Organic Broadcaster

MOSES Conference has big impact on Nigerian farmer

By Kelli Boylen

Lawrence Afere is helping Nigerian farmers learn to farm organically. Photo submitted.

The 3,500 people who participated in the 2015 MOSES Organic Farming Conference had their own unique experiences based on the workshops they attended, the activities they joined in, and the people they met. For one participant from Nigeria, the conference had an “enormous” impact.

“Seeing thousands of organic farmers renewed my hope and strength in what I do,” said Lawrence Afere, a Nigerian “agripreneur” who attended the conference for the first time this year. Afere is a farmer and the founder of Springboard, an organization that combines organic farming and entrepreneurship training to create practical and integrated learning for unemployed youth in Nigeria.

“I was motivated to attend because I read that over 3,000 organic farmers would attend the conference and there would be 67 workshops on organic farming,” Afere said. “Before the MOSES Conference, I had never attended any conference on organic farming. Also, I wanted to see organic farm inputs, products and services exhibited at the conference. It was a huge exhibition. I had seen how organic farming has been practiced in the U.S. on the internet, but attending the MOSES Conference made me witness it live!”

While he was at the conference, Afere led a meeting on the “Challenges and Opportunities for Agricultural Development in Sub Sahara Africa,” which about 30 people attended. He explained that the world faces a major agricultural challenge.

“We must, over the next few years, find ways to deliver nutritious, safe, and affordable food to a growing global population,” he said. Sub-Saharan Africa has not been coming anywhere close to providing their own food needs, but Afere says that more than 50 percent of the world’s unused fertile land is located there, and less than 2 percent of its water resources are in use.

“Sub-Saharan African agriculture can be revolutionized, thus feeding itself and contributing to global food and nutritional security. For this to be realized, the global stakeholders in agriculture must collaborate with African farmers in terms of training, provision of new skills, direct investment and mentoring.”

Afere is personally doing all he can to ensure this happens. Since 2008, his organization, Springboard, has built a model of engaging young Nigerians in sustainable agribusiness. Each year, Springboard trains young people to start their own organic farms and also form a cooperative of farmers in their communities.

On the Springboard farms, he said, they grow plantain, banana, vegetables and maize and also produce plantain chips. By 2025, Springboard plans to have over 1,000 members in its network of organic farmers who work to ensure food and nutritional security in Nigeria.

“Organic farming is very important in my country to safeguard the health of the people and protect our environment,” he explained. “More so, as more and more young Nigerians begin to take interest in farming, it is ideal to introduce them to organic farming before they get used to the traditional farming practices. Springboard is committed to making this happen.”

Nigeria has 84 million hectares of arable land, but less than 3,200 hectares are in organic agriculture. Afere explained the biggest hurdles are lack of awareness, lack of training on best practices in organic agriculture, output marketing issues, and non-availability/ high cost of inputs.

“My knowledge of organic farming was practically enhanced and boosted at the MOSES Conference,” he said. “Now, I will be more effective in training students and staff of Springboard on organic farming. Since I returned to Nigeria from this conference, I have shared my learning experience with my network of organic farmers and it is certain that practices will improve on our farms this year. And I am happy to share it everywhere I go in Africa. Attending MOSES conference has boosted the credibility of what Springboard does and stands for,” he added.

Afere said he enjoyed many things at the conference, including the meals, the people he met, and the workshops.

“All the workshops I attended had a strong impact; I gained so much information from being there. The workshop presenters are down to earth with their teachings and they are highly knowledgeable in this field.

“I went away with new ideas for farming, new friends to support my project and a renewed sense of purpose to keep on with the project,” he added. Afere received a scholarship to attend the conference. In his thank-you letter he said, “Please note, your support has not only helped organic farmers and farming in the U.S., it has impacted organic farming all over the world.”

Kelli Boylen is a freelance writer with a farming background. She lives with her family on a homestead in Iowa.

From the May | June 2015 Issue

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