‘64th PMCA Conference: Sharing my experience!
Entry: Joseph Anikwe, Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria
The Norman E. Borlaug International Agricultural Science & Technology Fellowship Program’s Global Cocoa Initiative is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and implemented in partnership with the World Cocoa Foundation.
My name is Joseph Anikwe, and I was a USDA Cocoa Borlaug Fellow in 2008. I was invited to present a paper at the recently concluded 64th Pennsylvania Manufacturing Confectioners Association (PMCA) Annual Production Conference which was held from April 26 to 28, 2010. I presented a paper titled ‘A Visit to a Cocoa-Growing Community in Nigeria’. The presentation, studded with video clips and pictures, took the audience on a virtual visit to Iloro-Idanre, a cocoa-growing community in Nigeria. I described the culture and daily lives of cocoa-growing families both in the farm and in the communities in which they live, as well as the challenges confronting cocoa farmers across West Africa.
The presentation highlighted the community at a glance, starting with the narrow road leading to Iloro-Idanre and also showing how the farmers construct their houses with rectangular concrete slabs in front to allow for easy drying of their cocoa beans. Cocoa growing is the main economic activity of the rural dwellers in Iloro-Idanre. However, cocoa is cultivated with other food crops, and these food crops come handy during the cocoa off-season periods. Most farmers own motor bikes with which they transport themselves and family members, while agricultural products such as cocoa beans are transported to the cities with trucks. The meals from the community are always garnished with bush meat caught by traps set in the farms by farmers. Medical care is available at a government health care centre in a neighbouring village called Ita-Olorun Idanre while visiting health workers give inoculations to children. Elementary school for the children of these cocoa farmers is located about a mile away from Iloro-Idanre. Men in the village enjoy drinking a local beer called palm wine which is obtained from the palm tree. They are found in groups playing the local game called Ayo in the evenings. A major festival celebrated by the people of Iloro-Idanre is the annual new yam festival.
The lifestyle of the people of Iloro-Idanre is strongly tied to their occupation, which is simply farming. In the presentation, I described how cocoa beans are planted in the nursery and nurtured in the field up until harvesting. Thereafter, post-harvest handling issues were described. I noted that the cocoa farmers from this community have benefited from the Farmer Field School (FFS) training programmes and these have imparted on their knowledge of good agricultural practice. Therefore, these farmers know the right time to harvest their cocoa pods, adhere to proper fermentation procedures and proper drying of their cocoa beans. These training programmes were first supported by USAID, the World Cocoa Foundation and industry. Today that support has expanded to include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the federal and state governments of Nigeria, and individual communities. This is aimed at improved farm management with lower crop losses and costs. However, the inaccessible road network, poor standard of living, lack of infrastructural development and lack of improved planting materials, as well as the prohibitive cost of farm inputs have remained daunting challenges to increased cocoa productivity.