Organic Food Production: Nigeria’s Position

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Health experts and nutritionists have advised that the consumption of organically produced food may reduce the risk of certain diseases, especially cancer. This has caused the world demand for organically produced food to double between 2004 and 2014. Many Nigerians have become more conscious of the food they consume, constantly checking food labels for the word ‘organic’.

Organic food production basically entails food production without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics in livestock production as well as growth hormones and regulators. It is an integrated system that is sustainable, enhances soil fertility and maintains biological diversity.

Nigerian farmers however have reduced organic food production to only the use organic fertilizers(compost or manure), leaving out the other core aspects of organic farming. this system i have decided to call “faux organic farming”. the reasons for the development of this system, as well as the pros and cons of organic farming will be discussed in my next post.

Farmers and agro-processors have found a way of cashing-in into the rise in demand of organic food by labeling their produce as organically produced even when they are not. meanwhile only 0.02% of Nigeria’s cultivated arable land is used for organic food production. This happens because there are no regulatory bodies to verify the food items that are put in the market.

Do you have a preference for organic food and why? tell me what you think.

Abisola Oladele

 

 

New Name, New Look

Hi guys,

I know you missed hearing from me, i also really missed writing to and for you. I decided to do some house cleaning and rearranging of the blog, we now have a new name and a new look. Plus it is so much easier to leave your comments now (for those that complained), so take a look and tell me what you think.

See you guys soon.

Abisola Oladele.

Silage; keep your ruminant animals happy in the dry season

Hello guys! 

In this post i am featuring a guest writer. I heard him speak about sillage at an agro-allied seminar, an i thought why don’t i meet him for a collaboration. I’m glad i did because he was nothing short of nice.

The major challenge in raising ruminant animals e.g goats, sheep and cows is the scarcity of green grasses in the dry  season and the animals are made to feed solely on poor tasting and annoying concentrates.. but cheer up all the goats and sheep around, i bring you good news. This amazing thing called silage is highly nutritious, palatable, easy to produce, long lasting (can last up to 10 years) and costs little to nothing. Its a win win if you ask me.

Silage is a fermented, high moisture stored fodder  ( grasses, grains, cereals etc.) Which can be feed to ruminants to supplement the feeding of concentrates in the dry season. The process of preparing silage is called silaging, ensilage or ensiling. It is the anaerobic fermentation of plant materials which improves its taste and preserves their nutrient content.

Steps to ensiling:

  1. Harvest fresh grasses, maize, guinea corn, sorghum etc. (Both stems and geains can be used). Ensure they are still very succulent with high moisture content  (50-60% moisture content)
  2. Ensiling is usually done in pits or silos, but air tight  paint buckets are a perfect alternative. Chop the materials to be used into small pieces (0.5-1 inch), pile into your paint buckets or pits. 
  3. Compact materials as much as possible using a stick or hands to get rid of all the oxygen. Seal with a plastic bag (nylon or polythene) and cover with the lid of your paint bucket.
  4. Molasses can be added to speed up fermentation and improve the taste of the silage.
  5. Your silage is ready is 30-40 days and can last up to 10 years as long as there is an absence of oxygen.
  6. Supplement concentrate feeds with silage by feeding animals with silage before or after concentrate feeds.

 Let’s run through the advantages of silage again in case you missed them above:

  • A very cheap means of providing palatable and nutritous feed for ruminants,
  • Grasses, corn stalks etc that would normally be destroyed are put to good use,
  • Can be a good source of income if buckets of silage are sold.

    I know i will be trying this soon for the two little goats i am saving for Christmas.

    Will you be giving silage a try? Let me know in the comments.

    Abisola Oladele and Adeoye Ibrahim Adekunle (B.sc Agribusiness and management).

    Understanding Global Warming

    Global warming refers to the increase in the earth’s temperature over a hundred years. In the last 100 years, the earth’s temperature has risen between 0.4 and 0.8 °c.

    Causes of global warming;

    The main cause of global warming is the greenhouse effect which is the process by which certain gases in the atmosphere trap and emit infrared radiation; simply put, certain gases in the atmosphere prevent the escape of heat, thereby causing the earth to warm up. These gases are produced by a number of activities carried out by humans.

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    Important greenhouse gases include;

    1. Water vapour; this is the most abundant greenhouse gas, however it also serves as a medium of assessing global warming
    2. Carbon dioxide: released by respiration, deforestation, land use changes, burning of petroleum and coal products.
    3. Methane: this is produced through decomposition of wastes, agriculture (rice cultivation), ruminant animal digestion, manure management etc. it is more active than carbon dioxide but it is less abundant in the atmosphere.
    4. Nitrous oxide; produced by soil cultivation processes, use of fertilizers etc.
    5. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs): these are synthetic compounds, commonly used in air conditioners and refrigerators.

    Effects of global warming

    On the environment;

    Oxygen depletion, increased heat waves (hotter days and nights), expansion of deserts, increase in sea levels (may lead to increased flooding).

    On agriculture;

    Changes in temperature and rainfall, changes in pests and diseases (these are climate sensitive), changes in nutritional quality of some foods.

    What role do you play?

    1. Waste generation; by reducing the amount of waste you generate, you reduce the amount of waste that has to be decomposed. Reduce, reuse and recycle your material, purchase items with less packaging.
    2. Reduce electricity and fuel consumption: use energy saving items, reducing your electricity consumption reduces the amount of fuel used to produce them, take a walk sometimes, use less hot water, and use solar systems if you can afford it.
    3. Plant a tree or 20 trees if you like.
    4. Tell someone about global warming, share this article!

    Abisola Oladele

    Bird flu in Nigeria; Protect Yourself and Your Birds

    The minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh has disclosed the re-occurrence of bird flu in Nigeria, citing its presence in 26 states and the FCT with over 3.5 million birds affected.

    Bird flu, formally known as Avian influenza is an illness caused by strains of influenza viruses that occur naturally in wild and aquatic birds in which they do no harm (these are referred to asymptomatic carriers), but they can be transmitted to domestic birds in which they cause severe diseases with high mortality, with up to 90- 100 % mortality in 24- 48 hours. A few types of bird flu can be transmitted to other animals as well as man.

    Methods of transmission

    Bird flu primarily spreads in humans and birds by contact with infected birds or contact with surfaces that have been exposed to the virus. People who do not regularly come in contact with birds are not at a high risk, however poultry farm workers and bird sellers have a high risk of contracting the disease. The virus does NOT survive in well cooked meat.

    The virus can survive for a long period outside the host and can also be transmitted by mechanical vectors such as vehicles, equipment, moving poultry droppings (manure) between farms, and personnel travelling between farm, markets and abattoirs.

    Symptoms of bird flu.

    • Ruffled feathers
    • Depression and droopiness (uncontrolled sleeping)
    • Sudden drop in egg production
    • Sudden death of birds
    • Swelling of head, eyelids, comb
    • In-coordination, loss of ability to walk
    • Nasal discharges
    • Soft shelled eggs
    • Respiratory distress

    In humans, Avian influenza symptoms include; fever, cough, sore throat, conjunctivitis (eye infection), muscle aches, pneumonia, and acute respiratory distress.

    Treatment and prevention

    Treatment of bird flu in poultry is almost impossible due to the rate at which the disease spreads, it is therefore advisable to slaughter all birds that have been exposed to the disease. Avian influenza vaccination can also be used as a supplementary tool for treating bid flu.

    Steps that can be taken to prevent the spread of bird flu to your farms include;

    • Tighter bio-security measures: Only farm workers should be allowed into the farm, restricting the movement of your farm workers to other farms, vehicles and equipment entering the farm should be well disinfected.
    • Regular disinfection of the farm area (fumigation) using broad spectrum virucidal disinfectants such as ViraCid – S, VIROCID, and CID 20.
    • Workers handling infected birds should wear personal protective equipment (PPE) e.g. gloves, coveralls, boots, safety goggles, nose masks, and respirators.

    if you have a backyard flock for your family only, take note of the following;

    • prevent contact of your birds with other wild birds, wild birds can be attracted to your yard by the presence of poultry feed and water. use proper netting or other forms of barriers to protect the birds,their feed and water.
    • use designated clothing when attending to your birds.
    • separate birds of different species especially ducks and geese as they sometimes act as asymptomatic carriers.
    • wash and disinfect your hands before and after attending to birds
    • check your birds regularly for any sign of illness.
    • keep the environment around your birds clean and unattractive to wild birds.

    Antiviral drugs and avian flu vaccines have been used to treat cases of bird flu in humans.

    Abisola Oladele.

    My Catfish Production; Lessons Learnt

    Hello everyone! As promised,these are the possible reasons why my fish farming failed:

    1. Poor performing fingerlings obtained from over used broodstocks
    2. Extreme stress during the first few weeks of growth
    3. Purchasing too large quantity of fingerlings
    4. Use of low quality feeds
    5. Absence of an alternate source of protein
    6. I am not perfect at this!

    Some of the Lessons l learnt include:

    Obtain hatchery testimonials before purchasing fingerlings; I got the hatchery recommendations I used from a lady who sells livestock feed and drugs, this was not a good idea. From now on before purchasing from a hatchery, I would try to make enquiries from people who have made purchases from them.

    Fingerlings should be exposed to as little stress as possible in this first few weeks of growth as they are very fragile and too much stress could affect their growth rate. I wrote in this post of the stress the fingerlings had to go through, due to some negligence on my part.

    Purchase as many fishes as you can feed comfortably; it was only after buying 1500 fingerlings, I realized how much feed they could consume, but I was already in it and there was no going back so I had to find a way to manage cash by buying cheaper feeds. I know some farmers use these feeds with optimum results, so it could be in combination with any of the afore-mentioned reasons, however I would NOT be using that feed again plus I will be limiting my purchases going forward to 500-750 fingerlings per batch.

    Catfishes do not perform well when they are raised solely on commercial feeds. As they are carnivores by nature, they require an alternate and regular source of animal protein, it could be maggots (fresh or dried), chicken and fish intestines (roasted or cooked), dead animals (roasted or cooked), crayfish fixed in thier feed, these should be fed to them at least once a day or simply raising a poly culture system of catfish and tilapia (the catfish would feed on the tilapia. I’m trying this next!).

    Have any other ideas as to why my last fish farming venture failed? Let me know in the comments. See you in my next post!

    GMOs: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

    What are GMOs? (Genetically Modified Organisms)

    GMOs are organisms whose genetic structure have been altered using modern biotechnology; simply put, these are plants or animals which have one or more genes added, removed or modified, you remember that high school biology story bout genes right? I know I don’t, so let’s do a recap.

    Genes are basically what makes us who we are, they are responsible for every physical characteristic that we exhibit. Genes control height, weight, eye colour, hair colour, hair density, Can you roll your tongue? Some can and others can’t-genes are responsible for that too!

    All plants and animals (humans too) have genes unique to their species. GMOs are created by taking genes from one specie and placing it in another so that the new specie produced can exhibit some of the characters of the other species.

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    The good

    The main advantage of GMOs is the ability to combine different characteristics from different species to produce a new plant or animal with both e.g. a specie of tomato may produce high yields but may be susceptible to pests and diseases, a pest and disease resistant gene from another plant is infused into this, so that a new organism that is both high yielding and disease resistant is produced. Sounds good right?

    Common uses of GMOs in agriculture include: improved yield, resistance to diseases, reduction of spoilage, improvement of nutrient profile of crops, resistance to herbicides and certain environmental conditions, preservation of endangered species, production of pharmaceuticals (e.g. gene therapy and vaccines against the Ebola virus) and bio-fuels.

    The bad

    When a foreign particle gets into the human body system, our body tries to get rid of it. The liver produces toxins (poisons) that can kill or breakdown whatever the foreign particle is so it becomes harmless, these toxins sometimes induce vomiting, stooling, high body temperature (to kill the particle) or the toxins may work ‘quietly’ without producing any symptoms from the body. The same thing happens in plants, these new genes are strangers to the functioning system of the plants and so the plants also produce toxins to try and destroy these genes, unfortunately genes cannot be killed or destroyed so these toxins tend to accumulate in the plant. When these plants are consumed, the modified genes and toxins can enter into the body of humans and are known to cause a variety of reactions, from simple allergies to cancer.

    The production of chemical resistant varieties increasingly affects the biodiversity of the ecosystem, as the genes in these varieties are sometimes toxic to beneficial insects especially pollinators such as bees and butterflies, continuous cultivation of these varieties in an area may see the complete extinction of these agents of pollination, thereby causing unimaginable harm to other crops that depend on them for pollination (reproduction).

    Herbicide resistant varieties may become cross pollinated with weeds which promotes the growth and existence of ‘super weeds’ which become resistant to regular herbicides and special herbicides are produced for these weeds, these special herbicide contain untold levels of harmful chemicals that are released into the atmosphere.

    GMOs harm the soil in two ways, firstly they can only be produced as monocrops, mono-cropping constantly mines the soil of its nutrients without and organic form of replacement, hence the need to often over apply inorganic or mineral fertilizers which are not very healthy for the soil (more on this later)

    Secondly, toxins and strains produced by GMOs have been found to remain in the soil for up to 10 years, this implies that whatever crop is cultivated on that land within that period (GMO or not) will take up these strains and toxins and when these are consumed may produce the same effects as the GMOs.

    The ugly

    In April 2015, the former president of Nigeria signed into law the national bio-safety agency bill that allows for the production and importation of GMOs into the country. However, on the assumption of office of the new minister of agriculture, investigations revealed that claims made by a Kenyan Harvard professor who has been in the forefront promoting GMOs (that lead to the bill passage were inaccurate) as stated here.

    Sadly, on the 20th of June 2016, the minister of environment released a press statement approving the proposal of one Monsanto agriculture Nigeria Ltd (looks like a Chinese company to me, find them here) seeking for the commercial release and placement in the environment of a GMO cotton (BT cotton) which is insect resistant. According to this article, a similar application was submitted by the same company to Malawi in 2014 for the commercial release of BT cotton, but the Malawian national bio-safety regulatory committee recommended its nullification on the bases that claims of economic gains were false, issues of secondary pests, environmental risks were not addressed.

    Why does the Nigerian Government continually fail to carry out adequate research?

    Phewww! That was one long post, and I hope it was beneficial. what are your thought on GMOs in Nigeria? As always, I love to hear from you in the comments