Going back to history, farming has always been done traditionally for centuries until this day with farmers using local farming tools to cultivate their lands and produce food. A lot of countries are blessed with large land mass and fertile lands whereas others are not so blessed in terms of land mass and fertile soil. Food is one essential substance consumed to provide nutritional support for living things.
Today, one of the problems with the world especially in Africa is hunger and poverty which has a great negative impact on our generation, making the youths less active and productive. As of 2018, the world population is said to be approximately 7.6 billion people according to the census bureau. 767 million people (10.7%) of the world population live in extreme poverty with less than $2 a day. Nearly 385 million children in the world are living in extreme poverty, a study conducted by UNICEF in 2016. Sub-Saharan Africa has the largest number of extreme poverty with 389 million people, which account for half of the total number of extreme poverty in the world according to World Bank.
The above-stated statistics have shown that enough has not been done in term of farming and food production. Food insecurity is a massive problem in Africa. To increase readily availability and access to food, an alternative approach to farming has been created, called conventional farming (such as; greenhouse farming, hydroponic farming etc.) to ensure continuous production of food.
So to address the ongoing debate between organic and conventional farming, let’s understand what these terms mean. Organic farming is the natural growing practice without the use of synthetic pesticide or chemical fertilizer, which help to increase sustainability, biodiversity, encourage good soil, air quality and also allow for continued practice of crop rotation. On the other hand, conventional farming also called industrial farming is the use of synthetic chemical fertilizers, pesticide and genetically modified organisms, heavy irrigation and continuous monoculture production to produce enough food at all time.
More concern has been raised about pesticides and other practices use in conventional farming and the effect of these chemicals on human health. In Africa, especially Nigeria, where the climate and environment condition is totally different from other parts of the world, our farms and crop are mostly attacked and destroyed by pest and sometimes post-harvest damages which have greatly reduced the food production of the country.
Let’s take for instance tomato farming, Nigeria is ranked as the 14th largest tomato producer in the world with 1.7 million tons produced yearly, but due to poor farming practice and complete reliance on organic farming according to it definition, we have not been able to meet the tomato demand and as a result, we import tomato from other neighbouring and overseas countries spending about N80 billion yearly in the importation of fresh and processed tomato as of 2015.
So the question now is, for how long will this continue and what is the way forward. The answer to this question is that both conventional and organic farming practices should be encouraged as several scientific research conducted by Food Standard Agency and Stanford Medicine shows there is no significant difference between “organic” and “conventional” crops in terms of taste, nutrition and safety.
As of today, 95% of food is produced in our soil with the ever-growing population of the world it is believed that 50% more food will be needed to be produced by 2050. The world population is projected to be 9.7 billion by 2050 with Nigeria overtaking the USA to become the third most populous nation in the world. Government and other agricultural agencies, especially in Nigeria, should encourage and support farmers now more than ever to produce more food to feed the fast-growing population be it with the use of the conventional or organic method of farming.