The agricultural sector in Nigeria is undergoing significant development and changes with the aim of making impacts in the society, both at the government level and individual level.
In other to enhance farm output, farmers are taking steps to produce quality outputs, and this can be achieved greatly by focusing on organic agriculture.
Are you ready to go organic? Keep reading to get some insight.
Meet Our Facilitator
Olusola Sowewimo is a farmer and a passionate advocate for organic agriculture. The founder of Ope Farms, a certified organic farm enterprise, is a trained lawyer, experienced human resource personnel consultant, trainer, certified executive and etiquette coach.
She was awarded “The Farmer of the Year 2019” by Ecological Organic Agriculture
With a law career spanning over thirty-four years, she has worked in a few companies and gathered experiences in many capacities including UTC Nigeria Ltd, Olusola Sowemimo & Co., Nigeria LNG Limited and Seyi Sowemimo & Co.
Her professional background includes but not limited to:
- Certified Mediator and Lawyer with the Law Firm, Seyi Sowemimo and Co.
- Hr Consultant at Queenelle Consulting
- Public Speaker and Faculty Member School of Eloquence
- Business Coach, Etiquette Practitioner of Minding Manners, UK
- Member Association of Organic Agriculture for Nigeria (NOAN), Slow foods and many others.
- Board member VH-Span (Vegetable, Herbs and Species Producers Association of Nigeria)
- Associate Member, Chartered Institute of Personnel Development ( CIPD, UK)
- Fellow IAMN( Institute of Agribusiness Management of Nigeria )
- Host Farm for WWOOF.
- Attendee at Global Gap training, DEFRA training, practical sessions and recently completed Agribusiness management program at LBS (AgMp -11)
She is an active participant at many local and international conferences. She was sponsored to attend four organic conferences in Senegal 2018 and funded by international organization/INOFO/ Beekeeping conference in Abuja.
Olusola Sowewimo began the training by stating a fact on Califonia’s cancer level and how organic food production increased the rate of survival. This fact she got from the Cancer Conference in Califonia helped her decide to grow food that would be safe for people’s consumption.
Why would you consider going into Organic Agriculture and does it excite you enough? The facilitator made us understand the importance of having a why, because it is what will keep an Organic farmer going.
I saw a gap in the way we produce our food and knew I would do something different. My why has never changed.Olusola Sowemimo, Founder of Opefarms,
‘It is simply to make the food we sell to people to be their medicine, healthy and safe’, she said.
What competencies are required?
- Knowledge and the desire to learn
For Sisimi, organic is trust and integrity. If perchance you do not have these competencies, what would you do about it? Because these qualities are important to measure your success at the end of the day.
What is Organic Agriculture
Organic Agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystem, biodiversity and people. The practice of organic in Nigeria is guided by the Organic Agriculture Standards.
It is referenced to East Africa and IFOAM International Standards, adapted to conditions in Nigeria.
Principles Of Organic Agriculture
These principles are the bedrock of OA (Organic Agriculture):
The health of the soil, plant, animal, human and planet altogether are one and indivisible. We cannot separate the health of a community from that of the health of the ecosystem. They go hand in hand.
Based on the ecological systems and cycles, working with them and emulating them to help sustain them. An example on our farm are many plants that are regarded as weeds, yet weeds are beneficial plants that you are yet to discover. Among these is the tridax which our bees and rabbits love, so we leave them to play their role.
We ensure fairness in our relationships with our environment and the opportunities that life offers us. Fairness is respect, equity, justice among people and other living things. For example, if we have ants that do not eat our plants or poultry, let them be.
Organic agriculture must be practiced in a way that we protect the health and wellbeing of current and future generations. When we learn that some of our chemicals are so powerful, it takes up to 10 years to leave the soil and some never do; we know that such farms will never get certified.
The Standards of Organic
Contrary to what many believe, Nigeria has standards for organic. When products are labelled organic, it means they have been audited and have met all the guidelines that allow them to be certified for the status
Farms that follow organic standards are natural until they are certified.
What is Organic Agriculture Standards:
Note the following facts on Organic Agriculture Standards;
- The standards have been adapted to local conditions
- Organic Agriculture covers plant production, animal husbandry, bee-keeping, aquaculture, processing and products.
- Organic status can be used for trade activities within Nigeria
- It can also be used for international negotiations with international bodies such as USAID, FAO
- Agriculture standards are revised regularly to reflect new knowledge
What It Takes To Be Organic:
The basic steps needed in going organic include:
- Biodiversity (Rearing different crops and livestock to incorporate it into each other)
- Crop Rotation (changing where different crop are planted from time to time)
- Buffer Zone – at least 40m from your neighbours to avoid chemicals in their lands from leaching into your farm
- Conversion Period – Absolutely 3years needed to convert farm to organic farm
- No Child Labour
- No Genetically Modified Animals, Seeds, Fertilizers etc
- Documentation and Transparency
Here is the lists of topics that the standard covers:
- Start organic crop production
- Farm conversion
- Farming System Diversity
- Fertilizer and soil conditioners
- Pest, diseases and weed management
- Animal Management
- Conversion Period for Bought Animals
- Animal Nutrition
- Disease Management
- Transport and Slaughter
- Apiary Management
- Hive Materials
- Handling of Bees
- Harvesting of Bee Products
- Conversion to Organic Beekeeping
- Pest Control
- Packaging of Bee Products
- Production systems/facilities
- Water quality and environment practices
- Breeding and seed selection
- Feed and feeding
- Disease Management
- Predator, pest and weed control
Sisimi encouraged participants to have a “why” which is the reason behind going organic. It would help the farmers develop his or her vision around it, set his goals, and keep refining the goals while focusing and working hard to pursue everything good needed to achieve the vision
Rounding up the training, she advised the participants to keep learning from others who can help them achieve their goals in organic farming. Attending organic events helped with new ideas and this has helped her learn new things and grow towards achieving her vision.
Questions From The Training
Here is a documentation of some questions from the participants and the facilitators’ response;
Question 1: Please how do we start the organic farming
Response: This is an awareness session, to start an organic farm requires that you understand the principles and study the guidelines. For example, I knew of the buffer zone before I bought my farmland. I believe, Admin will advise on further training.
Question 2: Thank you so much for the presentation. My question is what is the difference between Permaculture and Organic Agriculture?
Response: Organic Agriculture from the explanation here, goes hand in hand with permaculture which is also a sustainable system that incorporates nature on the farm
Question 3: My second question is this, can crops planted in a greenhouse be said to be organic if all the factors of organic agriculture are met?
Response: Indeed yes, if it meets the guidelines and standards
Question 4: Thanks for the lecture ma. My question, is Organic Agriculture site-specific?
Response: Thank you. I do not quite understand the question but I shall try. There is no specific site, you will make your site organic if you follow the standards and then the Certifiers visit and assess your farm and passes then, you are granted a certificate. That is when you can claim organic
Question 5: Please what do you mean by no child labour which is the number 5th point on what it takes to be organic
Response: Yes, because of the four principles that talk of fairness, child labour is not allowed. I have had children come and work for a day after school, but they are not our workers.
Question 6: Thank a lot, in a situation where the soil is not fertile how can I go organic
Response: This is a very important question. In Organic Agriculture, your soil is your diamond. It is priceless. First, you need to know the history of your farmland. What happened there before. Have you lost all your topsoil to heavy equipment, has synthetic fertilizer been applied consistently? A soil test must be carried out so you know what you are up against. Refertilizing your soil will then require natural inputs like compost, manure, even some plants like ewe Akintola will help but a soil test first.
Question 7: We are into livestock (poultry) and use natural methods for our birds, if the ingredients used for making the feeds were not organically raised I believe it becomes a hindrance to us. How do you suggest we curtail this setback? Response: For poultry birds, organic requires that 60% of the feed and other inputs should be organic. I met one of the largest poultry owners in Brazil, he gave a paper, he is organic and his birds are usually 25,000 upwards. 60% of his feed is manioc. He owns a certified organic farm of manioc. What is manioc? Cassava!!!
Question 8: What do you mean by a buffer zone?
Response: The standards require that your farm be 40metres away from a conventional farm. This is to protect your crops. If the chemicals from a conventional farm leach, then it will stop before 40mts. If crops are sprayed on your neighbours land, 40 meters is far enough
Question 9: I am raising broilers following organic way – no vaccine. I use herbs & fruits & they are 8 weeks today @ 2.5k, but my concern is I started using hybrid feeds from 3weeks. can my birds be termed organic?
Response: For now in Nigeria, except you have a certified maize farm or cassava farm or buy from others, you cannot claim organic. I do not call my chicken organic; I label them as naturally raised, which is fine. I know the standards and my conscience will not let me claim what I’m not. It is integrity.
Question 10: My question on manure and compost is this: if I have manure from conventionally raised chickens for instance, and want to use it to fertilize my soil, will that still be termed organic? Some traces of drugs pass out with the poo.
Response: From this session, you now know that organic is certification against standard so you now know much better than those who just use that word organic. I do not know if there is organic manure in Nigeria according to NOAN, the FMARD will know if there is one in the pipeline. Waste from conventional poultry must be cured for a minimum period of 3 months before an organic farm can use it. This is why organic farm needs biodiversity. Crops and animals so you use your own waste. Curing is allowing the manure to be kept out for 3 months