Devise Strategies to Combat Use of Harmful Chemicals By Farmers, HOMEF Tells FG

The Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) has called on the federal government throught the ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to devise strategies to combat the use of harmful chemicals and pesticides by farmers.

It stated that focus should instead, be on promoting safe natural/traditional means of pest and weed control. In a statement to LEADERSHIP jointly signed by HOMEF Director and the Chairperson, Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) Nnimmo Bassey and Mariann Bassey-Orovwuje respectively, it stated that this were part of the resolutions reached by  participants at the end of a Community Dialogue on Food and Farming Systems in Nigeria, held in Benin City recently.

The Environmental activists added that other recommendations included that Extension officers be trained and stationed  in farming communities  to share knowledge on agroecological methods of agriculture that build on practices developed over the millennia.

They further called on the government to make provisions for rural infrastructure, storage and processing facilities and financial loans to assist farmers, land access to farmers and gender equity should be enforced while also calling on Civil Society groups to intensify enlightenment programmes and continue to amplify the farmers‘ voices among others

The statement read GMOs are harmful and not needed. The government should place a ban on GMOs and urgently carry out  a radical revision of the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) Act 2015 and install a neutral Biosafety Regulatory Agency that will put the interest of the people first

The statement added that the dialogue provided a platform for particicipants to examine the challenges facing agricultural production and the special threats posed by opening of the flood gates to Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) into Nigeria and also discussion on the way forward for improved agricultural productivity with emphasis on agroecology and support for small scale farmers.

In his opening words, Nnimmo Bassey, Director of HOMEF,  stated that dialogues such as this are vital for sharing ideas, best farming practices and ways of preserving seed and our overall biodiversity.

He recounted that small scale farmers are the main food providers to more than 70% of the world’s people and they produce this food with less than 30% of the resources – including land, water and other inputs. The industrial food system under which agricultural modern biotechnology thrives, however, uses at least 75% of the world’s agricultural resources, is a major source of Green House Gas emissions yet provides food to less than 30% of the world’s population.

Mariann Bassey-Orovwuje Chairperson of the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa, in one of the presentations that preceeded the dialogue, stated that although attempts to overcome agricultural challenges have led to many innovations and have resulted in production of improved natural crop and livestock varieties, corporate industrial systems attempt to control food production and displace small scale farmers through the push for genetically modified crops.

Her presentation made it clear that a majority of small-scale farmers have no idea what GMOs are about and what threats they pose to their health, environment or livelihoods. This was obvious as about 98% of the farmers gathered had not heard of GMOs.

The farmers which included crop and livestock producers expressed gratitude to HOMEF for the enlightenment and acknowledged that they needed more of these dialogues and training. They rejected GMOs and with one voice and called on the governemnt to provide them with more support to improve productivity with local/indigenous varieties.

One of the participating farmers, Gloria Okon, acknowledged that the Community Dialogue was very useful. According to her, “it helped her as a farmer know how to farm without using chemicals and also to know the difference between GM seeds and natural seeds.” She saw the use of accessible language, especially pidgin English, as key to making the meeting successful. She added that she would organize similar dialogues for other farmers in her state.

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