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July 20, 2024

Regenerative Agriculture: Restoring Healthy Soil to Boost Food Security  

By Ify Mgbemena 

In the heart of Nigeria’s verdant landscapes, where agriculture is both a livelihood and a heritage, a quiet revolution is taking root. Regenerative agriculture, a holistic farming approach that seeks to restore soil health, increase biodiversity, and combat climate change, is gaining momentum among Nigerian farmers. As the country grapples with the twin challenges of food security and environmental degradation, this innovative practice offers a promising path forward.

Nigeria, with its vast arable land and diverse ecosystems, should be a powerhouse of agricultural production. However, years of conventional farming practices, marked by heavy reliance on chemical fertilizers and pesticides, have led to significant soil degradation. This has not only reduced crop yields but also made the land more vulnerable to climate shocks such as droughts and floods.

According to the Nigerian Agricultural Extension Service, soil fertility in many regions has declined by over 40% in the past three decades. This decline, coupled with a rapidly growing population expected to reach 400 million by 2050, underscores the urgency of adopting sustainable farming practices.

Regenerative agriculture goes beyond sustainability by actively improving the land and ecosystem. Its core principles include diverse crop rotations, cover cropping, minimal tillage, composting, and agroforestry. These practices improve soil structure and fertility, prevent erosion, enhance organic matter, fix nitrogen, and increase biodiversity.

In Kaduna State, some smallholder farmers have started embracing cover cropping and composting with notable success. These practices have led to improved soil health and increased crop yields, demonstrating the potential benefits of regenerative agriculture.

In the southeastern state of Enugu, agroforestry practices are being integrated into coffee and cocoa plantations. This approach involves planting trees among crops to provide shade, reduce soil erosion, and create habitats for beneficial insects and birds. Such initiatives are supported by organizations like the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Nigerian Farmers’ Association, which provide training and resources to farmers.

Modern technology is also playing a crucial role in scaling regenerative agriculture across Nigeria. Digital tools, such as satellite imagery and soil sensors, help farmers make informed decisions about crop rotations, planting times, and soil management.

Despite its promise, the widespread adoption of regenerative agriculture in Nigeria faces several hurdles. These include limited access to resources and training, lack of supportive policies, and the initial cost of transitioning from conventional methods. However, ongoing efforts by local and international organizations aim to address these barriers. Experts emphasize that education is key, advocating for more training for extension workers and providing farmers with the knowledge and skills to implement regenerative practices. Policymakers are also encouraged to recognize the long-term benefits and provide incentives to support this transition.

As Nigeria stands at a critical juncture, regenerative agriculture offers a viable pathway to ensure food security, enhance rural livelihoods, and mitigate climate change. By healing the soil, Nigerian farmers are safeguarding their future and contributing to global efforts to heal the planet. With continued support and innovation, Nigeria can become a model for regenerative agriculture in Africa, showcasing how a nation can rise to meet its challenges with resilience and ingenuity.

Regenerative agriculture is not just a theoretical concept but a practical and increasingly adopted approach in Nigeria. The efforts of various stakeholders, including government bodies, NGOs, and private enterprises, highlight the collaborative effort required to make regenerative agriculture a mainstream practice in the country.

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