Farmers and exporters are learning to cultivate safe and high-quality cocoa that meets international standards through a project coordinated by Farmers Development Union (FADU) and some partners, DANIEL ESSIET reports.
Evangelist Samson Makinde is a cocoa farmer in Osun State. He owns a farm within the Ojere farm settlement. Over the past years, he has tried to do many things to improve his annual income from cocoa without results.
Makinde was introduced to ‘Kokodola’ project. Kokodola is a Yoruba word which means ‘cocoa brings wealth.’ It started in 2012. It is a public-private partnership between Ferrero, Petra Foods Limited, Continaf , IDH, Oxfam Novib, and Farmers’ Development Union (FADU) in Nigeria. This opened the way for him to improve his cocoa business which he operates alongside rural missions.
He is well-established locally and is fast becoming a household name. Before he did not have the technical knowledge to produce certified cocoa. Today, the programme is training him and a group of farmers in the state, through their cooperatives, to grow and harvest cocoa in the proper way.
International organisations have assisted the nation’s cocoa farmers to increase production to 500,000 tonnes per annum. They have encouraged farmers to key into certification schemes to improve the country’s foreign exchange forex earnings by capitalising on her reputation as one of the producers of fine, or flavoured cocoa.
The organisations include United States-based Hershey Company, German International Co-operation (GIZ), IDH (The Sustainable Trade Initiative) Oxfam Novib, Continaf, Ferrero, Petra Foods Limited and Farmers’ Development Union (FADU).
Producers of certified cocoa receive the best prices. Through the project, aimed at improving safety and quality of cocoa, funded by GIZ, IDH and others, farmers received instruction from master trainers and extension officers on growing cocoa that meets international requirements. They visited other farms that have been certified for standards for the certification of cocoa cultivation – to learn good agricultural practices, such as the minimal use of pesticides and fungicides.
Certification covers food safety and traceability; environment; workers’ health, safety and welfare; animal welfare; and integrated crop management, integrated pest control, quality management systems and hazard analysis, and critical control points.
According to FADU Programme Coordinator, Victor Olowe, the certification helps farmers to ensure quality at a holistic level, in terms of taking better care of farm workers and the produce, apart from the confidence it gives to foreign buyers.
He said farmers were trained on a variety of things, including use of fertiliser, chemicals, hygiene, health or safety, and how to bring a quality produce acceptable for export to the marketplace.
He explained that farmers and extension officers participating in the project learn best practices in cultivation and post-harvest care to understand market requirements.
Since FADU represents farmers including those in the cocoa sector, Olowe said the training has helped to see the quality of cocoa raised to a certain standard and quantity.
Also the use of certain pesticides, weedicides and fungicides has been controlled.
Phytosanitary methods is also part of the training which helps farmers to improve their quality standards.
Through the project, he said FADU has been able to strengthen collaboration involving farmers, processors, exporters, government officials and buyers, adding that stakeholders value the need to partner and act together to address safety and quality-related issues for the benefit of all.