Nigeria, Ghana and the entire West African sub-region must begin to initiate a paradigm shift from the conventional agricultural practice to bio-intensive agriculture, a more organic system that thrives on renewable natural resources while sustaining soil fertility.
This was according to the Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Grow West Africa Biointensive, Mrs Abosede Olawumi Benedict, who harped on the development of bio-intensive agriculture in West Africa, in an exclusive interview with AgroNigeria.
As a key proponent to agricultural development, biointensive agriculture uses sustainable biologically-intensive small scale methods, simple ways of raising natural food devoid of chemicals and ‘harmful’ substances.
Speaking on the need for a readjustment in West Africa’s agricultural practices, the Grow West Africa Founder advocated that the “sustainable practice” must be deployed across the agricultural space, particularly among smallholder farmers who form the bulk of food producers.
Grow West Africa Biointensive is a non-profit and non-governmental organisation with a major focus on the deployment of sustainable biologically-intensive agricultural practices in a bid to reduce hunger, poverty and create employment.
It has been at the forefront in terms of advocating sustainable farming practices in the region and changing the attitude of farmers toward adopting organic agriculture to enable them to increase food production.
On the strategies to rejuvenate the practice, Abosede underpinned that research institutes have a lot to do in terms of feeding farmers with bespoke knowledge and researches to boost organic agricultural practices.
This, she said, would help smallholder farmers upheave productivity, as the bio-intensive agricultural practice is a holistic system that allows for the integration of its principles.
She explained, “Most of the time, the government spends a lot of money on the health sector and this is because we are not eating right. If we are being taught how to grow our food efficiently and effectively, in the right way, the government will spend less on health generally. The government can then channel these resources into infrastructure and other areas that there is a deficit.
“The COVID-19 pandemic, for example, showed us that our immune system can combat a lot of these health risks. Even when you are exposed to them, the chances of contrasting is slim, because you take healthy foods. What we eat can determine the amount of resistance our immune system puts up.
“A lot of the food produce that are purchased from the market are contaminated. Most people think they feed on healthy crops like vegetables but what is the quality of these vegetables or fruit they consume?
“If an analysis is done on the vegetables, tomatoes, cabbages, lettuces that we buy from the open market, we will be stunned on the result – the kind of element and pesticide residue dominant on some food produce.
“Healthy eating begins from how the food we consume is been grown and what method is applied in the cultivation of these foods.
“The research institutes can help in this regard if they can focus at a time on one aspect of organic farming and teach the knowledge to small-scale farmers who provide up to 70 percent of what we consume. If we can train the farmers well enough then they can produce healthy nutritious meals at all times”.
Abosede also emphasised that the policies to drive the inclusion of biointensive agriculture would begin first of all with the citizens, in order for it to have a safe landing in West Africa.
She said that if the citizens are attuned to the prospect of growing natural food via organic agriculture then the government would have no choice but to do the bidding of the populace.
“In this part of the world, we always leave it all to the government to make the policies, but as a people, we need to have a change of orientation and lifestyle and groom ourselves on organic farming.
“For instance, in biointensive agriculture, we have different kinds of composting that preserves waste for agricultural use. If we all practice this system individually then we can have a common voice and demand the growth of the organic food sector from the government.
On the strides of Grow West Africa in biointensive agriculture, Abosede noted that the NGO was targeting smallholder farmers – particularly farmers with 5 hectares of land at most.
She added that in the next decade, the organisation would have achieved a lot more in covering the spectrum of farmers to adopt the system.
So far, the Grow West Africa Biointensive has trained over 4,000 farmers in the practice, the CEO divulged.
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