Foundation, others link environmental sustainability to healthy agriculture practices

ENVIRONMENT experts have submitted that to achieve a meaningful and sustainable development in Nigeria, be it in the agricultural and other sectors of the economy, there is need to consider long terms interests that preserve the environment rather than short-term interests defined exclusively by profit. 

  The 13th Chief Shafi Lawal Edu Memorial Lecture organized by the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF), held in Lagos last week provided opportunity for the environmentalists, the academics and others on the position of healthy environment as a sine-qua-non the overall national development. 

 The guest lecturer at the event, Professor Victor Olawale Adetimirin, a Professor of Plant Breeding & Crop Production, and Head, Department of Agronomy, University of Ibadan who spoke on the theme “Sustainable Agriculture and the Environment” explained how greatly unsustainable agriculture practices affect the environment.

  Adetimehin stated that;” The practice of agriculture could exert great influence on the environment, with the possibility of affecting public health.  When agricultural practices degrade the environment, the environment ‘pays back’ agriculture in ‘its own coin’, by adversely affecting it in terms of the productivity and quality of produce and ultimately public health”, adding that people nowadays are concerned about what is in their food and conditions under which they are grown. 

 He also hinted that concerns on the environment as a result of agriculture are not limited to the natural resource base for agricultural purposes vis-à-vis soil quality and the conservation of biodiversity and habitats, but also the quality of the environment for non-agricultural purposes.

“Agriculture cannot be practiced in a vacuum. It depends on the environment for productivity. Crop/animal performance or productivity (phenotype) depends on the genotype or variety/strain (G) and the environment (E). The environmental degradation observed in countries where agriculture is highly intensive provides opportunities for discerning countries that have adopted limited intensification to learn from practices that are inimical to the environment as a result of high use of input to obtain high agricultural productivity. 

“The degradation of the environment makes both agriculture and the environment unsustainable. Each of the agricultural practices, almost always, affects more than one component of the environment, and vice-versa.” He said.

The professor recommended the following as a way forward for Nigeria to achieve sustainable agriculture that will not impact negatively on the environment; Population control, education (formal and informal) that integrates environment into agricultural objectives, support for conservation practices by the poor, and increase in access of the poor to natural resources; Deployment of appropriate technologies for smallholder agriculture, especially for land preparation in a way that ensures sustainability and preservation of the natural resource base; Build-up of soil organic matter through the use of organic manure to improve the efficiency of fertilizer use and reduce losses of nutrients. 

 He also noted that less than 1percent of the agricultural GDP of developing countries is devoted to research compared to 5.5percent for developed countries, saying that there is need to strengthen integrated research that jointly address agricultural production and environment and increase its funding (by government and private initiatives). 

“There must be incentive, through regulatory structures, to encourage large farms to invest in adopting agricultural practices that are not injurious to the environment and pre-plant soil analysis to guide fertilizer application. Such farms should receive non-monetary incentives”.

   Earlier, renowned economist and President of the Nigerian Conservation Foundation, Chief Philip Asiodu said that Nigeria, with over 180 million people inhabiting 923,000square kilometers, has over 20 percent of Africa’s population and only three per cent of Africa’s land surface. 

“The population is young and still growing at about 2.8 percent per annum. Our agriculture is still in a very primitive state and largely subsistence farming with still about 70 percent of the population engaged in farming. Our primitive agricultural practices greatly degrade the environment, lamented Asiodu, adding that there is so much to do to change all this to modernize agriculture, develop agro-allied industries, industrialize and diversify the economy and move millions of people from agriculture to other activities.

“We know that there is still much to do as our habitat is still very severely threatened in Nigeria – by population pressures, by poverty, by inadequate awareness amongst the leadership and general population of the need for best practices to ensure sustainable development in a rich beautiful and diverse natural habitat.

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