Farmers Called To Embrace Agroforestry, Sustainable Food Production
PROFESSOR of Agronomy at the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture (MOUA) Umuahia, Abia State, Dr. Dominic Aja Okpara has posited that farmers of old, who used traditional methods of farming that entailed organic resources, produced enough food not only to feed themselves, but used the surplus for barter.
He noted, however, that the population at that time was low, while the traditional farming systems that involved shifting cultivation or bush fallowing was fully capable of restoring soil fertility naturally because fallow periods were long enough.
According to him, “the situation is now different and the major cause of the present low crop yields or low productivity of soils in south eastern Nigeria is the high population, which has put considerable pressure on land.
“The present challenge is made more serious due to increasingly short fallow periods, soil degradation and erosion, which pose a problem to food security in the region.”
He described Organic Farming as a production system, which excludes the use of synthetic and chemical inputs like fertilizers; pesticides, growth regulators and livestock feed additives. He added that most farmers in Africa practice non-certified organic agriculture partly because they are poor and due to the quality of the products which are tastier or more palatable foods free from chemical residues.
Okpara, who is also the Deputy Vice Chancellor stated while delivering the university’s 23rd Inaugural Lecture on “Crop Interactions And Nutrient Management: Implications For Food Security In Degraded Ecosystems.” Noting that south eastern Nigeria has high population densities and high level pressures on land, he held that the agricultural system has been undermined and the land degraded to the point, where the components of our agricultural system have been upset.
The second is the integration of herbaceous and tree legumes into the system, which he said should involve government in the protection of soil, water and forest resources against degradation.
e added that the presence of trees has a positive effect on many crops, whether this is because of their contribution to soil fertility, the retention of water or because of the resulting microclimate.
Another recommendation was that farmers should be willing to incorporate trees into their farms, as there are several benefits. He said a good agroforestry programme in which forestry species are grown in compatible arrangements with food or export crops should be adopted.
The fourth is the promotion of integrated systems of production, where the principles of synergy, complementarity and supplementarity are at play in organic system to convert waste to wealth, while integrated nutrient management of the farm would ensure sustainable production of the systems.
According to him, integrated crop/livestock agriculture will improve soil fertility, increase yield, produce a density of foods and improve land use efficiency.
The Songhai Integrated System, he advised should be adopted or replicated in the states of the federation to create products and services that hold the potential to dramatically increase productivity, ensure nutritional quality and eliminate waste and pollution.