• Monday, April 15, 2024
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BusinessDay

Stakeholders task government on investment in cocoa

Stakeholders task government on investment in cocoa

•••as LWR urges farmers to eliminate child-labour practices

Government at all levels have been called upon as a matter of urgency to save cocoa production from extinction and enhance the capabilities of farmers to contribute to diversification efforts of the Federal Government.

Stakeholders, at a two-day awareness campaign to eliminate child-labour practices and their negative impact on cocoa farmers in Idanre and Ifedore local government areas of Ondo State, however, said that cocoa is a good source of national wealth apart from oil. Unlike petroleum, they said its price remains stable at the international market.

BusinessDay reports that the awareness campaign, a Child Labour Education and Resilience (CLEAR) project was organised by the Lutheran World Relief and funded by Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) in partnership with the Ondo State Government, Cocoa Farmers Association of Nigeria (CFAN), Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment and International Labour Organisation (ILO).

In his introductory remarks, Nene Akwetey-Kodjoe, chief of party, Lutheran World Relief, said; “we need to eradicate using of children for labour, what we are saying is that hard-labour is not allowed, we need to do it right.”

Akwetey-Kodjoe, who was represented by Foluso Wilson, human resource manager, Lutheran World Relief, maintained that; “we want those children out-there to go back to school because education is a general knowledge that will grow our brain.”

Read also: Exciting times for Nigerian cocoa exporters as prices soar

While Adeola Adegoke, president of the Cocoa Farmers Association of Nigeria (CFAN), in his goodwill message, said cocoa production is now alternative to oil with the current economy hardship Nigerians are facing.

Adegoke said; “the problem we are having today is because we are moving from production to consumption. Our cocoa is the prospect that can guarantee our push from consumption to production in Nigeria. Cocoa still remains what can actually be the backbone of our economy with what we are seeing now in this country.

“For example now, Idanre happens to be the singular local government area that produces the highest cocoa in Nigeria and it shows the potential for our teeming youths to go to sustainable cocoa production in this country.”

In his brief presentation on CLEAR project, Siji Ofoesuwa, programme technical advisor, Lutheran World Relief, said the goal of the project was to significantly reduce the prevalence of child labour practices among cocoa farmers in the state.

According to Ofoesuwa, schools that were approved for the project in the two local government areas includes; Ala Comprehensive High School Ala-Elefosan, Oniseere Community High School Ofosu, Olofin Grammar School, L.A Primary School Ita-Loorun, L.A Primary school Gbalegi, Alasagba Community High School Ibuji, United Comprehensive High School Ikota, Ayo Grammar School Ibulesoro, Community Primary School Molete and L.A Primary School Ajebamidele.

Olayemi Fakehin, deputy director, Guidance and Counseling unit of the Ondo State Ministry of Education, Science and Technology said government has put in place a comprehensive plan to eliminate child labour in the state.

According to her, the comprehensive plans include; strengthening the existing laws and policies towards providing a greater protection for children and harsher penalties for those who exploit them for labour.

“Ondo state government in its effort to eliminate child labour in the state is planning to bring back to school, all the out of school children to be cater for by the state government. It is a law that anyone using any child for labour will see the wrought of the government.

Read also: Lagos plans to establish three cocoa processing hubs to boost export

“The government has promised to address the issue of acute shortage of classroom teachers in the public primary and secondary schools as part of reforms in the education sector in the state and for the realization of the educational aspirations of our teachers and students; the Ondo State Governor, Lucky Aiyedatiwa also promised the reintroduction of running grants to schools and enhancing school infrastructure for our learners in all schools.

“The government has been collaborating and supporting many private organizations in combating the prevalence of child labour. The government is also investing in education and awareness campaign to inform parents, employers, and communities about the dangers of child labour and the importance of protecting children’s rights,” Fakehin said.

Folagbade Ojo, the first Onibuji of Ibuji in Ifedore Local Government of Ondo State, who also spoke on the CLEAR project thanked the organizers of the awareness campaign saying “my people are mostly farmers, we have no other occupation. We produce is palm oil, cocoa, kolanut, oranges and any type of fruitful crops.”

According to him, “So we need government attention and support, if it is the cocoa industry government or individuals can establish here in Ifedore, it would help boosting our economy in Ondo state and Nigeria as a whole because we produce over 100 tonnes of cocoa yearly.