An environmentalist, Mr Nnimmo Bassey, has advised young people to preserve the traditional method of farming by using natural manure to grow crops, which is healthy for human consumption.
He said that this would also help to build the immune system against diseases such as coronavirus.
Bassey, a recipient of the National Honour of Member of order of Federal Republic (MFR) for Environmental Activisim, gave the advice on Wednesday during a virtual dialogue with students on food and agricultural systems.
He said that the traditional method of farming had helped people in the past to live healthy lives as their immune systems were better built to resist diseases of any kind.
Bassey said that it was gratifying that the period of the lockdown had compelled people to revert to the traditional ways of growing crops and vegetable.
He said that the traditional farming practice had led them to eating healthy meals devoid of toxic chemicals and herbicides associated with industrial agricultural practices.
“This has been one of the positives that came out of the lockdown. Some of us have not only grown crops, we have been paying close attention to them as they grow.
“Working with nature allows the farmer or gardener the pleasure of safely interacting with soils, crops and animals without the fear of being affected by agrochemicals applied on genetically modified varieties or in industrial farms.
“Connecting with nature and eating natural foods is a important way to build resilience against COVID-19 and other diseases that may emerge.
“The COVID-19 pandemic gives us a good space to consider the need to protect our farming and food systems from being destroyed by manipulators and market speculators as well as promoters and supposed regulators of agricultural genetic engineering in our countries.
“It is a big challenge when public officers saddled with defending our biosafety refuse to see the interconnectedness between the social, economic and environmental elements of agriculture and foods,” Bassey said.
According to the environment expert, food is not a mechanical or chemical product from a factory or laboratory.
“But eating is often a celebration and has deep cultural and spiritual anchors with special significance in many religious observances.”
According to Bassey, in Nigeria and across Africa, communities thrive on maintaining their biodiversity as they save, reproduce and share seeds, understanding they encapsulate life.
He said that farmers who engaged in mixed cropping and harvest a mix of fruits, tubers and vegetables that yield foods, “that are rich and healthy, provide the needed nutrition and build defences against illnesses.’’
“These exchanges are largely informal and do not yield to labelling. It must be agreed that labelling is an offshoot of industrial production that marks the distance between the producer and the consumer.
“This distance is getting wider as industrial producers squeeze nature tighter, packing farm animals into smaller spaces, destroying forests and habitats and turning farmers into sharecroppers or even farm slaves.
“The claim that biosafety regulators are not concerned about what chemicals are unleashed in our farms and general environment is a grievous and unacceptable insult.
“It calls to question the basis on which they authorise the planting of herbicide tolerant crops in Nigeria.
“The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation in 2014, endorsed agroecology as a key element of the food system that the world needs in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“Agroecology is an acknowledged way of using agriculture to tackle global warming rather than aggravating the crisis.
“As noted by the FAO, agroecology directly contributes to many of the SDGs such as the eradication of poverty and hunger, ensuring quality education, achieving gender equality, increasing water-use efficiency, promoting decent jobs amongst other goals,” Bassey said.
He recommended frequent dialogues on food and farming systems and advocacy for the investment in agroecology by ministries of environment and agriculture.
“This is one way to build resilience and avoid being caught unawares by pandemics lurking in the folds of garments of big capital.
“We all know that the COVID-19 is an opportunistic disease that aggravates sickness in persons with underlying health conditions. Underlying health conditions abound in terms of biodiversity erosion and pollution.
“Unhealthy foods, toxic chemicals and the consumption of insecticides such as crops engineered to kill pests could aggravate health conditions.
“The destruction of natural crops and foods is equal to the sowing of seeds of intergenerational crimes.
“It is thus urgent for the youths to equip themselves with knowledge, speak up and reject efforts to entrench systems that will thwart the gains of viable culturally and ecologically appropriate agricultural and food systems developed over the millennia.
“Surrendering our food systems to pretentious merchants and warrant chiefs is a blatant permission of food colonialism,” Bassey said.
Edited By: Kevin Okunzuwa/Grace Yussuf (NAN)
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