Author Helga Osai Aku

Cocoa Livelihoods Program II Intern
World Cocoa Foundation
Group photo at cocoa farm

With about 190 million people, Nigeria is the most populated African country. Agriculture, like in many other African countries, is the base of the Nigerian economy. Some of its major commodities are cocoa, palm oil, and cotton.

WCF’s Cocoa Livelihoods Program (CLP), funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and 15 WCF members* seeks to increase farmer income and strengthen cocoa communities in Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Nigeria. In Nigeria, participants in CLP in the states of Cross River, Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, and Oyo with 19,524 cocoa farmers involved in the program. Akure, in Ondo State, is one of the major cocoa-growing communities in Nigeria and it is in this community where Tulip Cocoa is helping farmers improve their farm practices and ultimately their lives. Farmers are offered a wide variety of trainings on Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs), fertilizer and pesticides application, farm management skills and more. Tulip Cocoa also trains farmers, especially women, in alternative sources of income such as soap making and honey production. After visiting two farmer cooperative groups under Tulip Cocoa and after some visits to cocoa farms there, I began to really appreciate the uniqueness of the Nigerian cocoa sector. I feel lucky to have been able to spend time with farmers, the most important players of the cocoa supply chain, and listen to them speak so passionately about what they do best.

Farmers from the Alade Idanre Cooperative Multipurpose Union Limited in Akure described difficulty they face in acquiring planting materials. Even though there is commercial sale of cocoa seedlings in Nigeria, farmers often need to travel long distances to purchase high-priced seedlings. “Sometimes the quantities are just not enough to meet our needs,” said one worried farmer. Despite his concerns, I saw his eagerness to excel and expand what he loves to do. To help address the shortage of planting materials in Nigeria, WCF is starting a seed multiplication project. Padre Farbo Community Cooperative, had similar concerns as the Alade Idanre Cooperative, and spoke about additional challenges, including the high cost of fertilizer, cocoa pests and diseases, and unavailability of bank loans to farmers.

A major issue that caught my attention was the “marketing of cassava” cultivated by these farmers. Nigeria is the world’s largest producer of cassava, with about 50 million metric tons produced annually from an area of about 3.7 million hectares. Its importance cannot be over emphasized since it is a basic staple food to more than 70% of Nigeria’s population. One of the key objectives under CLP is improving farmer resiliency with a focus on food crop productivity, e.g. cassava and plantain. Most of these farmers have become quite successful in their cassava production due to various trainings on GAPs offered to them by Tulip Cocoa. In all these successes lies the issue of “marketing of cassava”. As one farmer put it, “every one of us produces cassava…who do we then sell the excess we have to after consuming what we need?”

WCF is committed to providing lasting solutions to these problems and hence is focusing on identifying markets that could be available for cassava produced by Nigerian cocoa farmers.

WCF realizes that hearing directly from farmers on their issues is an effective tool for designing activities that truly affect change. Through CLP, WCF is determined to continue to work with farmers to solve their most pressing problems and help ensure sustainable livelihoods for farmers who produce the world’s supply of cocoa.

*Participating WCF Member Companies: Barry Callebaut, BASF, Blommer Chocolate
Co., Cargill, ECOM Agrotrade Ltd., Guittard Chocolate Co., The Hershey Company, Mars, Incorporated, Meiji Holding Co., Mondelēz International, Nestlé, Olam International Ltd., Starbucks Coffee Co., Toms Gruppen A/S, Touton SA Ltd.