OLUSOLA SOWEMIMO (MRS) takes the floor of this column today, for reasons I will soon explain. A dynamic woman, you would not believe she is a lawyer when you find her on the farm among animals, medicinal plants and food crops. She grew up in a health-conscious family and has been spending her years outside corporate work in organic farming, the new vogue world-wide. Nigeria is always too late to see what leader nations on earth are seeing. These nations in their years of ignorance produced food crops with pesticides and herbicides, all chemical poisons. But when they began to see toddlers come down with cancers and other degenerative diseases once thought to belong to old age, they began to think of poison-free food and organic farming. In Nigeria, many people have been asking: what is organic farming? These are people who have been hit by some degenerative diseases or people close to them, who wish to ride over the storms in their health. Mrs. Sowemimo and I chat regularly on health and Organic farming questions. So, when we spoke at the weekend and she said she had just returned from an Organic farming congress in India, I asked if she would like to share her experiences with the readers of this column. Joyfully and child-like, she agreed. It is hoped that her efforts, and those of other like-mined people, will lead us in Nigeria back to Mother Nature…Mrs Sowemimo’s original title for her report below was…Putting Nigeria on The Organic Agriculture Map of The World – My Experience at Organic World Conference 2017. She writes…

“Since 1972, IFOAM – Organics International has occupied an unchallenged position as the only international umbrella organization of the organic world, uniting an enormous diversity of stakeholders contributing to the organic vision.

“At the heart of IFOAM – Organics International are its 800 Affiliates in more than 100 countries. In order to unify, lead and assist this a broad-based constituency in a fair, inclusive and participatory manner, IFOAM – Organics International organizes a General Assembly every three years.

“India won the hosting right 3 years ago and all roads led to Greater Noida from November 9 – 11 2017. Having had such a long notice, it was easy to plan to be there and I’m glad I experienced it.

“Some may ask, ‘What is all the fuss about organic agriculture?’ IFOAM set the four principles of organic farming as follow:

“Health – Healthy soil, plants, animals, humans = a healthy planet

“Ecology – Emulating and sustaining natural systems

“Fairness – Equity, respect and justice for all living things

“Caring – For the generations to come.

“These principles are the roots from which Organic Agriculture grows and develops. They express the contribution that Organic Agriculture can make to the world. Composed as inter-connected ethical principles to inspire the organic movement — in its full diversity, they guide our development of positions, programs and standards.

“So for us Organic Farmers, we do not use synthetic inputs and we do not use chemicals either in form of pesticides, herbicides or fungicides. The health of our soil is paramount to our operations. We do not cage our birds and we raise them naturally with no antibiotics or synthetic drugs.

“As an organic farmer, the emphasis is on sustainable agriculture. This is the ability to generate all our inputs. Fertiliser, compost, seeds and more.

“After almost four years of embracing organic agriculture since Ope Farms was established, attending OWC2017 in India became the best thing I could do to intensify our practices on the farm. I had passionately followed many organic farmers in India and learnt from their practices.

“The congress began with a pre-conference on The Role of Livestock in Sustainable Agriculture at the Institute of organic Agriculture In Ghaziabad. The pre- conference began with a visit to Beejom Farm for a practical workshop. The second day began with a Plenary session on Challenges For Organic Animal Husbandry in a Global Perspective. There were many presentations, some on Organic Livestock Rearing, Animal health, Animal Husbandry, Grazing and Pastoralism, Feeding and Animal Welfare and Health Management under which a Nigerian, Dr Adedeji Balogun studying for his PhD in an Indian Institution, made a presentation on ‘Spermogram and Fertility Assessment of Cocks Semen, Extended with Coconut-water Extender Supplemented With Garlic Extracts. One of the take home from the many sessions is that ruminants that graze are able to choose herbs and plants that control their health. This can also restrict the activities of bacteria in their guts. Participants got to buy the Livestock books by Nitya Ghotge.

“The pre-conference ended with final conclusions and recommendations for OWC – Workshop.

“We moved to Greater Noida to attend the main Conference which commenced with Inauguration. The Inauguration commenced with a ‘Dance Invocation’  by the Sarvam Foundation. This was followed by ‘Lighting of the Lamp’ by The Honourable Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi. A Nigerian, Ms Oluyinka Odukoya was invited to present the bouquet of flowers (millet in reality) to the IFOAM President, Mr Andre Leu.

“There were a few more formal speeches including the one by Dr Sumatra Goel, President Organic Farming Association of India (OFAI) and others.

“We were informed that participants were about 12,000 from 110 countries of the world. The diversity was strong with different cultural dressing and languages on display but one thing was common to us all Organic Agriculture.

“The Congress Sessions were divided into Farmers’ Track Seeds, Soil Health, Eco Practices. There were Scientific Track 1, 2 and 3. There were Main Track A, Main Track B, Marketing Tracks, Workshops. There was a Cultural Evening, OWC Party: Dancing to Farmers’ Drums.

“Other activities included Dharti Mitri Awards Ceremony. This is an organic farming award that has been launched by ORGANIC INDIA to recognise the invaluable service that organic farmers provide to India’s agriculture, ecology and society.

“There is also OFIA (Organic Farming Innovation Award) awards are designed to recognise and celebrate organic innovations by scientists, extension agents and practitioners around the world. The objective of OFIA is to regularly highlight outstanding innovations and to incentivise organic innovations among researchers, extension agents and practitioners.

“The OFIA Grand Prize (10,000 US$) was awarded to Mr. Mike Hands, the Founder and Director of the Inga Foundation on his work on An alternative to slash-and-burn in the rainforest.

“Slash and burn is a subsistence farming method used by millions of families in the tropics. Families cut down and burn a patch of forest in order to create an area of fertile soil on which they can grow their food. However, the bare soil is rapidly stripped of nutrients, so although slash and burn generally gives a good crop for the first year, by the third year crops often fail completely. This forces families who depend on slash and burn to keep clearing fresh areas of rainforest every few years.

“The Inga Foundation helps to spread the revolutionary agricultural system of Inga alley cropping which Mr Hands developed after years of scientific research into slash and burn farming. This system uses Alley cropping using nitrogen-fixing tree species from the Inga genus. Inga Alley Cropping is capable of maintaining soil fertility and good harvests year after year, thereby breaking the cycle of slash and burn and allowing families to gain long term food security on one piece of land.

“Through the Inga Foundation Mr Hands is now working closely with local communities to implement this new and sustainable alternative to slash and burn, growing crops like plaintain, cucurma and black pepper.

“The OFIA Science Prize (5000 US$) was awarded to Dr. Hiroshi Uchino from the Tohoku Agricultural Research Center, for his work on Using cover crops to suppress weeds in organic farms.

Weed damage is one of the most serious causes of significant crop yield loss in organic farming. The use of cover crops is one method used to prevent weed damage, but sometimes cover crops damage main crop growth as well as weed growth.

“Dr. Uchino conducted field studies for 10 years with soybean, maize and potato to achieve stable weed suppression in organic farming. This included carefully studying the impact of vegetation cover ratio and seed weight, sowing dates and interseeding.

“The research team has developed a non- agrochemical forage soybean production system using the cover crop technique. This production system is now being disseminated to forage production farmers in the Tohoku region, and the findings will help for organic farmers to use cover crops for weed suppression based on scientific knowledges not only in Japan but also in other countries.

“I concentrated more on the presentations at the Farmers’ Track for obvious reasons. As an organic Farmer in Nigeria, many of us organic Farmers and Farmers who grow naturally without any chemical or synthetic inputs, do a lot on our own. We usually learn from each other, the internet and books. Talking about books, there were very many books on organic farming and most of the authors wrote from experience which makes it more valuable.

“So I digressed as I usually do in my posts. When you see ORGANIC INDIA, they mean business.This OWC17 (Organic World Congress 2017) has much more reiterated my belief in organic. How else should I feel? Over 12,000 people from 110 countries under one roof. Doing amazing things in organic farming, natural farming, biodynamics and much more

“One of the highlights of my attendance at the Congress was that we were 7 from Nigeria at the event, 4 submitted papers which were accepted and presented:

“They were:

“1) Prof Olowe of FUNAAB and President NOAN – His presentation, Appropriate time to apply organic Fertiliser’s to soyabean and sesame in the humid tropics.

“2) Dr Mrs Adewoyin of Federal University Oye-Ekiti – Her presentation……….

“3) Mrs Olawumi Benedict @urban_farming_grow_west_africa on instagram – Her presentation; Sustainable, biologically intensive small scale farming

“4) Ms Oluyinka Odukoya, a Director of Dasyooh Farms, Akiole in Abeokuta and also known as @lady_organics on instagram – Her presentation; A comparative analysis of fast rate of decay and composting

“Also in attendance were:

Dr Fasaye of FUNAAB and Mr Olabode Musa of Institute of Organic Agriculture Kenya am I.

“Among the very many presenters, we had Sooraj C S the youngest organic farmer at 20 doing so beautifully. His presentation was ‘The story of Kerala’s youngest organic farmer. Another young man who returned to India after his university education abroad to practice organic Agriculture. There was another young man who found a way to distill the juice of sugarcane on their organic farm to make fuel for his motorbike. There was another young man, an Agronomist on a 1,000 acre farm growing onions and garlic which is processed and exported abroad. Wait for this, the same farm has just acquired additional 2,000 acres. Of course, he had a few tips to share with yours truly.

“I also met farmers of ages 72, 76 who have been in organic farming for over 50years. Sikkim is an organic state and they do not joke about it. The rules are strict, no chemicals or pesticides of any sort are allowed into Sikkim. Even the marginal application of pesticides are highly prohibited.

“There were many presentations by women on how they are empowering other women, through joint effort of saving seeds, sharing knowledge and giving them a source of earning some income. ‘Women-led Seed Conservation’ was the presentation of Mariama Sonko of Senegal. A warm and charming lady. Even though we did not speak the same language, we communicated.

” ‘Bravery and Women in Farming’ was the presentation made by Rosalia Caimo of Italy who started a Rice farm with no support from family and friends despite inheriting a farm and a house. Today she owns a brand of rice and started a cluster of women rice farmers for her brand with no pesticides or synthetic. Sumitra Thapa Magar presented a paper on ‘Consumption and nutrient-based marketing of stinging nettle through women empowerment. Considering that the stinging nettle is considered as a weed in this country, I saw another opportunity.

“There were too many speakers that caught my attention, pity I cannot mention them all. Romeu Mattos Leite of Brazil’s presentation is ‘Organic Egg Production Using Manioc as Feed. He raises over 16,000 poultry birds and produces over 12,000 eggs per day.

“In organic India, emphasis is on soil health, seed saving and sustainable agriculture. ‘Donald M. Broom, Prof Emeritus, University of Cambridge said, You cannot Call yourself an organic farmer if you are not making your own compost’.

“On a lighter note, away from organic agriculture, I noticed some similarities between Nigeria and India, the hustle and bustle, traffic jam, street life, night life and trading. My only disappointment was to see racial discrimination. Some of our African members were refused stay at an hotel that had been booked for them by virtue of their colour and origin. In this age and time, that was a total let down.

“In conclusion, I say If India can boast of thousands of certified organic products, we in Nigeria need to do a lot more. Organic is fast becoming a reality world-wide. In a country where 3 year olds and 10 year olds are now nursing cancer, we all need to do much more and wake up from our slumber.

You and I deserve to be healthy. Make a wise choice today, choose organic.

My dream, my prayer will one day come true…Organic will rule!!!

NOAN (Association of Organic Agriculture Practitioners of Nigeria) is one of the foremost Organic association in Nigeria. Its headquarters is in University of Ibadan. NOAN also serves as a link body between organic agriculture stakeholders in Nigeria and international bodies interested in organic agriculture. The activities of NOAN are hinged on these four key thematic areas:

Advocacy

Capacity building

Standards and certification

Marketing.

 

Introduction of Ope Farms

Mrs Sowemimo is the CEO of Ope Farms, a certified Organic farm established in 2014 which produces kale, beetroot, Spinach, cucumbers, Chinese cabbage, turmeric, ginger, mint, dill, coriander and many more. Our farm was established with a strong vision to sell only safe and healthy foods to ensure that our food nourishes your body and acts as your medicine. We continue to work tirelessly towards sustainable agriculture. We have been featured on BBC, France 24 and TVC. We are proudly organic.