AFEX, Nigeria’s leading commodities market player has launched the one million Cocoa Tree Planting Initiative. The initiative would see AFEX plant one million cocoa trees across cocoa-producing regions in Nigeria.

The flag-off ceremony, hosted by His Imperial Majesty (H.I.M), Ooni Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, Ooni of Ife, took place on Friday, 20 May at the Ooni’s palace in Ile-Ife, Osun State. The ceremony marked the beginning of a long-term commitment to reach 50,000 farmers in 5 years to enable their transition to sustainable cocoa farming production with immersive training on best agronomic techniques, assured access to finance, structured markets, and secure commodity storage.

“Our ambitious goal is to plant one million cocoa trees, starting with the first phase of distributing 200,000 cocoa seedlings to cocoa farmers. The seedlings are a product of 12 years of research and are of a high maturing variety. In about 18 months of field establishment, they start flowering and are able to produce 5 times the yield of earlier varieties used,” AFEX CEO Ayodeji Balogun said during the flag-off ceremony.

“In addition to the seedlings provided, we would monitor the planting and growing processes of these cocoa farmers. We are delighted to launch this initiative with the Government and key stakeholders to create an enabling environment where the cocoa industry can thrive.”

Balogun said Nigeria’s cocoa production levels are greatly affected by low productivity, lack of access to quality seedlings, inputs, and finance among other factors, hence, the initiative.

“The initiative is a novel approach to contribute to the protection, sustainability, and economic resilience of the entire cocoa ecosystem while improving the livelihoods of cocoa farming communities. This is a lasting collaboration for value creation in Cocoa production, sustainability, trade, and the development of the entire agricultural ecosystem.

“I am very impressed with the drive of AFEX. They are looking into the future and this initiative would have a great impact on Nigeria’s economy in another two to three years,” Ooni Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi said, while also commending the Osun State government and the Federal Government for the support of the program.

Osun State Commissioner for Agriculture and food security, Adedayo Adewole, speaking at the flag-off ceremony, said “our efforts to plant more cocoa trees would contribute significantly to the rebuilding of Africa’s cocoa nation and the return of gold to our land.

“That’s why we are delighted to work along with institutions like AFEX to improve sustainable cocoa farming, improve livelihoods, and provide a safer, more secure environment for cocoa farmers. This is all about value creation, encouraging farmers and youths in the sector to strengthen their productivity.”

AFEX has worked over the last 6 years to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers across Nigeria, by creating models that enable agriculture production and trade. Recently ranked first on the list of fastest-growing companies in Nigeria by the Financial Times, AFEX has provided support to over 350,000 farmers across major grain-growing states in Nigeria. The company has over 126 warehouses in Nigeria, and Kenya, with a storage capacity of 314,000MT.

Since its launch in 2014, AFEX has committed to leveling-up Africa’s agro-tech sector. By bridging the gap between Agro-processors and investors, AFEX boosts food security and makes food production more efficient.

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