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Organic farming driving change in sub-Saharan Africa

Dr Benoy Berry, chairman, Contec Global, speaks to African Farming about the companys role in transforming agricultural practices through biotechnologies

Over the next 30 years, half of the world’s population growth will happen in Africa. The implications for African states range from the need to rapidly develop major infrastructure, to the provision of jobs for millions entering the workforce.  One of the greatest challenges presented by this trend relates to food production, as governments are having to consider how to effectively oversee the provision of food for rapidly increasing populations. 

“We know from a recent African Youth Survey that there is a trend of optimism among young people in Africa, with 82 per cent of respondents confident their standard of living will improve in the next two years and 81 per cent predicting technology will be the main driver of their changing fortunes. Technology – and specifically biotechnology – is central to finding a solution to the food supply question. Technologies can help a growing population better afford improved land and resource management, while providing more sustainable livelihoods.”

Ecosystems are under growing threat across the planet, and especially in Africa, where crops continue to be jeopardised by extreme weather, desertification and soil erosion. As a result of industrial farming practices and poor land management, the degradation of the earth’s soil is ubiquitous and too easily overlooked. However, the sustainable management of natural resources very much remains in our hands. 

“As chairman of Continental Transfert Technique Limited (Contec Global), a company that focuses on the sustainable advancement of technology in multiple sectors, I have witnessed first-hand the dramatic economic and sustainable benefits in Africa generated by organic farming deploying biotechnologies.”

Biotechnologies have the potential to address the challenges of diminished natural resources, while diversifying and optimising economic growth in communities that were once obstructed from adopting a sustainable framework.  

At Contec Agro, we have developed organic farming products such as bio-seed, bio-fertiliser and bio-planting to preserve the land and ensure food security. As the realities of climate change manifest themselves, our tissue culture facility in Abuja – whereby tissues or cells are artificially grown (bananas, potatoes) - is one of a kind in its ability to address such realities, notably severe droughts.   

Tissue culture facilities enable the regeneration of rare plants, trees and medicines in a clean, rapid and sustainable manner while providing our Contec Agro employees with unique expertise in crop production and diversification. Delivering high-quality and affordable products for all segments of society remains our priority.  

Technologies driving organic farming are essential if we are to address issues such as low crop production while meeting growing food security challenges across the continent. Modern sustainable practices provide eco-friendly food crops, while encouraging soil rehabilitation and the long-term productivity of existing crops and pastureland.  

Meaningful progress in agricultural production starts with the empowerment of farmers and producers, achieved through providing them with the means and solutions necessary to make the move towards productive organic agricultural practices. Our expanded operations in this sector have afforded many farmers a solid source of income as well as transferable expertise, notably in areas that once solely relied on mining as a major source of employment.  

“That is why the creation of training centres is essential in this process, the benefits of which I have witnessed through our company’s creation of an organic agro facility in Abuja, Nigeria. At Contec Agro, we pride ourselves in our ability to not only provide skilled jobs for key workers, but to equip these workers with skills for life.”

Increase productivity and competitiveness of African agriculture too

Organic farming will not only attract a modern and young workforce but increase the productivity and competitiveness of African agriculture as a collective. While the private sector will play an integral role in driving the required changes, government support is also vital.  

The structural transformation of the agricultural sector with government backing is well underway in Nigeria. The Federal Government’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development recently promised to gradually eliminate all chemical fertilisers in agriculture, with the aim of phasing out the presence of dangerous chemical traces in food.   

Moreover, Uganda is home to the most organic producers in Africa. An estimated 231,157ha of land are managed organically across Uganda, as agriculture is the East African nation’s most important sector in terms of economic return. This explains why it is usually given the utmost importance in government planning.  

Organic farming has already considerably changed the face of rural employment and job security across Africa and will continue to do so in the years to come. It is now time for organic agricultural efforts to be promoted on a global basis as populations continue to grow. By the same token, agribusinesses ought to consider the impact of harsh chemicals on the livelihood of their ecosystems, encouraging the adoption, and access to, sustainable practices.