Organic farming: A sure way to addressing climate change

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Mr. Yakubu taking some scientists round his field
Mr. Yakubu taking some scientists round his field

Lying along the banks of the Black Volta River, just about 500 metres away from the Buipe Foot Bridge in the Savannah Region, is a four-acre vegetables farm.

The field is populated with lettuce, African spinach, spinach, hot pepper, and green pepper, which look very natural and fresh.

The natural vegetation surrounding the field and the state of the soil, which looks very dark, are indicative of an attempt to do something different from what other farmers do. Mr Abdul Wahid Yakubu, a 52 year-old farmer, who owns the field, said he had been cultivating vegetables and fruits on the field for the past two decades using organic farming methods; that is using only manure and compost.

He spoke about how it all began saying “I have been brought here by a lady, who is married to a European; and the lady hates inorganic fertilizer and other agrochemicals. She brought me here purposely to be growing vegetables for them using organic means. That is why I also rely on this method.”

He said “with the compost and manure, the crops are very healthy. With this method, it is not expensive to cultivate the field compared with the inorganic fertilizer where you need to buy the inorganic fertilizer and other chemicals. He told other farmers to stop the slash and burn method of handling residues on their fields saying “when you are clearing the land, do not gather the residue at one place.

Clear and spread it evenly on the field so that it will dry and after rains, it will decompose and increase the humus content of the soil; and that is the “meat” (nutrients) for the plants. You can only get that when you do not burn your residue. The residue will also create room for soil organisms, which will die and add nutrients to the soil.”

Whilst Mr. Yakubu’s main goal is to produce healthy foods, his organic farming method is also contributing to addressing climate change.

Like Mr. Yakubu, organic farmers do not use synthetic chemical fertilizers and synthetic pesticides in treating pests and amending the soil.

Organic farming relies on nature-based inputs and therefore, helps to improve soil health as well as the general well-being of the farmer.

Concerning its contribution to addressing climate change, organic farming is known to enhance the biodiversity of the soil. Specifically, organic farming ensures that there are beneficial insects that are in the soil as well as beneficial flora that grows in the farm, all of which promote biological diversity.

This improves the productivity on a farm where different crops are grown. By opting for organic instead of inorganic fertilizer, Mr. Yakubu’s farming practices are contributing to greenhouse gas emissions reduction.

In other words, focus on organic fertilizer eliminates emissions associated with the application of inorganic fertilizer and those related to the production of inorganic fertilizer from fossil fuel-based products such as natural gas.

Thus, a shift to organic farming and increased use of organic fertilizer will translate to reduced production of inorganic fertilizer and related emission of carbon dioxide. This is critically important for Ghana’s fight against climate change and her contribution to global efforts to limit global warming to 1.5 Degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Dr Gerald Forkuor, Climate Change Lead at Feed the Future Ghana Policy LINK Activity, in an interview on the significance of organic farming to addressing climate change, said organic farming also enhanced the resilience of vulnerable communities and farmers.

Dr Forkuor added that “having the skill to use materials that are easily accessible to you to, for example, produce organic fertilizer means that vulnerable population can easily bounce back should there be external shocks such as shortage or inaccessibility of inorganic fertilizers.”

He alluded to the high likelihood of organic farmers having livestock, and therefore practising integrated crop/livestock systems, which is an important adaptation strategy that facilitates organic fertilizer production, and reduces the potential impact of climate change on the farmer and increases their resilience.”

Dr Joseph Badanaa, Research Scientist at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research – Plant Genetic Resources Research Institute, also said that organic farming was nature-based and confirmed its improvement of soil health, and even the general well-being of the farmer.

Dr Badanaa, therefore, encouraged many farmers to shift to organic farming to protect the environment.

It is true that organic farming improves soil health, guarantees healthy food, improves the health of the farmer and addresses climate change through reduced greenhouse gas emissions. About 136,000 km2 of land, covering approximately 57 per cent of the Ghana’s total land area of 238,539 km2 is classified as agricultural land area out of which 58,000 km2 (24.4%) is under cultivation.

Even though there is a Desk on Organic Farming at the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, the country does not have data on the percentage of farms that is organic and inorganic. However, it is common knowledge that most farmers in the country rely heavily on imported agrochemicals including inorganic fertilizers to increase food production, which goes to confirm that many farmers in the country are yet to shift to organic farming.

Official trade data obtained from Ghana Statistical Service and validated by CountrySTAT Fertilizer Technical Working Group-Ghana showed that in the year 2020, fertilizer imports totaled 618,638mt and 1,399,757 liters.

Agrochemicals and inorganic fertilizers negatively affect the health of the soil, and once used on a field, the farmer must continue using them to be able to gain expected yields. Besides contributing to the climate crisis and negatively impacting the health of consumers, agrochemicals and inorganic fertilizers are increasingly becoming expensive and leading to food price hikes.

In recent years, following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war, the country experienced shortage of inorganic fertilizers, which affected food production resulting in high food prices on the market.

There can be no better time than now for farmers in the country to switch to organic method of farming. T

hrough this, they will not only be contributing to addressing the climate crisis but also safeguarding their health and the health of consumers. This will also ensure that they do not have to worry much in times of shortage of inorganic fertilizers.

A lot more farmers must take a cue from what Mr Yakubu is doing to shift to organic method of farming to protect the environment.

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