By Dayo Johnson, Akure
WITH the resuscitation of the 1,744 hectares of Oda Cocoa Farm Estate at Oda village, in Akure South area of Ondo State by the Mimiko administration after its neglect by successive administrations in the state since it’s creation in 1976, the state is now on the verge of becoming one of the leading producers of cocoa in Africa.
Nigeria produces 240,000 metric tonnes of cocoa per annum out of which Ondo accounts for over 40 percent. So the revamping of the Oda Farm Estate is seen as a feat on the part of the state administration.
The plantation was established by the Premier of the defunct Western Region, the late Obafemi Awolowo, in 1954, and had since been abandoned before it was taken over by the Mimiko administration through its Cocoa Revolution Project, CRP.
Conducting journalists round the farm, the Chairman of the CRP, Dr Samuel Jibayo Oyebade, who is also a former Commissioner for Agriculture in the state, said that the objective of the project was to revamp the cocoa industry, make it a catalyst for employment generation and source of revenue for Ondo.
Oyebade added: “The governor approved the establishment of the CRP in June 2013 to mitigate the challenges of cocoa production and bring about increased production, good agricultural practices and sustainable standard beans processing amidst improving the economy of the state and making life worth living for peasant farmers.
“The initial plan of the CRP was to establish and rehabilitate 100ha each of old and new cocoa farms for farmers at one ha/ farmer, as a model for adoption. However, with the governors intervention, the CRP has since taken over the management and rehabilitation of the 1744ha Oda Farm Estate which has become the centre of CRP activities hitherto.
“ The Oda Cocoa Plantation is the source of Ondo State’s Premium Cocoa Beans used in the production of the award-winning Oda 70 percent SPAGnVOLA Chocolate”.
Oyebade said the CRP had achieved the following: Establishment of over 60ha new cocoa farm as pilot at Oda, establishment of 12ha new far at Agangan camp, rehabilitation of 80ha Cocoa at Oda, revamping of 300ha also at Oda Cocoa Farm Estate, rehabilitation of voluntee farms at Obada 10ha, Igbado 2ha, Aganhan camp 4ha and 4ha at Owena Elesin.
Others, according to him, include production of 1.5million hybrid cocoa seedlings, fabricating a tractor high powered water pump for provision of water for irrigation and application of cocoa chemical yearly, production of ideal cocoa fermentation boxes and sun drying mechanisms for the production of premium (high quality) cocoa beans for chocolate production and the production of 62.7 metric tonnes of farmers cooca beans last year.
Oyebade added that the CRP produced 4.7 metric tones of premium cocoa beans last year, partnered the Federal Ministry of Agricultures and Rural Development, IITA, IFAD, USAID, French Association for the International Development of Exchange of Food and Agricultural Produce and Techniques, ADEPTA, and Isreali Fertilizer Production Groups, among others.
Part of the feat achieved include the silver award for Ondo State by the London Academy on Chocolate with the Oda 70 percent single Estate Chocolate in April this year. He said: “We have demonstrated that in Oda Farm, our cocoa revolution project is a high capacity tractor-water-pump-driven which collects water from the river and small streams that will be close to the farmers’ farms. Irrigation will change the face of agriculture.
“In a matter of few years, Ondo State shall be richer than Lagos State. The cocoa revolution will enhance the revenue profile of the state and the monthly allocation from the Federation Account will be mere peanut. While planting our 100 hectares of cocoa, we planted about 200,000 stands of plantain as a shield; that also will generate funds later”.
Oyebade explained that if the country wants a breakthrough in revenue through agriculture, the Federal Government should follow the Ondo State template and make cocoa production a source of employment generation for the country’s teeming population. He noted that with two year into the project, it has recorded tremendous achievements which include sensitizing the youths to embrace cocoa farming and production.