture in Nigeria viz: This will enable a farmers engage in  healthy food production and sustainable agriculture. State Chapters such as Delta, Anambra, Lagos  State now Chartered with Ebonyi and Abia State in progress.

Delta state became Chartered on February 26, 2019, Anambra state 2019, Lagos State on 2020, delegates form the Association were at Ebonyi State on February 16, 2020 to launch its chapter. Oyo State , April 30,2019, Abia State chapter was launched on March 10, 2020 on the day of the Association’s Annual General Meeting.

However, there are guidelines and requirement to have State Chapters of the Association among whom are registration with the Association in any of the categories, numerical strength of at least 15 registered members of the Association, two or more meetings would have been held before the state tender its letter of intention to become chartered, written letter, a month prior to the date of inauguration.

The essence of this is to decentralize and encourage proximity to the Association, it will be a replica of the Association at the State level, chairpersons or Coordinators of the various state chapters will send report of their activities to the National President.

It is however noteworthy that before the advent of the above mentioned Chapters, Oyo State and Abuja have been full-fledged State Chapters.  And it is believed that more States join the train.