The Ooni of Ife, His Imperial Majesty Ooni Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi (Ojaja II) has unveiled a nursery plant of one million cocoa pots and trees in Ile-Ife, to be distributed as part of his Youth Empowerment programme.
The programme is part of the Ooni’s quest to see the revival of agriculture through 100,000 youths and thousands of widows who are victims of the communal war between Ife and Modakeke.
Comrade Moses Olafare, Director of Media and Public Affairs, Ooni’s palace, said in a statement that Kabiyesi is saddened by the neglect of cocoa farming which was once a major foreign exchange earner in Nigeria especially in the Southwest.
He said the Arole Oodua who is the Grand Patron of the Graduate Farmers Association of Nigeria has imperatively chosen agriculture and cocoa specifically, which now sells for about $3,000 dollars per tonne as a perfect alternative to the dwindling crude oil now selling below $40 dollars per barrel.
With the latest unveiling, the Ooni has embarked on a journey to create the largest cocoa plantation nursery in Nigeria. The scheme targets 10 million trees to be rolled out in one million phases with the youths getting 2000 plants each.
The Ooni’s position is that “if we have stronger partnerships/alliances with Government, for it is a very capital intensive venture, it is not impossible to expand the cocoa plantation nursery to well over 100m trees to be spread across the entire country just to bring back the cocoa days”
The Osun State governor, Rauf Aregbesola has thrown his weight behind the project which is sure to improve the state’s Internally Generated Revenue.
The programme has gone into the following collaborations:
The Federal Government through Minister of Agriculture Chief Audu Ogbe has given a nod of cooperation for the greenfield to enjoy mechanization to produce hybrids and improved seedlings that will yeild 2000kg to be harvested all year round.
Dynamic Green Concept Ltd, a USA based company from Dallas for soil improvement.
A strategic partnership with the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN).
Kabiyesi will also in June visit Hersey Chocolate factory in Philadelphia which is the American biggest Chocolate factory for the supply of cocoa beans and for further value addition to cocoa processing in Nigeria before exportation.
Olafare added: Having done our homework to satisfaction, and with some studies on countries like Ghana, Ivory Coast and Indonesia a country earlier with Zero cocoa production but today is the world’s second largest exporter of cocoa that have consistently in the last five decades based their economic sustainability on agriculture, the major way of taking the youths off the streets is to encourage them to go into lucrative farming.
And since Cocoa is undoubtedly a cash crop with potentials for foreign exchange earnings, we have thus decided to break the jinx as we already have plantation brownfield that has existed for about 100 years on which several farmers have been producing between 300 and 350 kilograms per hectare. And of course because those aged cocoa trees have spent about 100years, they are obviously too weak for expected productivity.
We therefore must start a new Greenfield of cocoa plantation with a pilot scheme at Ile-Ife and subsequently replicated across the country as we already have very good understanding of alliance with the North sequel to a meeting Kabiyesi Ooni’risa recently held in Sokoto with Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar and 6 Emirs on possible agricultural exchange of expertise.
It will be very great if only Government can support this laudable initiative and we can subsidize farmers from cocoa nursery trees. It will further encourage hundreds of thousands of youths to come into agriculture. From our effort, a lot of youths are already off the street and it has drastically reduced crime rate in Ife currently as confirmed by all the security agencies within our domain. This can be extended largely to every part of the country going forward.
The Ooni’s plan is to spread the idea to other cash crops and food crops most especially massive rice production in Nigeria.