ABIA state GovernmentÂ has signed a Memorandum of Understanding [MoU] with Bill and Blinder Gates for an improved cocoa production project, tagged â€œCocoa Livelihood Programmeâ€.
The programme which is in collaboration with the International Cocoa Institute also involves four other major cocoa producing states. According to Abia state deputy Governor, Comrade Chris Akomas, whose office oversees the state cocoa project, Abia state is now in worldâ€™s cocoa map, and the state would in no distance time begin to reap the gains.
Akomas said that the cooperative system introduced to Abia cocoa farmers is now a model which is being emulated by other people who are into cocoa production. He disclosed that the state would not be much affected by generational change as both the old and the new are working together and blending well at the cooperative.
â€œ Abia has been projected and is there now, in the world cocoa map. Recently, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding [MoU] as part of the five major cocoa producing states in the country where the Bill and Blinder Gates Foundation in collaboration with the International Cocoa Institute and others will be carrying out a project tagged â€œcocoa livelihood programmeâ€. So we have done well and we will continue to do well.
â€œThe cocoa livelihood programme is a programme that seeks to enrich the knowledge of and ability of the cocoa farmers and introduce them into cocoa farming as a business. So there is a lot of support, a lot of training, capacity building and linkages that assist them.
And in Abia state, like other states, we have generational problem in cocoa farming, but good a thing for us in Abia state, we also have young cocoa farmers. So there is this transfer of going on and like in Itunta, the Cooperatives, we have both old and young working together.
You see new and old blending together for more efficient cocoa development programme in the state. So also, Chief David Onyenweaku, I always mention him because he is a model. The man is over 80 years old, very strong and his son, a graduate of Agriculture is now managing the farm.
It is a large farm. This man has been there, now it is his son who is a graduate of Agriculture, he was in Lagos, but he has left Lagos, he is in the farm now. He has created employment opportunities. I have a whole lot of people that have established cocoa farms and it is interesting what is happening in Abia state in terms of cocoa farmingâ€, Akomas said.
Speaking on the cooperative system, the deputy governor said,â€ Itunta Cocoa Cooperative Society is a model today not only in Abia, but across other states, it as a model everybody desires. If we must get cocoa production to the level we want, if we must beat Ghana and Cote dâ€™Ivoire who are ahead of us, we must get the model of Itunta, where the old and young work together and you bring in new technologies. You have the strength of the young ones and the experience of the old ones.
â€œAnd you know in Abia state the cocoa school helped a lot, it was from that school that the cooperative sprang up. We have a cooperative society in Okwe, we are working to show_case that one the way we show_cased Itunta, because it is not just that they are there, this is a cooperative society that has become solid, solid in the senseÂ of their funding, solid in the sense of partnership, solid in the quality of cocoa they produce.
And we have established a monitoring team from relevant ministries and they are working well together. We are not yet at the point we want to be but we are moving forward and the results are there for everyone to see, the quantity and quality of cocoa they produce. Our farmers are properly taught in line with international standard cocoa farming method, and this is working out well for us.