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View Full Version : IITA to backstop Nigeria's national cocoa transformation initiative



ajbabe
27th January 2012, 08:58 PM
The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) will be providing vital support to Nigeria's cocoa transformation efforts, as the country embarks on doubling production of the crop in the next few years.

Specifically, the institute plans to help the country in the development of high quality and clean planting materials using improved breeding techniques.

In the action plan presented to the members of the Cocoa Transformation Agenda in IITA-Ibadan, the Institute intends to deploy advanced micropropagation techniques for rapid and high ratio propagation of improved cocoa.

The objective is to produce clean and disease-free cocoa trees with high yield that will improve the incomes of cocoa farmers and ensure environmental and social sustainability of cocoa-based production systems.

The technology, which is currently being applied in Cote d'Ivoire, has helped that country in rehabilitating its cocoa farms, making it the world's largest producer.

Although Nigeria accounts for about 5 percent of the world's cocoa production, the government's efforts to increase production are being hampered by old and unproductive cocoa trees, poor infrastructure, pests, diseases, low farmer education, and inadequate supply of farm inputs, among others.

Lava Kumar, IITA Virologist, said the clean planting materials technology would help Nigeria to rapidly propagate improved cocoa trees that could be used by farmers to replace old and unproductive trees.

“This is an important step towards cocoa transformation because we need to increase Nigeria's cocoa yield,” said Kumar. “It's actually a game changer for the sector,” he added.

The institute plans to work with the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN), National Centre for Genetic Resources & Biotechnology (NACGRAB), and other national partners, transferring the technology to them and building national capacity. IITA's strategy will also include conserving and maintaining cocoa diversity in the country.

Team members driving the clean planting materials technology include Anna Muyiwa (CRIN), Lava Kumar (IITA), Mary Olayode (NACGRAB), and Ranjana Bhattacharjee (IITA).

Peter Aikpokpodion, Team Leader of the Cocoa Value Chain Development under the office of the Minister of Agriculture, commended IITA for its support to Nigeria's cocoa sector.

According to him, this will help farmers to have access to clean planting materials.

He expressed optimism that the zeal and commitment shown by members of the team signifies a bright future for the sector.

“These efforts show that we are laying a foundation for a great future for cocoa, and I am glad,” he added.

Over the years, IITA has led efforts to revamp the cocoa sector in West Africa primarily through its Sustainable Tree Crops Program (STCP).

Researchers intend to leverage on the success and knowledge gained from STCP in Nigeria to improve the fortunes of cocoa farmers in particular and the livelihoods of farmers in general.