Organic farming a prototype for sustainable agriculture in Africa

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  • Organic agriculture is the use of green manure, compost, biological agriculture, and biological fertilizers derived from animal waste.
  • To promote the organic sector in Africa, countries should implement the African Heads of States Decision EX.CL/Dec.621(XVII) on Organic Farming which was made following the report of the Conference of Ministers of Agriculture held in Lilongwe, Malawi in 2010.
  • The organic farming market size is expected to grow from $150.63 billion in 2021 to $169.04 billion in 2022 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.2%.

In addition to existing agricultural challenges, pandemics and wars such as the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war created issues such as the increase in prices of fuel, food commodities, and particularly agrochemical input.

A shortage of chemical fertilizer, is driving up food costs and creating a crisis for countries in Africa and has many farmers desperate and looking for alternatives. According to The Conversation Africa, the global food supply is now at risk due to the shortage of fertilizer. Many warn that feeding a growing global population in a world of climate change will only become more difficult.

This revealed that the current agricultural systems based on the use of synthetic inputs are vulnerable and not sustainable as it is claimed to be. Agriculture accounts directly for 11-13% of greenhouse emissions and indirectly for another 12%.

Organic agriculture is challenged to unlock its potential both as a role model and a real pathway to sustainability in agriculture and food systems.

The launch of various schemes by the governments of various countries across the world is promoting organic farming. Due to the health benefits and environmental benefits offered by organic products, the governments are promoting organic farming activities by launching various schemes and encouraging the population to shift towards organic products according to Global Organic Farming Market Trends.

Organic agriculture or ecologically-based farming is the use of green manure, compost, biological agriculture, and biological fertilizers derived from animal waste.

Organic farming is an alternative form of farming for crops and livestock production that doesn’t use pesticides, artificial fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, and antibiotics to increase production. This has many benefits to the environment and the individuals using these yields.

Small farmers using organic farming methods have huge potential to expand global food production and organic farming methods actively regenerate resources and protect the environment from pollution and toxic wastes.

To promote the organic sector in Africa, countries should implement the African Heads of States Decision EX.CL/Dec.621(XVII) on Organic Farming which was made following the report of the Conference of Ministers of Agriculture held in Lilongwe, Malawi in 2010. In the same alignment, the governments should consider having organic agriculture integrated into the national agricultural policy and programs.

According to an article by The New Times published July 15, 2022, Rwanda Organic Agriculture Movement, the umbrella organization of organic stakeholders in Rwanda that implements the KCOA-KHEA project with an overall goal to ensure that Ecological Organic Agriculture is integrated into the Eastern Africa Agricultural Systems including policies, plans, and investments, finds justification in the greater need of promoting ecological organic agriculture as a sustainable solution to address the challenges mentioned.

According to a related article by NNN News Nigeria, Mr. Ernest Aubee, the Chairman of Ecological Organic Agriculture (EOA) Regional Steering Committee, ECOWAS Commission, said that Organic Agriculture is generating lots of resources globally.

He said that Organic Agriculture is a specialized way of farming that requires certain standards, regulations, and laws.

“A number of our countries in the ECOWAS region are working hard to have those laws, regulations, and standards.

“The ECOWAS Commission is supporting them in the development of the standards,” Aubee said.

The Executive Secretary, Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN) Prof. Garba Sharabutu, said the council is in the vanguard of promoting Organic Agriculture in Nigeria.

EIN News in an article dated July 22, 2022, said according to ‘Organic Farming Global Market Report 2022 – Market Size, Trends, And Global Forecast 2022-2026’ published by The Business Research Company, the organic farming market size is expected to grow from $150.63 billion in 2021 to $169.04 billion in 2022 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.2%. As per TBRC’s organic farming market research, the market size is expected to grow to $257.85 billion in 2026 at a CAGR of 11.1%. Environmental gain from organic farming is expected to drive the organic farming market.

The organic farming global market is associated with the sales of products by farms that produce them in organic ways.

Organic producers in 2018. The country with the most organic producers is India, followed by Uganda and Ethiopia. (Photo/ Research Institute of Organic Agriculture FiBL)

According to an article by All Africa published July 29, 2022, Kenyan small-scale farmer and entrepreneur Muriithi James Kibuku farms rabbits not just for their meat, and fur but also for their urine. He is the owner of Kibuku Rabbit Farm located in Nakuru, Kenya. He came to gain the knowledge that rabbit urine is good for boosting crops and can be used to repel insects from the farm from a friend and that inspired him to start rabbit farming and “tapping” this resource for his farm.

Kibuku explains that rabbit urine has many advantages as a fertilizer as well as a pesticide. Its pungent smell repels insect pests, making it an organic pesticide. It is environmentally friendly, non-toxic, and cheaply sourced. He explained that urine also neutralizes acidity in the soil, and improves its texture, structure, and water-holding capacity. Crops remain green even when the weather is very hot, he says.

To collect the rabbit pee, Kibuku designed and built cages that collect 90% of the urine. The units direct rabbit waste into gutters that are made of corrugated plastic sheets as rabbit urine quickly rusts and corrodes metal. The urine is then filtered through a screen into a collection bucket, mixed with compost, and allowed to ferment to convert it into liquid fertilizer. The solid waste is then harvested and applied directly to the fields as fertilizer, while the urine can be used to create a soil amendment or pesticides.

However, rabbit urine shouldn’t be used directly on your crops since it is highly concentrated, and will burn and kill plants due to the high concentration of nitrogen. Farmers have to first dilute it with water and then apply it to their crops.

Harvesting rabbit urine. (Photo/ All Africa)

In a related article published on March 12, 2022, by Radio France Internationale, Kenyan farmer Judith Mumbua noticed that using commercial fertilizers was creating problems for both her crops and the dirt on her farm in Mwania village, eastern Kenya.

“The chemicals affect soil by making it hard, and the plants, especially maize and beans, do very poorly,” she says.

Now, she has switched to organic farming, which, she says, has created a more positive outcome and a healthier way to grow crops. It is even better for her livestock, she says.

“There are benefits in the production compared to previous farming methods I explored by using chemicals and fertilizers from shops,” says Mumbua.

Mumbua started organic farming after a training program at a local agriculture organization. She admitted this farming method has helped her curb the antimicrobial crop resistance her plants had experienced for many years.

“Antimicrobial resistance is when microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites change and no longer respond to medicine, making infections hard to treat and even manage in crops,” she explains.

According to Mumbua, the method has increased her food quality and production.

The goal is to empower farmers to effectively manage the waste from their farms thus reducing the presence of persistent organic pollutants in the environment and reducing their dependence on inorganic fertilizers which are known to degrade farmlands over time.

Read: Ensuring Africa’s food security by adopting climate-smart techniques

Albert is a Chemical Technologist and Author. He is passionate about mining, stock market investing, Fintech and Edutech.

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