The Federal Government and Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria, Ibadan, have concluded plans to include cocoa drink in the School Feeding Programme.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, disclosed this on Tuesday, at the launch of a five-year cocoasoil project organised by CRIN in Ibadan, to improve cocoa production in Nigeria.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the programme has its theme as ‘sustainable intensification of cocoa production through the development and dissemination of integrated soil fertility management’.
Ogbeh, who was represented by the Director of Tree Crop in the ministry, Dr Lekan Quadri, said the planned inclusion of cocoa drink in School Feeding Programme would ginger government to adopt the project’s recommendations to sharpen its policy initiatives on cocoa sector transformation.
He said: “One of the reasons cocoa farming seems to not to be profitable today is because of low productivity occasioned by poor soil fertility management among other contemporary issues.
“Therefore, this project has come at an auspicious time to save our numerous cocoa farmers from colossal losses whose livelihood depend on this singular commodity.”
Also speaking, the Project Coordinator, Dr Richard Asare, noted that the project was a global initiative with an African focus funded by the Norwegian Government.
Asare said it was a public-private partnership led by International Institute of tropical Agriculture, Wageningen University and Research, Cocoa Research Institutes of Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire,Ghana, Nigeria, International Center for Tropical Agriculture, among others.
According to him, the main objective is to develop Integrated Soil Fertility Management recommendations to be integrated into extension messages for cocoa intensification and avoided deforestation.
He said: “This will be done through an integrated ISFM approach that uses a stepwise cocoa intensification process that combines improved planting materials, canopy cover management, pest/disease control with targeted fertiliser application to enhance sustainability.
“The program currently has 8 confirmed trials in Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroon and Nigeria being undertaken by CRIN, Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana, private chocolate manufacturing companies and others.
“There are also ongoing discussions to conduct similar trials in Ecuador, Brazil and Indonesia with interested partners and stakeholders.
“It’s our strong believe that at the end of the first five years, the project would have achieved its goal.”
Earlier, the CRIN Executive Director, Dr Olayiwola Olubamiwa, emphasised that the program would certainly improve cocoa production in Nigeria.
Olubamiwa said cocoa was one of the greatest foods given to mankind asit has numerous health benefits.
He said: “Since I started taking cocoa powder in 2006, I only experienced two episodes of malaria, because of cocoa’s health benefits alone, its production shouldn’t go down in the country.
“We hope the project accomplishes its purpose and it shall be well with Nigeria.”