Nigerian cocoa farmers must prioritise the quality and quantity of their production leveraging climate-smart agriculture and initiatives to improve traceability along the cocoa supply chain.
Nene Akwetey-Kodjoe, the chief of party, Traceability and Resilience in Agriculture and Cocoa Ecosystems of Nigeria (TRACE) project, stated this at a recent monitoring, evaluation and learning workshop, in Akure, the Ondo State capital.
Akwetey-Kodjoe said TRACE was being implemented by Lutheran World Relief, a member of Corus International, in partnership with Nigeria’s ministry of agriculture and rural development, Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN), International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), C-Lever.org, and Ecometrica.
Speaking on the objectives and overview of the workshop, Akwetey-Kodjoe said; “TRACE, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food for Progress programme, is a five-year project being implemented in six cocoa-producing states in Nigeria, including Abia, Akwa Ibom, Cross Rivers, Ekiti, Ondo, and Osun.
“The project has two main objectives; one is to support cocoa farmers to increase productivity by using climate-smart agriculture to combat the effect of the climate change in agriculture in the dry season and dry conditions and provide interventions in irrigation.”
“Also, to expand the trade in cocoa of Nigerian origin by improving traceability cocoa supply chains. We also work with the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria to trace the planting materials to increase the market for Nigeria cocoa.”
He said Ondo State was picked for the three-day workshop because it is the largest cocoa-producing state in Nigeria and also hosts the TRACE project office.
“So, in addition to established industry stakeholders, we are working towards reaching the new farmers through the Cocoa Farmers Association of Nigeria. We believe that within their supply chain, the farmers will benefit from these interventions we are talking about.
“We are working with state governments for the full implementation of this project. We have concluded our baseline study for which we await USDA approval, but we are still engaging commissioners for agriculture and other officials on how to synergise towards moving the cocoa industry forward.
“Cocoa is important to Nigeria and a lot of farmers are engaging in cocoa farming. So, we call for more support as we proceed towards implementation in the field,” Akwetey-Kodjoe said.
Also speaking, Onwusogbolu Chinedu, of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the workshop was organised for the stakeholders to brainstorm on increased cocoa productivity in Nigeria.
According to him, the Federal Government has done a lot towards providing improved hybrid seedlings (CRIN TC1-8), agrochemicals and training of farmers to produce cocoa in conjunction with CRIN.
Chinedu, therefore, advised farmers to key into what the government “is doing to move the cocoa industry forward.”
He also advised the youths to embrace farming, saying “There is a new technology in farming and there is money in cocoa plantation.”
Patrick Adebola, executive director, Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria, Ibadan, called on government at all levels to roll out programmes that will encourage youths to return to the farm.
He said: “The cocoa value chain in Nigeria is currently deregulated and we have seen a lot of sharp practices being carried out leading to substandard products sent to the international market.
“I believe there should be a body or agency to regulate the activities in the cocoa value chain in order to reduce the incidence of the rejection of our cocoa beans in the international market,” he added.
Ranjana Bhattacharjee, a senior scientist at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Ibadan, noted the drop in Nigeria’s cocoa production from 1960’s and 1970’s, saying other countries such as Ghana, Cameroon and Cote D’Ivoire have accelerated ahead of Nigeria, although cocoa was still one of the major contributors to the GDP of the country after petroleum.
Bhattacharjee also said; “There is a need for Nigeria to develop market and process cocoa in-house like many other countries such as Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire, and this will help build the reputation and recognition for Nigerian cocoa in the international market so that the farmers can get a premium price for producing good quality cocoa.
“There is an urgent need to ensure that the entire cocoa sector gets a kind of regularisation and establish a cocoa board so that farmers can get incentives and also value of producing quality versus non quality cocoa beans.
“Farmers should also engage themselves and come together through CFAN, CAN and other cocoa associations/private firms and learn from each other to keep up with the newer modern technologies such as use of smart phones, use of good agricultural practices, use of climate smart technologies, among others.”