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Stakeholders advocate organic farming policies to protect ecosystem

By News Desk

Stakeholders in the organic farming space on Thursday in Lagos urged the Federal Government to institute policies that would promote organic farming so as to protect the country’s ecosystem.

The stakeholders spoke at the National Organic Agriculture Business Summit 2018.

The summit is aimed at addressing the various challenges facing the organic agriculture sub-sector, as they affect the people’s health and the environment.

Prof. Akin Abayomi, who manages a 300-acre organic bio-habitat forest conservation project in Osun State, said that there was urgent need for a paradigm shift towards the evolution of a pollution-free environment.

Abayomi, who is also an oncologist and internal medicine specialist, said that the focus should be on organic living that was free of pollution in the real sense.

“Taking organic foods in a polluted environment does not make sense; there is no point in doing that. Hence, we should change our thoughts from organic agriculture to organic living.

“If you want to kill a pest with an insecticide and you are exposed to the same chemical; then, you are killing yourself.

“There should be an urgent paradigm shift towards living in an environment that is free of pollution and doing things that are not harmful to the ecosystem.

“Organic agriculture in its natural habitat should be encouraged; while a stop should be made to the use of harmful chemicals that are harming the country’s ecosystem, ‘’ he said.

Besides, Ayobami said that it would take over 200 years to grow a forest.

He, however, said that with the growing population of Africa and Nigeria in particular, the production of foods via genetic modification was inevitable.

Mr Ajibola Oluyede, the Chairman of NICERT Ltd., said that the movement for organic agriculture was beginning to gain ground, while the issue of certification needed a national plan to ensure international standards.

He said that efforts should be made to separate genuine organic farmers from the fake ones, so as to ensure that all organic produce in the market were of good quality.

“The Association of Organic Agriculture Practitioners of Nigeria (NOAN) has encouraged a practice which is built on the standards of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM).

“The association does certification for some members for the Nigerian practice but in terms of commercial recognition, our organic farmers ought to be accredited by the regulatory bodies involved in that.

“NICERT is credited to enforce European Union (EU) standards for organic products as well as other countries. Nevertheless, Nigeria does not have an organic programme through which bodies may be credited.

“However, if you are producing what is organic, it must meet international standards. We need certification for organic producers because any farming process that does not help the ecosystem is not organic,’’ he said.

Oluyede, who noted that there was a high demand for organic produce in many foreign countries, said that the demand was somewhat insignificant in Nigeria because of the absence of legal standards.

On his part, Prof. Victor Olowe, the National President of NOAN and an agronomist in the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), said that the association certified organic products for local consumption.

He said that the association currently used a process called Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) for local retail trade in organic produce, adding, however, that any plan to export organic produce would require third party certifications.

“On certification, NOAN certifies organic products for local consumption with the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS), which is satisfactory for local consumption and retailers.

“For a producer taking organic products outside the Nigerian shores, he will need a third party certification from the appropriate body.

“All organic products carry labels which distinguish them from conventional farm produce, they also carry the labels to facilitate traceability,’’ he said.

However, Olowe said that the level of organic farming was very low globally, adding that only two per cent of the total arable lands were allocated to organic agriculture globally.

He also said that the association was making tangible efforts to boost organic farming, while working towards the production a bill on organic agriculture that would set an agenda for the development of the sub-sector.

The summit was convened by the Ecological Organic Agriculture (EOA) Initiative in Nigeria, in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, NOAN and the Federation of Agricultural Commodity Associations of Nigeria, among others.

Lagos to prioritize tourism for economy devt, recreation

By Abolaji Adebayo

As part of effort to expand the economic base of the state, Lagos State Government has started the process of developing a tourism master plan, eying the potential of the sector to boost the economy, as well as establish recreation centers for the teeming residents of  and visitors into the state.

Lagos State Government, Akinwunmi Ambode, noted that the government had done a lot in the last 29 months to boost tourism in the state and attract foreign tourists, adding that his government would explore the option of using tourism to engage the people.

The governor spoke at the 2017 Press Week of the Lagos State Governor’s Office Correspondents, with the theme: “Harnessing the Tourism and Entertainment Potential of Lagos in the next 50 years: The Role of the Media,” held at the Event Place, Ikeja, Lagos during the weekend.

Ambode, who was represented by his Special Adviser on Community and Communications, Kehinde Bamigbetan, said the government was in the process of developing a tourism master plan to promote and drive tourism in Lagos.

According to him, the state had the potential to accommodate and engage myriad of immigrants flocking the state on daily basis, adding that tourism would provide a good platform to engage people across the strata as the state has been able to fast-track tourism in the last 29 months.

He noted that the state played host to lots of tourism sites that would excite tourists to want to visit the state, saying that the state had a great future when it comes to tourism.

“However several steps, phased over the 50 year period of this presentation must be considered. First, there must be a tourism masterplan which defines the strategy and execution over the period. The Lagos State government has taken the step in the right direction by advertising for bids for the development of a masterplan. When that process is completed, a clearer way forward will be certain.

“Second, there must be database on both tourism as objects and activity. Third, the value chain around the activities must be determined to determine areas where the government will be most effective and where the private sector will be more efficient.

“Fourth, there must be measurable indices to measure progress, how many hotel rooms were occupied in Lagos in 2017 and what can we do to increase in 2018? What is the grading system saying? Are we attracting global brands of five star hotels or making do with fake franchises,” he said.

On the role of the media, Ambode stressed the need for the media to be educated as there were indifference and ignorance in the reportage which must be corrected.

He believed that the media was in the position to shape the attitudes of Lagosians towards local tourism and demonstrate sensitivity to the issues that matter to tourists, noting that this could be effectively achieved if the media were well educated on the matter.

He added that crime and security reporting were areas where the media needed to be re-orientated to partner with the government and deliver better tourism.

According to him, for purposes of encouraging in-bound tourist traffic, the management of the foreign media is critical, while training of the foreign media to understand the local environment and reflect event positively is a key necessity in achieving the purpose.

The Group Managing Director, CFL Group of Companies, Lai Omotola, said Lagos had become a brand in tourism, especially in the area of entertainment and site attraction.

On his part, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mighty Media, Olumide Iyanda, informed that for a better documentation of the next fifty years, the media must be given a front seat role in all activities of government.

Earlier, Chairman of LAGOCO, Joshua Bassey, said the event was to reflect on the activities of State House Correspondents and also a platform to unwind and network.

This year’s LAGOCO Press Week featured health talks and checks, a novelty match between the Eleniyan boys and the Bolanle Ambode babes, lectures series and a dinner and gala night.

EU labels Egyptian goose, alligator weed as dangerous

By NewsDesk

The European Commission on Wednesday added 12 species to list of so-called invasive aliens, among them the Egyptian goose and alligator weed.

A statement by the EU noted that invasive alien species were one of the major causes of biodiversity loss, and had significant negative economic impact on healthcare costs, crop yields, fish stocks and infrastructure.

It stated that the Egyptian goose, recognised as an agricultural pest in South Africa, was known to be aggressive toward other birds, drowning other species and taking over nesting sites.

The EU statement indicated that most Egyptian geese reported in Europe were escapees from parks or captivity.

The new list also includes common milkweed, Nuttall’s waterweed, giant rhubarb, giant cow parsnip, Himalayan balsam, Japanese stiltgrass, watermilfoil, the raccoon dog, the muskrat and crimson fountain grass.

Meanwhile, EU member states were required to prevent the listed species from being introduced, kept, sold, transported, reproduced or released.

Giant iceberg breaks off Antarctica

By NewsDesk with agency report

A trillion-tone iceberg, one of the largest ever recorded, has snapped off the West Antarctic ice shelf, scientists who have monitored the growing crack for years said on Wednesday.

The Swansea University said in a statement. That the calving occurred sometime between Monday, July 10 and Wednesday, July 12, when a 5,800-square kilometer (2,200-square mile) section of Larsen C (ice shelf) finally broke away.

The massive ice cube, larger than the US state of Delaware, has a volume twice that of Lake Erie, one of the Great Lakes. It is about 350 meters (1,100 feet) thick.

“The iceberg weighs more than a trillion tones, but it was already floating before it calved away so has no immediate impact on sea level,” the team said, adding that It would likely be named A68.

With the calving, the Larsen C ice shelf lost more than 12 percent of its total surface area.

Icebergs calving from Antarctica are a regular occurrence. But given its enormous size, the latest berg would be closely watched as it travels, for any potential risk to shipping traffic.

“The calving may have heightened the risk of the remaining ice shelf disintegrating, the Swansea team said, adding that ice shelves float on the sea, extending from the coast, and are fed by slow-flowing glaciers from the land.

They act as giant brakes, preventing glaciers from flowing directly into the ocean.

“If the glaciers held in check by Larsen C spilt into the Antarctic Ocean, it would lift the global water mark by about 10 centimeters (four inches),” researchers said.

The calving of ice shelves occurs naturally, though global warming is believed to have accelerated the process.

Warmer ocean water erodes the underbelly of the ice shelves, while rising air temperatures weaken them from above.

The nearby Larsen A ice shelf collapsed in 1995, and Larsen B dramatically broke up seven years later.

The final break was detected by a NASA satellite.

The lead investigator, Adrian Luckman of the university’s MIDAS project, said they would continue to monitor both the impact of this calving event on the Larsen C ice shelf and the fate of this huge iceberg.

The fate of the berg is hard to predict and It may stay in one piece, but could also break into fragments.

The team said the calving at the iceberg cannot be directly placed at the door of global warming, describing it as a natural event.

Human actions have lifted average global air temperatures by about one degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial levels, according to scientists.

Antarctica is one of the world’s fastest-warming regions.

Katsina State spends N6bn on flood control

By NewsDesk

The Katsina State Commissioner for Lands and Survey, Abubakar Ilu, has disclosed that the state spent N6 billion on flood control projects in 2017.

Ilu , speaking during the opening of 2017 Mandatory Continuing Professional Development Programme of Nigeria Institute of Town Planners tagged Enhancing the Livability of Formal Settlement, explained that the fund was spent on the construction of drainage to prevent soil erosion, environmental degradation and flooding.

Ilu further said that the government would review the Master Plans for Katsina, Daura and Funtua, with a view to upgrading informal settlements.

He  also disclosed that the administration would soon roll out the electronic certification of land titles in line with international standard.

In his remarks, National President, Nigerian Institute of Town Planners,  Luka Achi, urged the planners to devise a scheme that would discourage rural-urban migration in the country.

‘‘Our rural areas should be made more lively, try to come up with measures that will assist to address issues like soil erosion and other forms of effects of climate change in rural areas,’’ Achi said, expressing the hope that such policy would assist greatly in discouraging rural dwellers from migrating to urban centres.

In his speech, the Chairman of the professional development programme, Prof. Joy Ogbazi ,said that informal settlements present special problems in the planning and management of urban areas.

‘‘What they are, how they develop and proliferate, and the problems they engender are to be explored in this year’s programme,’’ she said.

UNICEF certifies 825 Katsina communities open defecation free

The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), has certified at least 825 communities in Katsina State Open Defecation Free (ODF), under the Sanitation, Hygiene and Water in Nigeria II (SHAWN) project.

The Executive Director, Katsina State Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency (RUWASSA), Aminu Dayyabu, announced the certification in an interview with newsmen on Tuesday in Katsina.

Dayyabu, who said that the certified communities cut across the 11 participating local government areas of the state, listed some of the communities as Bakori, Ingawa, Dutsin-ma, Sandamu, Mai’adua, Musawa, Faskari, Kaita, Batagarawa, Matazu and Safana.

“Experts on sanitation went round the communities that claimed to have stopped open defecation to ascertain their claims. “After a thorough investigation and scrutiny, the experts discovered that households in those communities use improved pit latrine that has cover drops and hand washing materials,” he said.

“The experts also didn’t see shits in open environment like it was before.This shows that the communities have stopped Open Defecation,’’ he added.

Dayyabu said that engaging in open defecation and living in unhygienic environment was responsible for most of the water and environment-related diseases, hence, the need for people to desist from such act.

He stressed that curbing defecation in open environment would further assist to prevent outbreak of diarrhoea and cholera, which account for high rate of child mortality in the state.

The executive director urged the certified communities to keep up the good efforts to maintain their status and enable the country to attain the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) Number six on water and sanitation.

He explained that the SHAWN II project, which started in 2015, had recorded tremendous successes, saying, 1,056 boreholes were drilled in rural communities to provide the rural dwellers with potable water during the period under review.

Dayyabu, who said that the certified communities would be considered first before others when it comes to the provision of water supply,added that a validation exercise in the certified communities would follow to see if they could really maintain their ODF status.

Greece citizens raise alarm on possible epidemic outbreak amid Govt., labour face-off

By NewsDesk with agency report

Following the ongoing face-off between the Greece government and municipal workers including waste collectors, over labor disputes and austerity cuts, residents have raised alarm on possible epidemic in the country considering the state of its public health system.

Residents in Athens and other Greek cities reported of growing numbers of insects, rats, stray cats and dogs, which are all said to be carriers of infection.

Though some garbage collectors and municipal crews agreed in spite of the strike to clear refuse in busy tourist areas, outside hospitals and at intersections where reeking piles of rubbish and rotting vegetables were slowing traffic, but when they will start was not stated.

The disarray, which started 10 days ago, was exacerbated on Monday after temperatures were forecast to reach 42 degrees Celsius in the capital by the end of the week, prompting a Greek public health agency to issue a warning over continued industrial action.

The state-run Center for Disease Control and Prevention said the continued accumulation of garbage, combined with high temperatures poses a risk to public health.

Earlier in the day, riot police in central Athens clashed with the striking workers outside the entrance of a ministry building, where a union delegation was expected to present its demands, including better terms for short-term staff and permanent jobs for long-term contract workers.

The strikers fear losing their jobs as Greece is grappling with its seventh year of austerity demanded by international creditors but they show no signs of backing down from their demands.

The head of the municipal workers labor union, POE-OTA, Nikos Trakas ,vowed to step up labour action unless the government accepts their demands.

Yobe govt. backs FG grazing plans, earmarks 2,500 hectares of land

By NewsDesk

In order to boost food production in Nigeria, Yobe State Government has set aside 2,500 hectares of land, to assist Federal Government in the establishment of grazing reserves and development of fodder banks that could aid animal feeds production.

The Manager of Yobe Livestock Development Programme (YSLDP), Dr Mustapha Gaidam, told newsmen in Damaturu on Monday that the land was provided in Nasari and Gumsa villages of  Jakusko and Gaidam Local Government areas.

Gaidam said that 1,510 kilometer of stock routes across the state had been demarcated in the last seven years to ease movement of animals, to curb conflicts between farmers and herdsmen.

The manager disclosed that the Programme has consistently engaged farmers and herdsmen in dialogue to ensure that there was no encroachment by farmers into the routes, as well as avoid grazing on farmlands.

The manager said that government provided boreholes with generators along the stock routes, which guaranteed availability of water and encouraged grazers to move on the demarcated routes, thereby avoiding encroachment on farmlands.

According to him, the Programme had developed demonstration fodder bank, growing varieties of grass species in the state.

“This process has yielded fruitful results across the state as we have not recorded a single conflict between farmers and herdsmen in the past seven years.Within the same period, we have also vaccinated over 5.6 million herds of cattle, sheep, goat and dogs, against trans boundary diseases,” Gaidam said.

The manager said the programme would train local livestock farmers to cultivate their farms with a view to boosting the quantity of animal feeds to enhance meat and dairy production.

46 die after heavy rains in Bangladesh

By Newsdesk with agency report

No fewer than 46 people were reported to have been killed by heavy monsoon, most of them buried under landslides in southeast Bangladesh on Tuesday.

The police authorities who confirmed the tragedy on Tuesday, warned that death toll would likely rise as emergency workers reached remote parts of the affected area, where telephone and transport links had been cut.

The Head of Department of Disaster Management, Reaz Ahmed, told newsmen that recovery work was still going on, adding that disaster response teams had been deployed to the affected areas to reinforce recovery work.

“The death toll could rise as many areas still remained cut off and we have not been able to reach many of the affected places. Once the rains are over, we’ll get a full picture of the damage and get the recovery work in full swing,” Ahmed said.

Many of the victims were from tribal communities in the remote hill district of Rangamati, close to the Indian border, where 24 people were killed when mudslides buried their homes.

The District Police Chief, Sayed Tariqul, said some of the victims were sleeping in their houses on hillsides when the landslides occurred, adding that six were killed in the nearby district of Bandarban, among them three children, siblings who were buried by a landslide as they slept in their home.

According to him, another 16 of the casualties were in the neighboring district of Chittagong, where at least 126 people were killed when a massive landslide buried a village a decade ago.

The latest disaster came weeks after Cyclone Mora smashed into Bangladesh’s southeast, killing at least eight people and damaging tens of thousands of homes.

Monsoon rains in Bangladesh’s southern hill districts frequently trigger deadly landslides.

Heavy monsoon rains also pounded the capital Dhaka and the port city of Chittagong in the district of the same name, which experienced 222 millimetres of rain, disrupting traffic for hours.

Senate probes N314bn Ogoni land cleanup

The Senate on Tuesday directed its committee on environment to investigate the implementation of the Ogoni Land cleanup, an exercise  that was launched in 2016 with an estimated cost of $1 billion (N314 billion).

The Senate also directed its committee to also assess the progress of the Great Green Wall programme initiated to control desertification in the country.

The decision of the Senate followed a motion moved by Sen. Oluremi Tinubu, Chairman, Senate Committee on Environment to mark the World Environment Day.While moving the motion, Sen. Tinubu expressed dismay that despite the launch of the project, work has not commenced in the area.

Contributing, Sen. Magnus Abe corroborated that there was nothing on ground yet to show that the clean up was designed to actually cleanup the area. He said that farmlands were still polluted while rivers of oil spills still abound.

Abe urged the Federal Government to review the country environmental regeneration programmes to take care of environmental issues in the country.

Ogoni land is located in Rivers State on the coast of the Gulf of Guinea, east of the city of Port Harcourt. It extends across the Local Government Areas (LGAs) of Khana, Gokhana, Eleme and Tae.

In a 2011 assessment of over 200 locations in Ogoniland by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), it was found that impacts of the 50 years of oil production in the region extended deeper than previously thought.

Because of oil spills, oil flaring, and waste discharge, the alluvial soil of the Niger Delta is no longer viable for agriculture. Furthermore, in many areas that seemed to be unaffected, groundwater was found to have high levels of hydrocarbons or were contaminated with benzene, a carcinogen, at 900 levels above World Health Organisation (WHO)guidelines.

In the 2017 Democracy speech by Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, he said that the Ogoni Land clean up was an environmental priority of the government which was why it began last year.