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The world over, Organic farming has been embraced as a better and healthier alternative to conventional farming, and there are many reasons for this widespread acceptance. First, organic agriculture has been proven to be the healthier and more ecologically friendly option. Free of the use of mineral fertilisers and synthetic pesticides, the products of organic farming are healthier and cleaner, as well as free of diseases and damaging side effects. The soil is also better off for it because all of the poisonous substances we have been putting into the soil in the name of modern farming have been hurting the soil in more ways than you can begin to imagine.
Many people have failed to understand that the dwindling life expectancy around the world is not a natural one, rather, it is a result of complacency in the kind of food that is generally fed to the systems of the body which clearly underscores why it needs to be taken seriously.
For the sake of clarity, Organic Agriculture refers to a farming system that sustains the health of the soil, the people, and the ecosystems. Organic Agriculture leverages ecologically based pest controls and biological fertilizers got from plant and animal waste rather than chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilizers that are problematic to people and the environment.
In a bid to catch up with the rest of the world, Africa was quick to embrace chemical fertilizers and pesticides in agriculture because it presented a quick fix for many challenges encountered during farming, and it also seemed like a cheaper option.
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Little did Africa know that it had set itself up for chronic health effects such as respiratory problems, cancer and similar tumours, infertility, birth defects, brain and nervous system damage, and damage to vital organs like the lungs, kidneys, and liver. As the cases of these diseases continued to rise, Africans were pointing to everything else but their agricultural practices as the problem, while it really was.
It has been medically proven that pesticides can cause leukemia, as well as breast, prostate, ovarian, and testicular cancers. Its dangerous reproductive effects include birth defects, stillbirth, spontaneous abortion, and even infertility.
Instead of looking deep into these issues to unveil a likely cause, Africans have spent a lot of money treating and managing these ailments, and sometimes accepting that the diseases are signs of an ageing world that cannot be helped. But it can, indeed, be helped, and organic agriculture is the first step to a disease-free Africa.
Just as studies have shown the negative impacts of conventional agriculture and its dependence on harmful chemicals, similar studies show the environmental benefits of organic agriculture in areas such as soil organic matter, biodiversity promotion, reduced energy, and decreased air, water, and soil pollution.
It has been proven beyond all doubt that organic farming can help to address some of the food-related global environmental challenges. So why hasn’t Africa woken up to new realities?
There are growing concerns for safe food, healthy food products, and environmentally-sound agricultural practices throughout Africa, especially among urban middle-class citizens.
However, one major challenge of organic agriculture development in Africa is the lack of policies, frameworks, and practices that support organic agriculture. In many countries where the framework occurs, they haven’t been implemented in mainstream agricultural practices.
From one African country to the next, you witness poor investment in organic agriculture and a lack of sustainability over time.
Many African countries are stuck on the misconception that organic agriculture is a primitive and traditional mode of farming that should be left in the past, never to be spoken about. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Yes! organic agriculture finds a lot of roots in traditional knowledge and practices, but the entire picture is a modern farming system that is ecologically intensive, using a combination of techniques such as crop rotation, biological pest control, intercropping with nitrogen-fixing legumes, and the use of locally adapted seeds in agriculture.
Organic agriculture is more of a neo-traditional food system that leverages scientific investigation to modify and modernise traditional farming practices to achieve clean and safe meals that are healthy and disease-free for its consumers.
Thankfully, some African countries have seen the writing on the wall and embraced organic agriculture way ahead of their counterparts. Countries like Uganda, Kenya, Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia, and Zimbabwe have certified organic farms where they produce a good deal of organic products and crops such as cocoa, coffee, tropical fruits, olives, cotton, as well as several spices. However, these countries don’t produce these crops for their consumption but for exportation to Western markets for economic purposes.
Africa has 27 million certified wild areas in South Africa, Kenya, Namibia, Zambia, and Uganda from whence organic products like honeybush, shea butter, roseship, argan oil, and gum Arabic are exported.
The question remains ‘If African countries see how important other countries take organic agriculture and its products, why haven’t they thought about producing these things for their citizens? The answer might be found in the fact that these nations think the health of their citizens isn’t important enough to warrant the stress and investment that goes with organic agriculture. But that would be a wrong assumption.
Currently, micronutrient deficiencies such as iron, vitamin A, and iodine plague more than half of the children in African countries, which is a major public health concern that should be addressed by ensuring the population at risk is exposed to the best meals to meet and close the gaps.
When we are not talking about diseases like all the ones we have outlined earlier, we will be discussing the widespread cases of malnutrition across Africa. This situation can be solved by promoting organic agriculture and local food supply.
Organic agricultural fields have a cropping diversity that enriches the diet, improves health, and prevents diseases. When you add organic fields to rotation crops of high micronutrient and protein content, as well as natural inputs over synthetic inputs, the result is healthy crops that are more resistant to diseases, pests, and climatic stress.
In conclusion, Africa needs to embrace organic agriculture, the re-introduction and improvement of locally-adapted seeds and breeds that can fight dietary deficiencies, make hunger a thing of the past, and ensure healthier diets throughout the continent.