As the global pandemic, coronavirus also known as COVID-19 keep spreading, it has really caused great havoc and adverse impact on cocoa farmers in the rural areas; as they have no or limited access to farm inputs, cocoa seedlings and agrochemical to maintain their farms as the main crop season is fast approaching. To tackle these challenges, the Olakoko project dims it fit to extend support to cocoa farmers living in rural areas.
In a programme organized for its farmers in cocoa producing states in Modakeke, Osun State, a non-governmental organization; Olakoko sustainability project has distributed farm inputs and COVID-19 palliatives for over 6,000 farmers in Osun, Ogun, Ondo, and Edo States.
While giving out the material at the event, the Project Officer, Mr. Bankole Ojo established that the essence of the organization is to have positive impacts on the lives of the cocoa farmers in order to increase the volume of cocoa produced and improve its quality of the beans in order to meet the international standard and specification as required for export. He added that the organization sees into establishing a sustainable commitment and reliable supply relationship that is mutually beneficial and community support for farmers especially women and children. Through farmers’ field school organized every two weeks, cocoa farmers in over 200 communities continue to receive lectures on good agricultural practice, good business practices, good environmental practices, and good social practices right on their farms.
With a recent report from Nairametric forecasting decline in revenue that the country will get from exportation of cocoa this year due to the pandemic, the organization is using its reach and tentacles in the rural areas to sensitize cocoa farmers on how to avoid contracting the deadly virus through the adoption of proper hygiene measures and by giving out interventions to support farmers with inputs and agro-chemicals.
With numerous challenges being faced by the cocoa farmers, Mr. Ojo Bankole further noted that “the Project is not only about increasing cocoa productivity but is also interested in the total wellbeing of our farmers and family. In this current period where we have COVID-19 pandemic, it becomes paramount that we reach out to our farmers; to educate them about the deadly disease and give out palliatives”.
Among the palliatives given out to the farmers include facemasks, handwash liquid soaps, alcohol-based sanitizers, handwashing bucket with bowls, farm sacks containing fungicides and insecticides, fliers and banners of COVID-19 precautionary instructions.
Mr. Ojo Bankole while mentioning the interventions rolled out to farmers further stated that “we have distributed over 50,000 cocoa seedlings in well over 60 local communities across the 4 states since the beginning of July and more communities will still benefit from this before the end of August.”
Farmers with the outstanding performance of supply at the last maincrop season to the organization were also given items like mechanized weed slashers, wheelbarrows, and automatic sprayers which will support and ease their farm operations.
The Administrative Manager of the organization, Mr. Olubuyi Abiodun while adding his voice to the effort put in place noted that Cocoa in the past used to be the major cash crop for the country that was used in building many public infrastructures like Cocoa House, Obafemi Awolowo Stadium (Liberty Stadium), universities in the old western region. He, therefore, implores the government of the time to look back on the old glories and invest more in agriculture especially cocoa. He added that the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN) needs to be well funded so that they can give improved cocoa seedling as intervention through sustainability projects to farmers as this will in a short time improve cocoa production and earn the federal government foreign exchange to boost the economy of the country.
He finally advised that the Government need to implement policies that will drive young graduates back to the farm by establishing model farms where necessary amenities should be provided to avoid rural-urban drift that keeps increasing every day.
This COVID-19 palliative given to farmers is part of the effort to make life more conducive for cocoa farmers in the rural area.