The ongoing drive of the federal government to give more attention to the agricultural sector received a boost at the weekend with the selection of Nigeria and three other African countries for the African Cocoa Initiative which will lead to the establishment of 100,000 cocoa farms in the selected countries at the cost of $13 million.
According to Country Representative of International Centre for Soil Fertility and Agricultural Development (IFDC) in Nigeria, the organisation bankrolling the project, the other African countries are Ghana, Cameroon and Cote d'Ivoire.
He said that other agencies that would join the initiative are the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, which would provide expertise in genetics, and the Alliance of Cocoa-Producing Countries.
Wallace said the ACI's five-year programme, titled Global Development Alliance, which began in January, would help to develop the cocoa sector in the four countries in four critical areas.
He added, "The programme will foster public-private cooperative investments in cocoa and agriculture.
"It will also improve the genetic quality and productivity of cocoa varieties under cultivation and expand farmers' education and training programmes."
The country representative said the programme would also "improve agro-input supply chains that serve farmers."
He explained that ACI was a public-private partnership initiative that would bring together the World Cocoa Foundation, cocoa industry members, the Dutch Sustainable Trade Initiative and United States Agency for International Development under the programme.
Wallace said IFDC, which is an implementing agency of ACI, would provide expertise to improve participating farmers' access to fertiliser and would recommend its appropriate use.
Between 2007 and 2009, IFDC was involved in an association-building project to increase the income and improve livelihoods of resource-poor cocoa farmers in Ghana.