By Ebere Agozie, Abuja

ERNEST Aubee, the head of the Department of Agriculture at the ECOWAS Commission in Abuja, says Nigeria is one of the leading countries in West Africa that have taken the lead in efforts to mainstream organic agriculture in school curricula.

Aubee, who is also chairman of the Regional Steering Committee of the Ecological Organic Agriculture (EOA) initiative in Nigeria, was speaking at a workshop on ‘Understanding Organic Agriculture for Curriculum Development’ organized by EOA last April in Abuja.

He said the workshop was aimed at seeing how best to mainstream organic agriculture into school curricula to encourage and promote its sustainability in the country.

Said Mr Aubee: “What you are doing is a very big initiative that will benefit not only Nigeria as a country, but also the other 14 ECOWAS member states. EOA has recently been given a pride of place in the ECOWAS Commission and we already have a project that is ongoing in some member countries.”

“We hope that at the end of the first phase, we will be able to replicate it to all the ECOWAS member states. This meeting is indeed very timely as it is coming at a time when we have to pay even closer attention to what we eat.”

“We read in the media all the time stories about contaminated foods and therefore we must be careful about what we eat. This is important because it is part of what should define the personality of populations in ECOWAS member states.”

“So I see this initiative of EOA in Nigeria as a very bold one in which we expect to see how best we can mainstream organic agriculture into the Nigerian curriculum. The outcome of this workshop will help other West African countries learn from Nigeria, the steps and approaches we have employed to get to where we are.”

He encouraged other ECOWAS member states to follow suit and start work immediately on ensuring that organic agriculture becomes part and parcel of their education agenda. “We must not just stop at one level… we should start from the base, from primary school to the highest level of education,” he asserted.

The Acting Executive Secretary of the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN), Mr Saidu Madagwa, represented by Dr. Kidda Danjuma of the council, said the importance of the workshop could not be over-emphasized.

“This workshop is being held at a time when cases of indiscriminate use of chemicals in agriculture are becoming quite worrisome with the resultant adverse effects on people and animal health, which could have severe consequences for the environment,” Madagwa said.

“An important way mitigate these adverse effects is to encourage organic agriculture practice rather than the use of inputs that could have adverse effects,’’ he added.

Dr Adamu Kazaure, Executive Secretary of the National Board for Tertiary Education (NBTE), represented by Dr Jauro Kubura, said the board would continue to encourage the practice of organic agriculture.

“We are happy to partner with EOA in promoting organic agriculture and will introduce organic agriculture into the curricula of all polytechnics and colleges of education in Nigeria,’’ he said.

Prof. Victor Olowe, president of the Association of Organic Agriculture Practitioners in Nigeria, called for constructive contributions from participants.

“We want ideas that will move organic agriculture forward. Other countries are already running with the template that we developed and we, for our part, are trying to make in-roads through the NUC,” he said, adding:

“We want to see people obtain degrees and even PhDs in organic agriculture. Food security is beyond just filling your stomach but making sure it is with the healthy kind of food.’’

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