Indications have emerged that the internal industrial crises and demotivation rocking the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN) are being overcome as the Institute seems to have come alive in the last two years.
The Institute has started adopting some collaborative strategies with relevant agencies to reposition the nation’s cocoa sector.
This move, the industry stakeholders expressed optimism, would affect the cocoa and cashew value chains positively.
The institute has over the decade been faced with industrial unrest as well as dwindling research activities with the impact reflecting on cocoa productivity in the country.
Experts believe that as crude oil economy gradually becomes unsustainable for the country, cocoa should be one of the crops to be promoted by the government to diversify the economy.
The Executive Director, Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN), Dr Patrick Adebola, recently told journalists that CRIN has collaborated with more stakeholders in the last two years on skill acquisition, extension workshops for stakeholders on best practices and knowledge transfer, especially on grafting, fermentation, drying platforms, packaging and farm maintenance, among others.
These, he said, are expected to impact on quality and quantity of cocoa produced in Nigeria and minimise rejection in the global market.
According to him, this necessitates CRIN’s collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture on skill acquisition, technology development and transfer to farmers and other stakeholders.
“The institute has also partnered with the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), Ibadan Export Assistance Office, to train farmers to produce cashew juice at Yaku Village, in Ogbomoso, Oyo State. Most farmers were only interested in the sale of cashew nuts, while the cashew apples got wasted,” he said.
Also, a workshop on cocoa, in collaboration with the South-South Region of NEPC, was organised for farmers and extension workers in Bayelsa State from April 21 to 22, 2022, with 50 participants trained.
On international collaboration, he said CRIN and German Industry and Commerce in Nigeria (DGIC) have also partnered on cashew education and training project following the establishment of the dual vocational education system, an approach which offers an excellent skills development in Germany education system, which seeks to provide a platform for stakeholders to strengthen market for vocational education and training (VET) in Nigeria.
“As part of its corporate social responsibility in human capital development, 15 students on internship with the CRIN were trained on the production techniques of cashew milk on September 6, 2021,” he added.
He said to revive old plantations and establish new ones, CRIN, in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), has distributed more than 300,000 hybrid cocoa seedlings.
Adebola expressed optimism that CRIN would meet the target of yearly distributing 500,000 seedlings to accelerate cocoa production, and said his efforts are centred on human capital development as a means of helping the institute to realise its core research mandate.
Tackling industrial crises
Part of the frequent industrial disharmony in CRIN before now was delayed promotion. However, the institute, he said, conducted promotion interview for the senior staff on February 14, 2022 and 142 staff, across all designations, were involved.
It was also gathered from staff that promotion examination was organised on May 24, 2022 for the staff in the junior cadre.
The Board, led by Alhaji Abdulahi Jao, admitted that because members of staff were getting their promotions as and when due now, industrial harmony had been restored. Promotion and other arrears owed by the past administrations were being paid.
“Before I assumed office, there were crises in CRIN, and it was known for labour unrest. This reduced the gains of previous administrations. But since I came in, with the help of the CRIN Board Chairman, Alhaji Abdulahi Jao, and members, I have been able to unite stakeholders and brought stability to CRIN. In terms of labour, the present management has been able to work hand-in-hand with all the three in-house labour unions and I think I have won their support,” Adebola explained.
Meanwhile, sources of internal revenue have been revived. The apiculture unit of CRIN has yielded fruits as honey is being harvested from the fully colonised hives. The plantations at the zones provided the enabling environment for the deployment of the hives. The unit is coordinated by Director Cashew, Dr. Olufemi Ibiremo.
The production of CRIN sachet water began again on the 18th June, 2021 after it stopped for more than a year.
The bakery unit, again, commenced production on June 7, 2022.
Adebola explained that one of the major items in his agenda is to revive the culture of research, which had been de-emphasised as a result of crises and poor funding.
“Now, research activities have started coming up. We are able to do that through change in leadership positions and reorganisation of various programmes, and re-appointments of capable and knowledgeable leaders for research programmes,” he said.
There were ongoing structural transformations at the Institute, which cut across road construction, laboratory, conference hall, electrification, training centre, perimeter fencing, furniture and Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), among others.