The active participation of the Lagos state government to commemorate alongside members of the Asian and Pacific Coconut Community(APCC) for World Coconut Day (WCD), will forever remained in the history of the ancient town of Badagry.
The APCC in conjunction with the WCD, celebrate the coconut day amidst fanfare recently, aimed at creating awareness about the importance of Coconut and its potential in reducing poverty in the land. Thereby, encouraging investments and promoting the development of the coconut industry among the member countries.
This year, the Lagos state government joined with other members of the world coconut producing countries to commemorate WCD. They include; Indonesia, Philippines, India, Brazil, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Mexico, Papua New Guinea and Vietnam held at the Suntan beach of Badagry.
The event which was tagged; Harnessing Coconut Production for Economic Empowerment and Tourism Development in Lagos state, was delivered by the Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode who was represented by Commissioner for Environment, Dr. Babatunde Humpe. Also in attendance were officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Lagos State Coconut Development Authority (LASCODA), Ministry of Transport, Ministry of Commerce, and Ministry of Tourism, Arts & Culture, traditional rulers and other state stakeholders in attendance.
According to the governor, “today is to create awareness on the arrays of invaluable economic health and environmental benefits that coconut offers as well as draw global attention to coconut derivatives.”
In the last two years, he ensured that the model coconut processing Centre Mowo Badagry has taken a new look and available for training of prospective coconut processors as well as providing services to the existing processors at affordable cost.
He said, “Our effort was to ensure more market avenue for coconut utilization, Eko coconut bread was launched in November last year. Bakers empowered by LASCODA produced the coconut bread. We are currently engaging 10 major bakeries to ensure mass production of coconut in the state.
“Coconut tree has been identified as the most useful single tree in the world in terms of versatility product utilization and longevity. Therefore taking coconut to another level with this type of programme is long overdue, especially from the point of view that Nigeria ranks 18th as a coconut producing country in the world with Lagos state contributing 70 percent of the total production.
“In a bid to expand the scope of coconut processing operations and to further collaborate with the private sector, we have distributed coconut processing equipment to coconut processors in 12 Local government Areas and Local Council Development Areas (LCDA) as part of our empowerment programmes in the coconut value chain.”
Fielding questions from journalists, Dr. Humpe disclosed that Coconut festival /Agunke festival is celebrated annually in Badagry, this year making it the seventh edition, “this programme, we have been on it for long, but today, the governor made it a reality. Therefore, this is just the starting point, next year celebration for the eight editions will be bigger than this.
“So we appreciate the governor for bringing in all these ministries to encourage our people and the encouragement aspect of it is what I want our youths to grab and queue into it, because for government to bring in all the key machineries, it means that the government meant business.
Meanwhile, the president African Coconut Heritage Initiatives,(ACHI),also organizer of the annual Agunke festival ,Prince Doheto Mesi, recalled in 2009 when the festival started, “if we have a vision as youths, we should ensure that we pursue it and that is what we are witnessing today. Coconut is a wonder nut crop and a cash crop, we are motivated by this natural resources that is given to Lagos state and Nigeria to harvest the economic importance.
“So this year seventh Agunke festival is commemorative of the World Coconut Day. Many of the countries where coconuts are produce massively are celebrating WCD alongside with what we are doing here today in Nigeria.
“This is the first time that we are noticing the intention of the Lagos state government and we want to appreciate the governor for his gracious approval identification and endorsement of our organisation as the organiser of the Coconut festival in Lagos state. He promised that they are going to be fully involved in terms of support in every way that they can make the festival a world class festival,” Prince Mesi said.
The youths in Badagry took a walk to the source of Coconut production in Topo Island Community in Badagry, where the Roman Catholic mission first established the coconut plantation in 1876. “So, this is what we do every year to the reminiscence for the fact that coconut was established and by doing that, we interact with the community cultural performances. Health talk will be given to let people know that coconut is the heritage of Lagos state that we must not lose. When you cut coconut tree, plant five seedlings and protect it.”
The commissioner for Agriculture, Mr. Toyin Suarau, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Dr. Olayiwola Onasanya said, “the coconut is called a miracle crop because you can gain 104 perishable products of that crop. We recognise this crop that it is number one in Lagos state, because of its potentials to improve the economic development of Lagos state.
“So anything that the government is doing every year, coconut is included in their key planning scheme. In the scheme of Lagos state, 2017and 2018 about, 3000 coconut seedlings were planted in July, that is to show that this is our crop and is Lagos state crop.
The Commissioner for Tourism, Arts& Culture, Mrs. Aramide Giwanson said that, “Today’s occasion marks the beginning of collaborative and partnership efforts between Lagos state and private sectors towards implementation of abundance of professionals available in the coconut industry.
“Also, it is to draw global attention to the promotion of local heritage in the state. Over the year, Lagos state has been known to produce 70 percent of coconut in Nigeria and its significant percentage of valuable of its cultural has been created to riverine communities in Badagry .
The Executive Director, Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research (NIFOR), Dr. Charles Aisagbonhi pointed out the status of coconut industry in Nigeria, “Coconut products are used by many sectors and industries, but due to the shortage of coconut products in Nigeria, the sectors and industries which require coconut products for their processes are looking outside Nigeria to meet their need.
“It is important to note that the low productivity of coconut holdings is also as a result of poor management practices, high density plantings in the groves, poor soil fertility, lack of fertilizer use, disease and high level of intercropping.”
However, stakeholders appealed to the state government to start a research centre at the Lagos state University so that the students will study Coconut and have something to fall back on when they completed their programmes.
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