By Daniel Essiet
Regenerative agriculture is a system of farming that seeks to rehabilitate and enhance the entire ecosystem of the farm by placing a heavy premium on soil health, water management and fertilizer use.
The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), an economic development arm of the African and other international organisations in Africa, is using regenerative agriculture to tackle desertification in Nigeria and the rest of Africa.
It took studies undertaken by the Department of Agricultural Science and Technology, Environmental Food and Forestry, School of Agriculture of the University of Florence, Italy, to show that Regenerative Agriculture (RA), which is a system of farming that places a heavy premium on soil health, water management and fertilizer use etc is perhaps, the way to go to give agriculture its much-needed boost.
According to the result of the studies, foods grown under regenerative practices contained, on the average, more magnesium, calcium, potassium and zinc and more vitamins. Analysts also said crops grown in regenerative farms were lower in elements broadly detrimental to human health, including sodium, cadmium and nickel, compared with those grown conventionally. Essentially, RA aims at positive environmental impact on the farm, including damage to soil health, over-exploitation of water resources, and high chemical residue levels in food. Currently, more than 15 million smallholder farmers across the developing world using RA practices are said to have declared impressive benefits.
This is why experts in the agriculture sector are now canvassing for the wider adoption of regenerative approaches to farming. For instance, the President, Federation of Agricultural Commodities Association of Nigeria (FACAN), Dr. Victor Iyama, sees RA as “a promising and reassuring choice,” because it emphasizes the need to improve the environment and assist agribusinesses generate more value for food exports.
Dr. Iyama, while pointing out that RA focuses on issues related to agro exports growth, expressed hope that farmers will embrace it, as food importers in the US and Europe are increasing the demand for premium produce cultivated and processed under natural condition without chemical pesticides.
While noting that numerous factors affect healthiness of foods including soil health and fertilizer application which are relevant to RA, Dr. Iyama said RA will help producers achieve commercial success of exports with the higher prices that farmers would get for their produce overseas.
Dr. Iyama’s words: “In the days of organic farming, people were healthier than now; yet we make more money employing more chemicals. But we cause more damages to consumers’ health. The hazard is not only on those who eat it, but those spreading the chemicals on the crops. It is a tedious journey that we are embarking on. Luckily there are organic herbicides and spreaders. Organic farming is a little more challenging because it is just starting. After a while, there will be mass production of organic fertilizer. If you don’t want to buy them you can plant under real regenerative agricultural conditions. You don’t have to do anything to the ground. You allow the crops grow under a natural condition. You just water it at the approximate time.”
Indeed, interest in RA has continued to gain traction, with principles that promote soil health, bio-diversity, and protect the environment. Iyama, however, posited that Nigerian farmers were interested in a regenerative approach that is profitable and brings the best returns. Following this, FACAN has become a strategic partner to organic producers’ organisations that use natural soil additives to replace the use of synthetic and chemical fertilizer inputs. It has teamed up with groups that support transformative measures to reduce hunger and malnutrition through agriculture. Several organisations are also said to have come into the picture as RA drives healthy living agriculture.
For instance, Dantata Foods and Allied Products Company Limited (Nigeria) recently signed a partnership deal with UK–based innovative and agric-technology firm Regen FARM Limited and the Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office of the British Government, under its agricultural sector intervention (LINKS Project) on Regenerative Agriculture in Nigeria.
The tripartite partnership was aimed at increasing quality food production, enhancing export opportunities for Nigeria’s agricultural commodities and improving the soil fertility, nutrients content and organic matter.
Under the arrangement, over 200,000 farmers are to be engaged on a long-term basis across a number of Nigerian states, which include Kano, Cross River, Jigawa, Kaduna, Bauchi, Katsina, Kebbi, Benue, Niger and Plateau.
With a financing commitment from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) under the Prime Anchor Borrowers Programme, the consortium of private sector and government bodies are rolling out an innovative approach to support smallholder farmers on the new techniques of RA practices. Besides, the founder of LEAP Africa, Ndidi Okonkwo Nwuneli, and other experts are on the campaign for high-yielding, resilient, and adaptive practices (HYRAP) that constitute an African approach to climate-smart agriculture.
For them, the solution lies in HYRAP because the approach must contribute to feeding people and improving livelihoods in food systems. Their position is that the adoption of HYRAP has the potential to improve the livelihoods and resilience of farmers, processors, and consumers. The other campaigners include former Botswana Minister of Investment, Trade, and Industry, Bogolo Kenewendo, and Africa Director & Special Advisor for UN Climate Change High-Level Champions, Zoë Karl-Waithaka.
Also, Green World Ventures (GWV) has established a regenerative food industry in Nigeria, based on cultivation and processing of moringa oleifera, a fast-growing drought-tolerant and high-protein tree-crop. GWV is cultivating and exporting high-protein moringa leaf-powder as a bulk ingredient. Ancillary products such as moringa seed oil and animal fodder will be added to an integrated supply chain whose operations aim to help restore millions of hectares in Africa to ecologically balanced productivity and increasing CO2-absorbing soil organic matter.
Other aims include enhancing local food security and rural income; training more people up the value chain; supporting community-based bio-diverse perennial agriculture; creating climate change resilience and at scale, plus mitigation through carbon sequestration in soil organic matter. According to a report from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), harnessing RA to repair Africa’s degraded lands could be worth $70 billion to farmers.