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Filling education gap for organic agric practices

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As carbon emissions and other agricultural practices contribute to climate change, and as human needs for food and fibres are perpetual, experts have called for organic agricultural education systems.

This implies that agricultural production activities have to be consistently boosted as the world population increases.There are serious impediments to sustainable agricultural production, which are manifested in reduced productivity, reduced produce quality and outright lack of capacity to produce. In the contemporary time, climate change happens to a major limiting factor to sustainable agriculture.

Climate change is manifested by increasing temperatures and sea levels, changing precipitation patterns and more extreme weather conditions that threaten human health and safety.

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These situations lead to food and water shortages, which adversely affect socioeconomic development. As global temperatures rise and weather patterns become more unpredictable; hence, understanding the intersection between climate change and agriculture is crucial to the understanding of the drivers of global warming.

Agricultural activities contribute significantly to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that cause climate change; 17percent directly through agricultural activities and an additional 7-14 percent through changes in land use. Apart from its contribution to global warming, farming has other detrimental effects on the environment; it is often the reason for deforestation, which is one of the major drivers of global warming.

Some of the climate change mitigating activities such as carbon sequestration, lower (external) input (especially) of fossil fuel dependent resources, and use of renewable energy are known with organic agriculture practices. This makes organic agriculture the appropriate agricultural practice with which sustainable food production can be pursued despite the ubiquitous effects of climate change in the contemporary world.

According an organic expert, Dr Olugbenga AdeOluwa, organic agriculture management practices can also help farmers adapt to climate change by strengthening the agro-ecosystems, diversifying crop and livestock production. This will help in the building of farmers’ knowledge base to prevent and confront changes in climate.

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As it were, organic agriculture is at the infant stage in Nigeria. Sensitisation activities are ongoing to encourage producers and consumers so that marketers can fit in naturally to complete the value-chain in the sector.

An important aspect of the foundation activities that has been put in focus is the need to entrench the adequate organic agriculture training at the higher institutions.

This step is conceived in order to be adequately prepared for the future of the organic agriculture concept in Nigeria. The current circumstance is that agricultural practitioners are trained in conventional agricultural practices.

What this means is that the current champions of organic agriculture in the country are doing that based on interests, passions and for the sake of health and environmental concerns. As there are no trained organic agriculture professionals yet in Nigeria; this obvious gap has to be filled if Nigeria will fulfil her quota in the organic agriculture practices and the economic benefits inherent therein.

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The Ecological Organic Agriculture (EOA) Initiative in Nigeria, since 2014, embarked on series of activities with relevant stakeholders in the agricultural education in tertiary institutions to advocate for the mainstreaming of organic agriculture in the curriculum of agricultural programmes in Nigerian higher institutions.

The current state of the advocacy activities is that the Association Deans of Agriculture in Nigerian Universities (ADAN), relevant officials at the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) and the National University Commission (NUC) have been adequately sensitised about the need for this adjustment to agricultural education in Nigeria.

The EOA Initiative has worked in close collaboration with the stakeholders in the educational sector to facilitate development of some courses to be undertaken with the existing agricultural programmes in tertiary institutions. Efforts of stakeholders from the University of Ibadan, Kwara State University, Organic Agricultural Projects in Tertiary Institution, Agricultural Research Council and Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development have paved way for the road map to mainstream organic agriculture into tertiary agricultural curriculum.

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The stakeholders have proposed a four-unit course (Introduction to Organic Agriculture) to be mainstreamed into the National Diploma in Agricultural Technology. Two other two-unit courses were proposed for 200 level (Essentials of Organic Agriculture) and 400 level (Practical Aspects of Organic Agriculture) for Agricultural programmes in the universities.

These activities are the starting point for mainstreaming organic agriculture into the tertiary institution to address the knowledge gap for increase productivity while achieving food security and climate change mitigation.

The expected outcome from the interventions is that there would be organic agriculture components in the agricultural education training in Nigeria, and professional and academic postgraduate programmes in organic agriculture would be floated to fill the obvious gaps in the Nigerian agricultural education sector. This will in turn ensure the training of well-bred practitioners in the organic agriculture sector in the nearest future.

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