Photograph — Health Beat

Apart from clean water, access to adequate food is a primary necessity for the world at large and agriculture is the hub of food production. However, the oil boom of the 1970s made the Nigerian government look away from the agricultural industry, with cocoa as its main cash crop.

But now, Nigeria’s dwindling oil revenue has caused the federal government and key stakeholders to rethink and re-strategise in favour of agribusiness. As part of efforts to bring Nigeria out of the current recession, Bank of Agriculture (BOA), has disbursed 21.5 billion naira to 107,200 farmers nationwide.

During the Agric-empowerment program which took place at Osogbo, the state capital of Osun, the Bank of Agriculture Zonal Manager, South-West Region, Mrs Idiat Folorunso announced the beneficiaries of the fund. The program was initiated by a leading traditional monarch in Yoruba land, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, because of his dedication to cocoa revival in the western Nigeria.

Consequently, with cocoa farmers getting old, so are the trees and the youth are not being motivated enough to emulate the weak generation of farmers. Folorunso stressed that the bank will always encourage young farming entrepreneurs and that the initiative is created to foster food production towards promoting self-reliance for major agricultural products.

The need to boost cocoa production in Africa not only Nigeria is generating serious concern among the stakeholders in the cocoa industry and hence the need to organise various forums for stakeholders to look for a way of improving the productivity, competitiveness, market access.

To work towards an increasing agricultural productivity, farm land must be rehabilitated, varieties must be utilised to maximum and planting of shorter generation of trees to close the deficiency gap must be embraced.

For instance, Kip Tom, an Indiana farmer explains how technology has enhanced soil testing, the analysis of soil can tell the amount of fertiliser needed for a particular land of cultivation. Now, with a more modernised form, Tom says for effective productivity a consultant applies algorithms to soil testing in order to make proper corrections for years to come.

Farmers, who have access to funds, can afford to purchase high-quality cocoa plantlets. These helps farmers revitalise their crops with disease resistant and higher-producing trees.

Likewise, maximising available resources, over a three-year period, a typical cocoa farmer will be able to double her farm income and even triple it in the 4th – 5th year.

Current productivity levels are simply not enough to support the cocoa farmers in order to make future provisions for their families. However, farmers can begin to reinvest in their own farm and build them to their full potential.

Now, to make an effective plea, farmers with the purpose of enjoying better bargain for their products should have easy access to proper allocation, with the Bank of Agriculture loans.

Above all, to ensure that the country’s cocoa remain competitive alongside other cash crops like coffee, rubber and oil palm farmers need better propagation technologies and improved varieties capable of withstanding today and tomorrow’s threat.

However, Oba Ogunwusi emphasised that strong partnerships needed to be put in place to raise the price determinant of cocoa for farmers and not only for the end users of cocoa.

Therefore, the marketing board for cocoa should be re-established so that farmers can have direct access to multinational and indigenous companies that make use of the crop.

Although, the Bank of Agriculture’s Anchor Borrowers Program (ABP) is the most recent scheme that provides support through the supply of inputs and technical advice to farmers, another 40 billion naira has been put away for special purposes to ensure proper implementation of the program nationwide.

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