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Farming Revolution In Ondo State As Cocoa Farmers Set Up Cooperative Union | The Precision

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A cross-section of farmers at the launching
After years of undergoing training in
a “business school” designed for farmers, cocoa farmers in Ondo State
have formed a state-wide Cooperative Union, to enable them provide
farmer-friendly services through the better access to prolific cocoa seedlings,
approved inputs and agrochemicals and superior markets to their members that
have acquired good business and technical skills. 

Across the Sunshine State,
18,648 cocoa farmers, made up of 7,449 women and 11,199 men in 648 groups
across 10 local government areas (LGAs) have received Farmer Business School
(FBS) training with support from the German Development Cooperation-Sustainable
Smallholder Agribusiness (GIZ-SSAB) programme.

At a ceremony to officially
inaugurate the Ondo State FBS Farmers Cooperative Multipurpose Union in Akure,
GIZ Country Director, Dr Thomas Kirsch, noted that the partnership between the
Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in 2010 has brought
business skills training to 89,040 cocoa farmers in Abia, Cross River, Edo,
Ekiti, Ondo and Osun States.

The core curriculum covers business
skills, good agricultural practice and cooperative skills. According to Kirsch,
“the FBS have succeeded in changing the orientation of Farmers, who now
see farming as a business enterprise that needs to be well planned, so as to
reap the highest returns from the enterprise.” Farmers have also recorded
increase in income, production and yield, and group sales and purchases of inputs.

In the words of the GIZ Country
Director, “Most importantly, evident from our gathering today, Farmers
have realized the benefit to be derived in coming together as a group i.e.
forming a Cooperative.”

In all the 6 states, apex bodies of
all the farmer groups trained have been formed to coordinate the activities of
all the groups in each local governments of the states. The apex body for Ondo State,
registered as “The Ondo State FBS
Farmers’ Cooperative Multipurpose Union Ltd”
was inaugurated last week.

This body is expected to act as a
formidable and strong Producer Organization, which can provide business
services for their members, and engage in strategic and financial management
practices for the benefits of their members. The Apex body of the Forum of FBS
Farmer Focal Persons is one of the most important ways of institutionalizing
the FBS approach, thereby ensuring sustainability and continuity, even after
GIZ funding ends.

According to Chairman of the Ondo State FBS Farmers Cooperative Multipurpose
Union, Ebenezer
Adenisimi, the FBS training beneficiary farmers to adopt business skills in their
farming practices. These, he noted, include record keeping of inputs and
outputs, savings in banks, group purchase of farm inputs in large scale, group
sales of farm produce to off-takers, diversification of production to generate
additional income, organizing and registering of groups as cooperative
societies, accessing financial services from banks, keeping of farm records and
putting to use good agricultural practices.

An FBS trained farmer and leader of Igba-Otun
FBS Cooperative Society, Awopeju Village, Julius Urom, noted that the group
has invested in cocoa nursery, fish farming, poultry and piggery to augment
their cocoa income. He noted that the 23 members of the society invested just
about twenty thousand naira (N20,000) and have increased their income base in
just a year to over one hundred thousand naira (N100,000).

The Ondo State Governor, Oluwarotimi
Akeredolu lauded GIZ for the intervention which, according to him, culminated
in the formation of the Cooperative Union. He stated, “The farmers’
organization we are about to inaugurate is a product of intervention from a
Development Partner – German International Cooperation (GIZ), an outfit of the
Federal Ministry of Economic Co-operation and Development of Germany”.

Ondo Deputy Governor at the launching
The Governor, who was represented by
his deputy, Mr. Agboola Ajayi, applauded the initiatives of the farmers who
formed themselves into a cooperative to support themselves and expand their
bargaining power. This, according to the Governor, was “to enable them own
the programme and become self-sustaining financially as producer groups and
become less dependent on Government”.

The Governor then announced the
provision of twenty-five million, seven hundred and fifty thousand naira
(N25,750,000.00) for the expansion of the Farmer Business School programme
across the state. He noted that this was in fulfillment of his pledge to
“work with genuine stakeholders in the development of the State”.

The State has also budgeted two
billion, twenty-five million, seven hundred and twenty thousand naira (N2,025,750,000.00)
for the agricultural sector in the 2017 budget just signed into law by Governor
Akeredolu.

The Regional Director of the GIZ-SSAB
Programme, Dr Annemarie Matthess, stated that FBS is innovative. “It
fosters the business mind and skills of agricultural producers, be it men or
women. After Farmer Business School, the majority of farmer graduates invest in
cocoa and food production for more income,” she noted.

Dr Matthess represented by the
Senior Technical Advisor to the GIZ-SSAB, Ayo Akinola stated that the FBS success story in
five cocoa producing countries, including Nigeria, has informed the expansion
of FBS into 15 African countries to reach cocoa, coffee, cassava, rice, cotton,
pineapple, milk, olives and tomatoes producers.

He added that the registration
of new cooperatives and multipurpose cooperatives unions is “a particular
achievement in Nigeria compared to our other partner countries”. She noted
that in Ondo State, 95 new multipurpose cooperatives were registered between
2011 and 2016; 84 of them have embedded the acronym “FBS” for Farmer
Business School in their names to show where they come from and what drives
them; and networking between these cooperatives and support provided by the
Ondo State ADP led to the registration of the Ondo State FBS Farmers
Cooperative Multipurpose Union Ltd.

Dr Matthess announced that,
“Together with our partners, including Ondo State ADP, our target is to
strengthen at least 500 cooperatives and unions across our five partner
states.” Nigeria, according to her, is in a prime position to lead the
way.

In his brief remarks, the Project
Manager of the Ondo State Agricultural Development Project and project partners
to GIZ-SSAB, Mr. O. B. Adeniyan affirmed that FBS has impacted positively on
the lives and economy of beneficiary farmers. He cited group access to support
from agro-chemical companies, banks, government and non-governmental agencies.

Mr Adeniyan noted that the positive impact
received from the farmers groups led the ADP to provide an office space for the
Ondo State FBS Cooperative Multipurpose Union at the ADP Headquarters in Akure.
He added that GIZ had provided ultra-modern equipment for the office to
function properly.

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