By Benjamin Omoike
Lagos State Government has solicited the technical expertise of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FOA), to develop its coconut value chain through the acceleration of production, processing, utilisation and commercialisation of the value chain.
The Deputy Governor of the State, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, who made the solicitation in Lagos, when he received in audience, the representative of the Organisation to Nigeria and the ECOWAS, Mr. Fred Kafeero, at his office in Alausa, Ikeja, explained that such collaboration would help the State harness its potentials in the coconut value chain in particular and the Agriculture sector in general.
He added that the collaboration would also help develop a robust database through general and specific surveys and studies, such as, baseline survey, local and international market survey, thematic studies, needs assessment, improved processing, marketing and management of the entire value chain.
In his words: “FAO as we know is the United Nations organ that deals with Agriculture and Nutrition generally around the World, looking at the various agricultural sectors in Lagos, one of them being the coconut industry. We are not only looking at production alone but processing, marketing. FAO should assist us with that and, managing the entire value chain.”
“The Organisation is mainly research-based. They are a technical organisation. They basically go to sites, take samples, inspect, and observe the variety of crops produced and recommend for us the right strategies they know would work. It is practical. They will also meet with farmers to suggest new global practices used in growing crops based on the research that has been carried out and the soil type,” he said.
According to Hamzat, the collaboration would also have the capacity to support and lead actors to sources of credit, markets and technologies for the development of the coconut value, aid processing and consumption as well as strengthen the capacities of the technical and extended services.
Speaking earlier, the State Commissioner for Agriculture, Ms. Abisola Olusanya disclosed that the Ministry of Agriculture would work closely with the FAO Group to develop a master plan around the coconut value chain that the State can work with to develop and grow its coconut industry in line with global best practices.
Olusanya explained that the collaboration would not be limited to coconut alone but other sectors of the agriculture landscape would be explored as well.
“We know that the FAO, being the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations is equipped with technical capacity and capability around Agriculture, so we can develop so much more outside of just coconut. As a Ministry, we are trying to tap into the capacities and capabilities of the FAO to be able to develop further the other value chains we have to ensure sustainable food security for Lagosians,” she noted.
The Commissioner disclosed that the coastal belt in Lagos is over 185 kilometers, while the riverine belt has over 700sq kilometers, pointing out that the State single-handedly produces well over 60 per cent of the over 300,000 metric tonnes of coconut produced in Nigeria, which makes her the 19th nation in coconut production globally.
Olusanya maintained that Lagos is the only State with an Agency dedicated to the cash crop of coconut hence, the need to start looking at the many potentials in the sector, which could be well over N35 Billion naira in value annually, cannot be overemphasised.
The representative of the FAO to Nigeria and the ECOWAS, Mr. Fred Kafeero noted that coconut-related issues were very important and seeing the plans that the State has put in place to address them was a driving force for the Organisation to collaborate with the State.
He disclosed that there were lots of opportunities for employment either in production, processing, packaging; income generation for different segments of the society; nutrition as well as increasing the GDP of the country through export.