Over 100 Cocoa farmers in Etung local council of Cross River State Nigeria have been trained on improved cocoa production. The training programme was put in place to help boost cocoa production in Nigeria,
The three-day training programme hinged on the theme, “Cocoa in Etung Local Government Area and its Opportunities for Improvement”, involved select persons from Etung communities, the Community-Based Organizations (CBOs), Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and the Etung Local Council Area.
Topics like, the Secret of Success in Cocoa Farming and Marketing, Soil Fertility and Fertility Management, Best Practices for Superior Cocoa Results in Etung, Introduction to Crop Production Products, and The Imperative of Women Involvement in Cocoa Production, Farmer Organization and Current Development Trends were discussed at the seminar.
Commenting on the training, the Director, Farming World and Rural Development Initiatives in Etung, Mr. Henry Etta said, “as you can see, the objectives is achieved because first, the target is for the gate keepers, the CBOs, the town council unions and the Etung local council officials.”
To further strengthen cocoa production in Etung and the country at large, Mr. Ayo Akinola in his paper titled “Replicating the German International Corporation (GIZ)/Cross River ADP led Farmer Business School (FBS) Experience,” said the intervention programme covers Abia, Cross River, Edo, Ondo and Osun with 16 councils in the country.
He said in Cross River alone, the FBS has trained over 3,500 cocoa farmers and the target for the state was 5,000 farmers.
He decried the attitude of cocoa farmers, saying, “they are not running it as business, but from the training programme, it is expected that cocoa farmers will begin to act and think like business men and get better result from their farm produce.”
Team leader of Community Management Unit of Micro Project Programme in the nine Niger Delta states of Nigeria (MPP 9), the sponsors of the workshop, Mr. Peter Ayo said, “cocoa in Etung has over the years increased its reputation of a special quality and flavour due to privileged soil deriving partly from volcanic activities and because of favorable climate”.
He added that “it is confirmed by farmer organizations, cooperatives and farmer associations that there is a continuous mobilization for acquiring more knowledge” hence the need for the training programme and the FBS that brings in the business component with GIZ as a development partner.
With the programme, cocoa farmers were charged to come together and work with good bargaining power and even have cocoa processing industry cited close to the source of raw materials.
Meanwhile, cocoa farmers in the country have decried the poor level of cocoa production in the country.
Currently, Nigeria produces between 300,000 to 350,000 metric tons of cocoa yearly, whereas Ghana and Cote D’Ivorie produce between 1.2 million and 1 million metric tons each per year.
Rising from a 3 day conference in Etung, Cross River State, cocoa experts said there was urgent need for an improvement if Nigeria is to make any significant impact in the international market.
Briefing some newsmen in Efraya in Etung Local Government Area of Cross River State after the conference on “Cocoa in Etung LGA and its Opportunities for Improvement”, organized by Farming World and MPP9, the National President of Cocoa Association of Nigeria (CAN) Mr. Sayina Riman said cocoa production in Nigeria “has been slow on the upward climb”.
In view of this, he said, “so what we are doing now is having a private public partnership with the Federal Government of Nigeria. We have always have programmes with government but right now what we are have in terms of production areas of strength, is working with the Federal Government to increase production to 500, 000 metric tons a year. Presently we are between 250,000 and 300,000 metric tons a year. In the next 3 to 4 years I think we will get there”.
Riman who was excited with the training programme organized for the cocoa local farmers, pointed out that “the problem in the cocoa business has been the lack of collaboration with the true stakeholders of cocoa in the industry and it has not augur well. Government is not good at business not because they are not good at facilitating but they are not good at business and cocoa has always been a labour intensive venture and only the stakeholders who understand it could be supported to increase it and I think that is a major problem.
“We also have the problem of aging trees, aging farmers, the low literacy rate because the literacy rate of those who farm cocoa has not been so high but then we still have development partners within the sectors that will help us in moving it up”.
He said CAN was initiating things for cocoa farmers and “the is fact that we do not have an authentic private sector data base in cocoa business. What we are trying to do now is to capture all cocoa farmers in one date base so that they can easily be coordinated and benefits go to them directly while great understanding would be created for farmers… When that understanding comes within our farmers it would come a long way. Some of our farms these days as we speak were inherited from our parents and that is the biggest factor. The country did not give enough recognition to a farmer being the most important factor of our society”.
Today, he said all that will change with an authentic data base and good partnership with government.
According to him, “if you get to the farm you will be ten times better than he who gets salary for ten years. We want to also educate the youths on the need to be proud farmers and that the farm and the soil yields to you and gives you so much and is still there for you which is a replenish able resource which you might get from year in year out only for you to have added some of those factors to the farm.
“What we are trying to indentify is that when it comes to inputs, we have ‘political farmers’ those who come to farm only because there are benefits to be taken. They get inputs and profiteer from it. They go through the back door and sell it to somebody else and make a few pennies. That is what we are trying to kill so that the true farmers will actually get what they deserve from the society.
“So we want to be the bridge and the link within this aspect so that if you are not a true farmer, you are not captured within the data base. If you are captured in the data base you have the right to contest why you should benefit from any growth enhancement support from government”.