No fewer than 18, 648 cocoa farmers in Ondo State have received Farmer Business School (FBS) training, with support from the German Development Cooperation-Sustainable Smallholder Agribusiness (GIZ-SSAB) programme.
The Media Consultant to the GIZ-SSAB, Mr Adhuze Robo said the farmers on completion of the training, formed the Cooperative Multipurpose Union, with a view to putting their acquired skills into use to enhance the cocoa business.
According to him, the cooperative union was inaugurated on Thursday in Akure, by Gov. Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State.
Akeredolu, who was represented by his deputy, Mr Agboola Ajayi, applauded the initiative of the farmers, who formed the cooperative union to support themselves and expand their bargaining power.
He said the cooperative platform would enable the farmers to become self-sustaining financially, as producer groups and become less dependent on government.
Robo said the governor announced a grant of N25.75 million for the expansion of the Farmer Business School programme across the state.
He noted that this was in fulfilment of the state’s pledge to “work with genuine stakeholders in the development of the State’’.
The consultant also said that the GIZ-SSAB’s Country Director, Dr Thomas Kirsch also attended the inauguration.
Kirsch said the six-month training at the FBS was a partnership arrangement between GIZ-SSAB and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in 2010.
The country director said that the partnership had so far brought business skills training to 89,040 cocoa farmers in Abia, Cross River, Edo, Ekiti, Ondo and Osun States.
“Across Ondo State, 18,648 cocoa farmers, made up of 7,449 women and 11,199 men in 648 groups across 10 local government areas received the training at the FBS in Akure.
“At the inauguration of the Ondo State FBS Farmers’ Cooperative Multipurpose Union in Akure, Dr Thomas Kirsch noted that establishment of the FBS was a partnership arrangement between GIZ-SSAB and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
“The school, established in the six cocoa producing states in 2010, has brought business skills training to 89,040 cocoa farmers in Abia, Cross River, Edo, Ekiti, Ondo and Osun States,’’ the media consultant said
He said the core curriculum covered business skills, good agricultural practice and cooperative skills.
According to him, Kirsch remarked that “the FBS has succeeded in changing the orientation of the cocoa farmers, who now see farming as a business enterprise that needs to be well planned.
“By so doing they stand to reap the highest returns from the enterprise.
“The farmers have also recorded increase in income, production, yield and group sales as well as buying of farm inputs,’’ he said.
The GIZ country director was further quoted as saying that “farmers have realised the inherent benefits of coming together as a group under a multipurpose cooperative union.
Robo said the cooperative union was expected to act as a formidable and strong producer organisation, which can provide business services for farmer members.
It would also engage in strategic and financial management practices for the benefit of the members.
“The apex body of the forum of FBS Farmer Focal Persons is one of the most important ways of institutionalising the FBS approach.
“This is to ensure sustainability and continuity, even after the GIZ-SSAB funding ends.
“The apex body for Ondo State, registered as ‘The Ondo State FBS Farmers’ Cooperative Multipurpose Union Ltd’ was inaugurated last week in Akure.’’
He said a similar cooperative union would also be formed in the five cocoa producing states of the South Western part of Nigeria very soon.
The consultant also quoted the Chairman of the cooperative union, Chief Ebenezer Adenisimi, as urging farmers to adopt the business skills learnt in their farming practices.
These, he noted, include record keeping of inputs and outputs, savings in the bank, group purchase of farm inputs in large-scale and group sales of farm produce to off-takers.
Other skills learnt were diversification of production to generate additional income, organising and registering of groups as cooperative societies.
They were also taught on how to access financial services from banks, keeping of farm records and putting to use good agricultural practices among others.