Mr Oyesola James Oluwagbemiga is the President, Africa Ecosystems Based Adaptation for Food Security Assembly (EBAFOSA), Nigerian National branch. He speaks with DOYIN ADEOYE on the objectives of the programme and the branch’s commitment towards ensuring a synergy between food security and sustainable environment in the country.
WHAT are the visions and objectives of EBAFOSA Nigeria?
Being a continental initiative, Nigeria is working along the general vision of the programme. The major objective of EBAFOSA is to ensure that there is a synergy between food security and sustainable environment. In taking care of agrobiodiversity, one can be assured that what is produced will also be sustained over the years.
So practising ecosystem based farming will ensure that the soil system is intact and sustainable for future productions.
How has it been so far in convincing farmers to key into this programme?
We have done a lot of advocacies, advising farmers especially in this era of climate change to practise conservational farming. So the Ecosystem Based Adaptation (EBA) is an adaptive measure for farmers, telling them what they need to do, especially as regards reducing their own contribution to green house gas emissions. We advise them to plant trees that can mitigate carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. That is as regards the mitigative aspect.
For the adaptive measure, we advise them to practice the water harvesting system because of the erratic nature of rainfall. Sometimes when rain falls, it comes very intensively causing flooding and in many cases, it may not be useful to the farmers. So we tell them to harvest this run off which can then be used later to water their plants. Some of the runoff even contain nutrients that can be beneficial to their crops.
Since 60 to 70 per cent of our farmers practise small scale farming with about two to three hectares, they can manage ditches, divert the flow, get the water harvested and make use of it instead of most of the runoff causing flood elsewhere. Also, although many concentrate more on irrigation, it is, however, not the only way of adaptive measures for farmers.
The use of compost manure is also good, as it makes the soil structure very intact. When you have a good soil structure, the percolation of water inside the soil will be very good and it will be sustainable because it will hold water, as the soil is healthy. So even if there is a strong water runoff, because of the good soil structure, it will be sustainable for production for the farmers.
What have been the achievements since EBAFOSA was launched in Nigeria?
After the launching, we have been able to move from the advocacy level and we are now in stage two, which is focused on registering EBA farmers and producers. And we now have many unions involved.
We have the food unions, that is food producers, where the advocacy is focused on making them understand that the food they produce must be EBA compliance, because most of these inorganic foods cause cancers. So, we tell them to make the farmers understand they want EBA compliant products.
If farmers know that if they produce organic food, it will get sold and attract more premium, they will be attracted to it. So the strategy is going through the unions and companies who use farm produce for their productions. The essence is for them to tell farmers that they want organic food to process their products.
We also brought in hotel unions, restaurants and all, telling them to buy foodstuffs that are organically produced. We related with banks as well, to ensure that there will be single digits in terms of loans for the farmers. So at this point now, I can assure you that many of these unions are stakeholders in EBAFOSA Nigeria.
As for the second phase, after registering all those unions, we now link the EBA farmers with consumers through workshops.
What other projects do you look forward to doing?
We are having a workshop soon, calling all stakeholders, all farmers’ association, consumers’ association and policy makers, where we would link them all together for proper advocacy.
The area of policy also has to be taken care of, especially changes on where our agricultural policy is now. There should be a paradigm shift dovetailing to the normal system we want which will be environment compliance. So when you bring all these policy issues in with non policy markers, you will be able to tell them what they are in for.
EBAFOSA for the first time is bringing a synergy between environment and agriculture. If agrobiodiversity is maintained, there will be a synergy between food security and environmental sustainability.
With the environment constantly changing, how has climate change affected food production in the country?
There are two major factors when talking of food security. There is food accessibility and food availability. Food can be available and people may not be able to access it, while food may also be available, but the nutrient aspect is tampered with.
So accessibility, availability and affordability are important factors in food production. In relation to climate change, rainfall for instance is very erratic; you cannot determine when the rain will fall. The climate has changed the weather focus. So if any farmer decides to plant when rainfall is naturally expected and it doesn’t rain at that time, it will affect the harvest and in the long run, the food availability. If you cannot produce food at a particular time, then it is unavailable. So climate change affects food availability.
Even if the food is available at such a time, it will only be from a few farmers because others could not produce. There will be more demand than supply and when such happens, things will become more expensive. So climate change also affects the cost of food, that is food affordability.
Also, food can be available, affordable, but inaccessible. For instance, if farmers need to take their food produce outside the rural areas to sell and unfortunately, a flood cuts off the bridge between them and the major market, where people can buy the food, then the food is inaccessible. This situation also affects the food nutrients because it has been degraded. So climate change affects these four facets: food availability, affordability, accessibility and food nutrients.
One of the SDGs is focused on achieving zero hunger. How feasible do you think that is?
It is feasible if we do the needful. We have the population and the landmarks no doubt, so what we need to do is to go to the farm. We can produce food all year round if there is availability of water and if there is a good storage system. We don’t have to depend on rainfall.
The issue of food insecurity is peculiar to regions. Is EBAFOSA putting this into consideration in its policies?
That is one of the key strategies. For instance the theme of the launch in Nigeria is ‘Reshaping Food Security and Climate Change Resilience.’ So we are using a holistic and inclusive approach, which has mitigation, adaption and environmental sustainability potentials. That is why it is called Ecosystem Based Adaptation (EBA), as it allows the ecosystem to be intact.
Do you truly believe that the agric sector can be an alternative to the oil sector in terms of boosting the nation’s economy?
Yes it can. The fact is that there is need to diversify and fortunately for us, we have the population and we also have the largest arable land. The lands are there for us to farm. By the time we invest more in farming, we will not only be able to feed ourselves, we will also have some for exporting.