Stakeholders strategize to revive cocoa in Nigeria during CocoaSoils program launch
The official launch of the CocoaSoils project was held at Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN), Oyo State, Nigeria, on 16 October. The launch, which is the last of the four in-country launches across West Africa, was dubbed “Sustainable intensification of cocoa production through the development and dissemination of Integrated Soil Fertility Management.”
The program, in collaboration with IITA, was attended by over 112 scientists, experts, and key partners from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), the National Cooperative Financing Agency of Nigeria (CFAN), IITA, marketers, processors, farmers, Nigerian universities, government agencies/ministries, multilateral organizations, and other private NGOs.
In his welcome address, Dr Olayiwola Olubamiwa, the Director and Chief Executive Officer of CRIN, reiterated that history and data had confirmed that cocoa production would dwindle by 20% by the year 2050 due to aging farmers, land degradation, and aged cocoa trees—a call for prompt action. He called on all stakeholders present to ensure the efficient management of the project and emphasized the need to synergize efforts to ensure full sustainability of cocoa in Nigeria.
The CocoaSoils Project Coordinator, Dr Richard Asare, gave a general overview and background of the program, saying that increasing cocoa production by expanding farm size was not feasible in the midst of present climatic conditions. He also restated the importance of increased productivity of cocoa globally, especially in the major cocoa-producing countries in West Africa.
Chief Audu Ogbeh, Federal Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), represented by Quadri Lekan, the Director of Tree Crop Unit, said that in the past, the impact of Nigeria’s cocoa production increased national GDP by 30% and employed over 3,000,000 smallholder farmers. However, these had declined due to a plethora of problems ranging from production-related issues such as old plantations, aging farmers, poor soil management, climate change, poor planting materials, processing, marketing, and trade.” He thus commended CRIN and the CocoaSoils Program team for their immense contributions, while encouraging them to work towards reviving and improving cocoa production in Nigeria.
The technical session continued with a brief presentation by the Coordinator on the different components of the project. This was followed by a presentation on partnership by the project’s Partnership for Delivery Specialist, Dr Njankoua Wandji. The separate P4D presentation was the first of its kind throughout the launches across the four participating countries and it enabled the participants to appreciate fully this component. The Project Coordinator commended CRIN for being the first institution to give a letter of support which elicited interest and commitment from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) to fund the project.
The program ended with the cutting of the ribbon to launch the program led by Lekan, Asare, and Olubamiwa.