There Is A Bright Future For Organic Agriculture In Nigeria-Atoma
Dr. Mrs. Charity Nwamaka Atoma, is the Dean School of Agriculture, H.O.D Agricultural Extension & Management, Chairman Committee of Deans, Delta State Polytechnic, Ozoro, she has three degrees in one field (Agriculture). She is married to Elder Johnson Oghenewogaga Atoma and the union is blessed with wonderful and well- behaved kids, Samuel, Emmanuella and Glory. She clocked 50 recently and instead of the usual lavish birthday bash, she chooses to put smile on the faces of widows and widowers by starting Restoring the Wounded Outreach. The beneficiaries were drawn from everywhere through visiting of churches, organizations and the surrounding environment. In this interview with Omamuzo Efidhere she speaks on her desire to help widows and widower get back on their feet. Can we meet you? I am Dr. Mrs. Charity Nwamaka Atoma, I was born to the family of William Enemuwe and Felicia Izah on Sunday 1st of June, 1969 at Umuaja, in Ukwuani Local Government Area of Delta State. My father of blessed memory retired as a Senior Lecturer with the Delta State University, Abraka while my mother is a successful business woman till date. No wonder I who is the 5th amongst my siblings is an astute Academician-cum-business woman. EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND? My academic journey kicked off at Onyia Primary School through Umuaja Mixed Secondary School into Delta State University, Abraka where I obtained her B. Sc in Agricultural Science (Ed) in 1992. With an Academician as a Father my thirst and quest for more knowledge made me continue my academic journey until I had M.Sc. in Agricultural extension in the prestigious University of Ibadan in 1995. This was crowned with the award of a PhD in Agricultural Extension from the Federal University of Technology, Owerri in 2016. WORK EXPERIENCE I have worked in many public and private firms where my wealth of knowledge is paying off in my present office. The Nigerian Prison Farm Elele, Rivers State was my first place of work as a young graduate poised to serve her Fatherland. I served there from 1992 – 1993 as an Assistant Coordinator- planning, Research and Logistics. I taught as an Agricultural Science Teacher in Amje College Alagbado, Lagos State from 1996-1998. I was also a Principal with Oyila International School Ejigbo, Lagos State. When I eventually relocated to Ibadan, I taught briefly in Seed of Life College Ibadan, Oyo State before the wind of destiny blew me to the then DELTA STATE COLLEGE OF AGRICULTURE, OZORO in 2001. I served there till 2002 as a part-time lecturer before I was employed as a full-time staff with the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources and redeployed as a full-time staff to College of Agriculture, Ozoro which has metamorphosed into the DELTA STATE POLYTECHNIC, OZORO, all to the Glory of God. NOMINATIONS / APPOINTMENTS Acting Dean School of Agriculture, Delta State Polytechnic, Ozoro, H.O.D Agricultural Extension & Management, DSPZ, Member, Examination Malpractice Committee, Appeal / reconciliation committee, Investigation on the disturbances that took place in the Polytechnic, 1ST Delta State matriculation committee, Mock accreditation committee, Member, Advocacy committee in the School of Agriculture, Chairman, Committee on Face Lift of the School of Agriculture. 2016, Chairman Committee of Deans of the Delta State Polytechnic, Ozoro, Dean, School of Agriculture, Delta State Polytechnic ,Ozoro. 2017 till date, I am responsible for the teaching, research and strategic planning of the School of Agriculture, Delta State Polytechnic, Ozoro. AWARDS RECEIVED Commendation letter from school of Agriculture , Delta state Polytechnic, Ozoro, Merit award for being one of the Most Outstanding Lecturers in Delta State Polytechnic Ozoro, Delta State Nigeria by the Alumni Association September 2016, 1ST Best in the school of Agriculture quality assurance assessment for 2013/ 2014 and 2014/2015 Academic sessions, Cash / certificate award from world food day for Fabrication and small ruminants( 2005), Certificate of Commendation as an outstanding Corp Member, River State 1993 PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATIONS Agricultural Extension Society of Nigeria (AESON) 2006 till date, Agricultural Society of Nigeria (ASN) 2013 till date, The International Society of Organic Agriculture Research (ISOFAR ) 2014 till date, Association of Organic Agriculture Practitioners of Nigeria, (NOAN) 2012 till date , Organic Agriculture Projects In Tertiary Institutions in Nigeria (OAPTIN) 2012 till date. My Agricultural prowess and campaign on Organic farming has earned me the opportunity to travel round the globe for various International Conferences. Places visited include: United Arab Emirate (Dubai), 2015, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, 2017, Saly Senegal, 2018. MARITAL LIFE I got married in 1997 at the age of 27 to a promising Medical Doctor at the Assemblies of God, Lagos. The marriage lasted 3years until he was called to Glory. This was a turning point in my life as all of my dreams and aspirations appeared buried alongside the late spouse. I had to become the man I would have been married to by developing a thick skin to the challenges of life. I became tough spiritually and physically. I had to think like a man, act like a lady, look like a young girl and work like a horse. Heaven smiled on me after 6years of widowhood and by divine leading I got married to my Husband, Friend, Father, Mentor, Editor, Prayer Partner, Life Coach and Gist Mate, Elder Johnson Oghenewogaga Atoma in the month of June 2006. Elder Atoma who was also a widower when he met me is a native of Otie-Owhe, Isoko North Local Govt. He obtained his B.Sc in Mathematics & M.BA in Business Administration, all from the prestigious University of Nigeria, Nsukka. This union is blessed with wonderful and well- behaved kids, Samuel, Emmanuella and Glory. What more can I say, the month of June holds a special place in my heart; I was born in June, I got married to Elder Atoma in June, I had my first son, Samuel Orugba in June and I rounded up child bearing with Glory Oghenekome in June. As a woman in authority, Dean of school in Delta State Polytechnic Ozoro, for over two years, what are some of the challenges you have encountered, and how did you handle them? It is not easy being the dean actually but I was privileged to be acting Dean in 2005/2006. The experience I had then helped in my present position as a substantive dean of school and chairman committee of deans. Talking about challenges I have encountered, especially as a woman and how I handled them? Ability to convince your boss (top management staff) of your vision for the school is a crucial challenge. As the dean you may have a good vision that may require funding from the institution but if your boss does not share in that vision, it may not succeed. Sometimes this could be a very frustrating experience but as a subordinate you have no choice but to keep praying and trusting that your boss gives you the necessary support. I thank God for the humble and God fearing rector we have in the Delta State Polytechnic, Ozoro. He is very supportive. Attitude of staff in government establishment is one of my greatest headaches. By the grace of God and as a child of God, I do not handle my assignment with levity. I give my all, to any assignment I have to ensure success. Agricultural activities and administrative job requires the effort of others (team spirit). However most government workers prefer to sit in the office without doing any job even when they are employed as field workers after all salary alert will come at the end of the month. As a dean you are saddled with the job of planning, supervising, coordinating as well as seeing to the day to day activities of the school which can be challenging. People you entrust or delegate some aspect of the job to supervise may not be trustworthy and such sections and your effort is jeopardized. God has helped me greatly to have a majority of the staff who are dedicated and loyal. This enables me to think, plan and strategize. Even Jesus Christ had Peter, James and John as his inner caucus. I have my team and we are doing well. I have a representative in each unit that reports to me regularly. I do all I can to actualizing the vision I have for the school at every point in time. Once I am convinced of a vision that will move the school and the institution forward, I continually present it before management for approval. What are the environmental benefits of Organic Agriculture? Before we talk about the benefits of organic agriculture there is the need to understand what organic agriculture is. Organic agriculture is a production management system that promotes and enhances agro-ecosystem health including biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activities. It emphasises the use of management practices in preference to the use of off farm inputs. This is accomplished by using where possible agronomic, biological and mechanical methods as opposed to using synthetic materials to fulfil any specific function within the system. Organic farming simply put is farming without the use of chemicals. www.fao.org/organicag/oa-fagi/en Benefits to the Environment. Reduced exposure to pesticides and chemicals, Pesticides and chemicals sprayed on plants contaminate the soil, water and air, Sustainable and healthy soil, Organic farming helps to combat soil erosion, Fights the effect of Global warming, supports water conservation and water health. Fossil fuels used in manufacturing chemicals leach into the soil and water causing serious harm to both man and aquatic organisms and it encourages biodiversity Does the consumption of Organic food increase exposure to biological contaminants? . There have been claims that eating organic foods increases exposure to micro-biological contaminants but this is not peculiar to organic foods alone. Whether conventional food or organic food what is expected is observing proper hygiene and foods should meet the same quality and safety standards applied to conventional foods. What appropriate Agricultural policies can government formulate to promote and encourage Organic Agriculture in Nigeria? Government can help organic farmers by allowing them to sell at premium prices i.e 30-50% higher than conventional. Organic market should be established, Organic Agriculture awareness creation groups can be formed. What is the future of Organic Farming in Nigeria; can organic farmers produce enough food for everybody? Organic farming is solution to climate change and health challenges associated with the continual consumption of conventionally grown food. Organic farming is a promising farming system that is sustainable. Organic foods taste better, has longer shelf life, free from contamination with chemicals and healthier for human consumption. Nigeria is at the early stage of the development of organic Agriculture unlike many other developed countries where organic produce are known and appreciated by consumers. Very few farms or projects are organic and fewer operate a recognized form of certified organic agriculture. Nevertheless, there is a bright future for organic agriculture in Nigeria going by the number of organic agriculture stake holders that are involved in one way or the other. We have IFOAM – International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement with the mission to lead and assist the organic movement in its full diversity all over the world including Nigeria. NOAN – which is an umbrella body of organic Agriculture activities in Nigeria? Delta State chapter has been formed and will be inaugurated soon. These and others. If other countries that have almost fully converted to organic Agriculture are food sufficient then organic farming produce can feed Nigerian populace. Organic Agriculture has been found to have higher yield in the long run than conventional farming. Continuous use of synthetic substances (chemical) over a long period of time damages the soil and reduces crop yield. Nigeria can go organic. In 2006, Uganda had a record of 200,000 certified organic farmers, Ethiopia and Tanzania 160,000 and 100,000 respectively. Not all women can excel in their chosen career and still keep the family together, how did you merge being a career woman, wife and mother? It is easy for a Christian woman to combine career and keeping family together. I was able to merge being a career woman, wife and mother by the grace of God. Without God’s grace and a supportive husband it is an uphill task. My husband and my children show much understanding. During my Ph.D programme, my husband was my research paper editor while my children were standby to typeset, carry out house chores so I could work on my papers. Above all if you rely on the wisdom of God none of the three aspects will suffer. You will give attention to all drawing strength from Jesus. The bible says we can do all things through Christ that strengthen us. Also, prayers helped me a lot. I got things done cheaply and enjoyed much favour from my husband, children, boss, Government, pastors etc. you won’t believe it I had TETFUND sponsorship for my Ph.D. and three years study leave in my place of work. So favour and divine backing has always made the journey easy and enjoyable. What areas of conflict would you counsel women to avoid in marriage? Amos 3:3 says ‘Two cannot work together except they are in agreement. Effective communication should be encouraged and mutual respect. All forms of conflict should be avoided. Sincerely, there were times my husband complained of being married and living like he was not married but in all he understood that he needed to make some sacrifices since my academic growth will of course be beneficial to us all. Women should remain humble and constantly appreciate the sacrifices made by their husbands. For example financial commitment and assistance in which ever capacity by the husband should be appreciated. For men whose primary love language is quality time with their spouse, serious adjustment will be required. There are days I can seat before my desktop for eighteen hours before retiring to bed. Time is very precious to a carrier woman and much understanding is required. However, your family should be your first priority. Congratulations on turning 50, you do not look it, what is the secret of maintaining your looks, is it good genes, dieting or life style I do not know whether it is good gene, dieting or lifestyle. All I know is that the face (look) is the index of the mind. I solely lean on God. God takes care of me and I have a wonderful husband and happy family. When you are joyful always you will remain young and charming. I smile a lot and believe that I am what I am by the grace of God. I do not keep grudges, I forgive and remain joyful. I mean live a good life and avoid stress. However, as much as you can, eat healthily and exercise often. They say women do not want to age because we live in a society where ageing induces fear of physical challenges and limited opportunities, do you feel that way? I do not feel that way. Age is a number. You cannot have limited opportunities or be physically challenged just because you are counting 50, 60, 70 or more. There are people who are just 30 but look as if they are 70. Be young in your heart and you will remain strong and relevant. Renew your mind by reading books. Upgrade in whatever fields of study you belong. Free your heart from anxiety, worries, bitterness, unforgiveness and iniquity. Surrender to Jesus, shun sin and trust God. Do not retire if you are retired by your employer. Also do not try to please everyone. Follow your interest. Remain engaged in kingdom service if you are a Christian woman. Create atmosphere of joy around your life. Relax more and have good sleep as much as you can. Is your life today a reflection of your childhood dreams? When growing up I desired to be a lawyer, but when I wrote JAMB I did not get the cut off mark. To avoid repetition of JAMB, I applied for pre-degree and chose biology. As a little girl I so much relied on the counsel of my elder sisters. My elder, Mrs Otutu Teresa advised me to go for Agriculture which she considered better than studying Biology as a single course. In humility I obeyed and today I have Ph.D. in a branch of Agriculture and I have no regret studying Agriculture. Between your parents who would you say was more influential in shaping your life My mother was more influential in shaping my life. She provided for all my needs and encouraged me to apply for a Post Graduate Programme after my first degree. However, my father also provided academic guidance. He told me that having two degrees in one discipline makes you an authority in that discipline and today I have my three degrees in one field (Agriculture). What is your advice to women to manage life as they age? Psalm 37:23 – The steps of a good woman are ordered by the lord. If you are fully a child of God and walking by divine principles- reading your bible, praying, serving God and working hard on whatsoever your hand finds to do, then you do not have any problem. God will bring you to his specific plans and future he has in store for you. . You recently celebrated your 50th birthday but instead of the usual lavish party with friends, you lavished widows with gifts and made them feel special, why? I am not keen about celebrating birthdays but it turned out that my vision (Restoring the wounded) inauguration coincided with my 50th birthday and I decided to mark the birthday and inaugurate the outreach. I invited so many widows and gave them gifts because I know that majority of the widows are wounded and lonely. I feel for them because I was in their shoes years back. I know what I passed through in my widowhood and always imagine what women in that situation will be going through. Psalm 68:5 says ‘God keeps a careful eye on the widows and fatherless’. He is the defender of the widows. Desire to see the widows happy moved me to invite them to share my story and encourage them to trust God who healed my wounds and gave me a new beginning. Is it going to be yearly? As the lord lives and provide I intend making it quarterly or monthly. It depends. What I really desire is a forum where they can come together, widows, widowers and even remarried widows to share experience, pray and help the ones going through financial or any kind of stress as a result of the loss. Are you starting a foundation for widows, what will it be called, how are you going to be selecting the beneficiaries and how is it going to be funded? Do you have partners? Yes, the foundation was inaugurated on 29th June 2019. It is called Restoring the Wounded Outreach. The beneficiaries will be drawn from everywhere through visiting of churches, organizations and the surrounding environment. The number to be reached per time will depend on the resources available. Beneficiaries will be documented. Aside that monthly or quarterly prayer will be organized for people in that category to come and pray for God’s intervention in their situation. Talking about funding- During the inauguration I channelled my two months’ salary to it. Though a lady supported me with financial assistance and some other persons assisted in one way or the other. For now, it is only what I and my husband can afford we will be using trusting God for partners who will share in the vision, give towards it and be rewarded by God. Proverbs 19:17 Kindness to the poor is a loan to God and he will repay. What is your philosophy of life? Following God’s will and standards as laid down in the bible. How did you get born again, the journey so far? I encountered Christ as a teenager in Baptist Church Umuaja and was baptized by a white man Dr. Leg. I joined the Baptist Students Fellowship as an undergraduate, a committed member of NCCF (Nigerian Christian Coppers Fellowship) during my one year NYSC. I got full power to live triumphantly for Christ in January 1995 in a Postgraduate fellowship in the University of Ibadan where I was filled with the Holy Ghost and since then, it has been from one level of Glory to another. In 2001, I relocated to Ozoro, Delta State and joined Living Faith Church (a.k.a. Winner’s Chapel) Ozoro. I served assiduously as an Usher and rose to the position of a Head Usher. In 2006 when I remarried after six years of widowhood, I relocated to Ughelli, and continued steadfastly in my service unto the Lord. I was ordained as a Deaconess and served in many capacities including the Teens Church where I serve at present. BEST SCRIPTURE: Mark 11 vs. 23 – 24 A word of advice, to women, who are in need of direction who do not know or are afraid to follow their heart desires If you are convinced of a line of action that is not contrary to God’s standards, receive courage to take steps in that direction. It is better to try and fail than not to try at all. You will not fail in Jesus Name. Who are those who inspire you? Holy Spirit, My spiritual father Bishop David Oyedepo, My spiritual mentor and father Pastor Eze Joe Eze, My Academic mentor Prof Adesope Martins How would you describe your style? I love God in totality. I am confident, bold and never intimidated by any. Even when I make mistakes, I forgive myself because I know I am human. I feel good always and carry myself with high esteem. I am unique, intelligent and enjoy much favour. Loving and obeying God is my secret of success and breakthrough. What is your beauty secret? Which completes you more- jewelry, shoe or bag? I wear good shoes and put on jewelleries but carry bags occasionally.