Lagos Coconut Value addition for agricultural sustainability  — Nigerian Pilot News
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Lagos Coconut Value addition for agricultural sustainability 

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For any country or state, value addition to agricultural products means more foreign exchange earnings, food sufficiency and safety as well as increased Gross Domestic Products (GDP). For the farmer, value addition can only mean more money and improved livelihood. ITOHAN ABARA-LASERIAN examines the example of  Lagos State Coconut Development Authority. 

In Africa, Kenya records about 18 aircraft flying out of the country with agricultural products to Europe on a daily basis, which has earned them the appellation, “Africa’s biggest agriculture produce exporter’’.

Since the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration, priority is placed on agricultural activities leading to boost in commodity production, agribusiness and agro-enterprise developments, food security, mechanisation and commercial farming across the country.

No wonder the administration introduced “The Green Alternative’’. It is the outcome of an intensive consultation process which started in November 2015 through April 2016 by the Agriculture Promotion Policy 2016-2020. It engaged stakeholders from farmers groups, investors, processors, lenders, civil servants, academics among others.

The Green Alternative is built on the successes and lessons from the Agriculture Transformation Agenda (ATA) of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration. Its necessity is the vision of Buhari’s led administration to build an agribusiness economy capable of delivering sustained prosperity.

At the onset of the Green Revolution by this administration, states were encouraged to select and develop crops of their comparative advantage to further drive a non-oil economy, and Lagos State chose COCONUT.

The activities of the Lagos State Coconut Development Authority (LASCODA) under the Lagos State Ministry of Agriculture and how they are seriously taking steps to develop the value chains around coconut to increase Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the state, is noteworthy.

One very huge step taken by the state government under Governor Akinwumi Ambode to achieve consumption of wholesome and healthy foods is by including coconut in the diet of Lagosians, which leads to coconut value chain development.

Lagos is known for its coconut heritage producing about 70 per cent of the national output of 267,520 metric tonnes, meaning that Lagos alone produces de-husked nuts of 187,264 metric tonnes of coconut annually.

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr Olayiwole Onasanya, says that until recently, coconut was becoming moribund and needed a total overhaul from plantation rejuvenation to value addition and planting of hybrid and improved seeds.

According to Onasanya, farmers were at some point losing interest in the coconut business and they only maintained the subsistence farming level neglecting many derivatives of up to 150 from coconuts.

“In the past years, coconut has been a crop, although, I will not say that has been neglected but it has been a crop that pre-1990’s, there were a lot of moribund plantations, some of them very old that are yielding very poorly. Therefore, farmers hardly looked at them except when it has fruits, they will harvest and make some meager amount. It was being practiced at a subsistence level at that time.

“In 1999, what we had was to draw out a plan to improve coconut production and to do a lot of rehabilitation, and then plant highly improved varieties that will yield well and also diversification of coconut.

“The past three years was to rehabilitate over 10 hectares of coconut plantation grooves; we have also looked at coconut from the angle of being a miracle crop that you can produce 150 derivatives from such as bread, oil, artwork, milk, motor industry and others.

“On IGR, by the time we do what we are doing in the next three years, coconut will increase contributions to the IGR of Lagos State, it is not that coconut does not contribute but its contribution is very minimal,’’ the permanent secretary said.

One of the major achievements by the state government is to roll out the Eko Coconut Bread, where it partnered with 10 bakeries for the production of about 500 loaves per bakery on a daily basis. The government also empowered the bakeries with inputs like Tricycles, two Kiosks each, 250,000 Bread wrappers each and cash.

Dr onasanya said the initiative has increased marketing and believability in coconut by 15 per cent within a short time and also the art of using shells for decoration has also improved coconut shells markets by 10 per cent.

“We have yet to tap into 100 per cent commercialisation of coconut, we have worked on coconut oil; coconut water; coconut chips and designated coconut, and if we sustain the tempo, we will achieve a whole lot.

“The bread will not be limited to Lagos State alone, we have plans to extend to other states, as we did with Lake Rice which Ogun is feeling the impact, so we are sure that Eko Coconut Bread will become a staple in Nigeria.

“The Eko Coconut Bread initiative is gaining weight across the state and apart from the 10 initial bakeries engaged, more bakeries are showing interest to work with us and that will trickle down to increased production of coconut,’’ he said.

“Apart from the economic advantage of growing coconut, there is also the ecological advantage. We are talking of climate change and coconut can help to reduce the impact on the environment. Coconut is a crop that is carbon sync, and we are working with Lagos State Parks and Gardens (LASPARK) so that they can use coconut for beautification.’’

On the hazards of farming coconut, the permanent secretary said that falling down of the nuts from the tree could lead to death when it hits a person’s head standing underneath, but now, the different varieties of coconut has helped to cushion the mishap.

He said the misfortune was common with the West African Tall variety: adding: “But research has gone beyond that, we have improved West African Tall, the hybrid and the dwarf varieties.

“We do not see famers planting the West African Tall again, what we have now is improved that is shorter and produces better, then the hybrid that is shorter and the dwarf. We also do a lot of sensitisation, our extension agents work with farmers to let them know the tell-tale signs of the coconut colour to let them know when it is due for harvest.’’

Another area where the state through the ministry of agriculture is throwing its weight is the servicing of pharmaceutical and cosmetics companies needing extra virgin coconut oil, coconut milk and coconut SAP.

Coconut sapping, according to the Department of Science and Technology of Trinidad and Tobago’s Food and Nutrition Research Institute of 2007, is a fresh oyster white liquid obtained from the tender unopened flower with neutral PH.

According to the report, each tree can yield up to one to three litres of sap daily. On two hectares of coconut plantation, 300 hybrid coconut varieties can produce 3.5 metric tonnes of coconut sugar and 205 gallons of coconut honey.

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