…Impacts OVER 600 FARMERS

Farming does not only produce food, jobs and economic well-being, it also creates cultural, social and environmental benefits which acro-ecology taps into. Agro-ecological farming recognises the multifunctional dimensions of agriculture, and applies ecological, social concepts and principles to the design and management of food systems. It seeks to optimize the interactions between plants, animals, humans and the environment while taking into consideration the social aspects that need to be addressed for a sustainable and fair food system. Agro-ecology also protects and provides ecosystem services like pollination, natural pest control, nutrient & water cycling and erosion control.

Agro-ecology is not a new invention, it can be identified in scientific literature as far back as the 1920s. More recently however, agro-ecology has entered the discourse of international and United Nations (UN) institutions. To this end, Ashaka Cement Limited, a subsidiary of Lafarge Africa Plc, collaborated with experts and the National Agricultural Extension and Research Lesion Services (NAERLS) from Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria to develop and implement an agro-ecology intervention that will address the interlink challenges of poverty, food security and climate change. Over 600 farmers were trained on sustainable farming and 100 farmer cooperatives were formed across 10 communities.

As part of the plan for driving the agro-ecology project, Ashakacem leased 400 hectares of land to the local farmers. So far, 300 farmers from the Jalingo, Feshingo Jalingo, Ashaka Garri, Gongilla, Jugol Gongilla, Lariski and Bajoga areas of Plateau state have been trained in sustainable weed control and mixed cropping techniques. As at the time of this publication, more than 75 percent of the objectives of the initiatives have been actualized.

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Speaking on the agro-ecology initiative, Ibrahim Aminu, the MD of AshakaCem said, “Agriculture remains a viable source of livelihood for millions of Nigerians and we are ready to play our part in growing the capacity of these individuals. For us at Lafarge Africa, it is another step in the right direction for our sustainability programme.” He concluded by saying “In all, we believe our interventions will bolster the enviable projections for agriculture in Nigeria, to impact lives and ultimately significantly contribute to Nigeria’s GDP. Evidently, there is no doubt that sustaining growth in agricultural production is essential to meeting an increasing global demand for food to achieve food security. The big question often asked is if agro-ecological farming can really feed the world, with the global population racing towards 9.6 billion by 2050. However, it is clear that there is an increasing evidence that it could,” Aminu concluded.

Folashade Ambrose-Medebem the Communications, Public Affairs and Sustainable Development Director, Lafarge Africa Plc commenting on the CSR initiative said, “The objective of our agro-ecology intervention is to introduce all year round farming (three seasons) and new farming methods as a way of building local farmers’ capacity. The initiative was part of efforts to improve sustainable food production in Nigeria; increase the resilience of farming systems and livelihoods in the company’s proximate communities and introduce sustainable farming in selected Nigerian communities.”