The Oloni of Eti-Oni, Oba Dokun Thompson, has made a strong case for the economic empowerment of farmers in the cocoa industry.
Speaking during a forum of food and agric writers in Lagos, the Monarch said cocoa was a key export commodity central to the realisation of the Federal Government’s targets towards sustainable development.
He said improving the lives of stakeholders working in cocoa production ultimately will have a positive impact on the industry.
He said cocoa farmers lacked access to financial capital, land and labour, apart from not getting insurance for their farms, which at times suffered from droughts or bush fire.
Recent flooding on cocoa plantations, according to him, killed off flowers and small pods, and prevented farmers from working on their farms.
He explained that heavy rains that poured on the farms made streams to overflow and flowers and pods in their early stages of growth got destroyed.
He said: “The flood is affecting everybody, particularly this year; even in Eti-Oni, it affected farms. We are in the rain forest so, definitely heavy rain will always affect us.”
He urged financial institutions to tailor their products and services to meet the particular needs of farmers, stressing the need for multi-stakeholder collaboration to upscale the sharing of proven best practices in sustainable cocoa production among smallholder rice farmers.
On Eti-Oni, Oba Thompson, said was home to Nigeria’s oldest Cocoa plantation and the birthplace of the crop in the Southwest. “The Cocoa crop was introduced into Eti-Oni in 1896 by Gureje-Thompson and it was from here that Cocoa spread to neighbouring towns and other parts of the region where it later became the economic mainstay of Western Nigeria.
He also announced that this year’s Eti-Oni cocoa festival is scheduled for between December 2 and 9 at Gureje Square, Eti-Oni, Osun State.
The cocoa festival, according to him, is an initiative of the Eti-Oni Development Group with an objective to create a renaissance in the industry and build bridges between production and consumption to achieve sustainability. The other goal, he said, is to transform the rural community of Eti-Oni into a sustainable model smart town in line with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (UN 2030 SDGs) through cocoa trade.
The cocoa festival, he explained, will attract local and international exhibitors, who will showcase primary and secondary products. It will also feature awards. The awards will be given to individuals, corporate organisations or government agencies or programmes in recognition of outstanding contribution to cocoa development.
The award categories will include: value chain development – policy formulation and execution; cocoa sustainability advocacy; environmentally friendly practices; development of women in cocoa; commercial bank and cocoa promotion; cocoa renaissance in Nigeria; life-time personal contribution to cocoa development in Nigeria; social impact initiatives -(individual or corporate organisation), ingenious research development in cocoa; creative farmers training model; innovative agriculture development programme; TV broadcast coverage on cocoa; news print/online coverage on cocoa; ICT company and cocoa development and sustainable tourism.