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CRIN tackles internal crises, revives cocoa, cashew research culture

By Olawunmi Ojo
18 September 2022   |   2:44 am
For a major part of the last decade, the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN) was in the doldrums. Various administrations and leadership of the institute were distracted

Executive Director, CRIN, Dr. Patrick Adebola

‘Only National Strike Disrupts Our Plans’

For a major part of the last decade, the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN) was in the doldrums. Various administrations and leadership of the institute were distracted or bogged largely by internal industrial unrest, agitations and poor funding.

Consequently, the research culture for which the institute was renowned almost disappeared. The impact also diminished cocoa productivity in the country.
 
In recent times, however, indications have shown that the institute has emerged from the doldrums of inactivity. A new administration, with the adoption of some collaborative strategies over the last two years, has been able to manage the internal industrial crises and motivate members of staff for renewed excellence. Hence, industry stakeholders have expressed optimism that the new development at the institute would affect the value chain positively.

Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN)


“Our gates are continually opened for collaborations towards the empowerment of various stakeholders and nation building,” Executive Director, CRIN, Dr. Patrick Adebola, told journalists recently.

The institute 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 are expected to impact on quality and quantity of cocoa produced in the country and minimise rejection in the global market.

As the crude oil economy gradually becomes unsustainable for the country, cocoa is one of the crops being promoted by the government to diversify the economy. This informed 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. Hitherto, most farmers were only interested in the sale of cashew nuts, while the cashew apples got wasted. Over 70 participants from Ogbomoso, Saki, Kisi and some other cashew-producing local councils in the state were encouraged to go into mass processing of cashew apples into juice.

Also, in collaboration with the South-South Region of NEPC, a workshop on cocoa was organised for farmers and extension workers in Bayelsa State from April 21 to 22, 2022, in Yenagoa and 50 participants were trained.

On international collaboration, CRIN and German Industry and Commerce in Nigeria (DGIC) have also partnered on a cashew education and training project following the establishment of the dual vocational education system, an approach which offers excellent skills development in Germany’s education system, which seeks to provide a platform for stakeholders to strengthen the market for vocational education and training (VET) in Nigeria. The endorsements opened discussions between DGIC and CRIN to achieve the objective of the organisation for cashew value chain development in pilot states in Nigeria.

As part of its corporate social responsibility in human capital development, 15 students on an internship with the CRIN were trained in the production techniques of cashew milk on September 6, 2021. The scheme was anchored by the Value Addition Research Department with Mr Mokwunye Chukwuma, Assistant Head, Processing Division of the Department, as the trainer.

Apart from that, the institute organised training on chocolate and soap production with cocoa pod husks for interns to transform waste into wealth and empower the youth.

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.

The institute’s executive director, Adebola expressed optimism that CRIN would meet the target of yearly distribution of 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.
   
Again, CRIN and Agro-processing, Productivity Enhancement and Livelihood Improvement Support Project (APPEALS), a World-Bank assisted project, have partnered towards the actualisation of the project, a capacity building on “Good Agricultural Practices for Sustainable Cashew Production in Kogi State,” organised for cashew farmers by the coordinating office of APPEALS project, Kogi State, in Kogi East, Central and West Senatorial districts from April 5 to 15, 2021.

A total of 568 cashew farmers, including youths and women, were drawn from 11 clusters across eight local councils of the state.

Tackling Industrial Crises

IT was a great task of rebuilding and reposition the institute considering the deep-seated animosity and stagnation that embroiled the system following unpaid debts, moribund infrastructure, withheld funds and aggrieved staff whose morale was at the lowest ebb.

 
Part of the frequent industrial disharmony in CRIN before now was also due to delayed promotion. However, the institute conducted a 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 a 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 are also being paid.

In the same vein, payment of overdue staff entitlements, including resettlement allowances, first 28 days of staff transferred to substations where there are no staff quarters, repatriation allowances (the year 2013 to 2020), deceased staff arrears (2013 to date), training arrears (year 2013 to 2020) and unpaid vouchers (the year 2017 to 2020) to the tune of N26,191,459.27 have been approved.

Adebola explained: “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 Jao and members, I have been able to unite stakeholders and bring 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 we have won their support.”

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 June 18, 2021, after it stopped for more than a year. The Pure Water Factory was handed over to the Director in charge of the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), Mrs. P. A. Ubebe in February 2020, but the factory stopped production in March 2020 due to a shortage of materials. On resumption of office by the ED CRIN, Dr Adebola promised to revive the factory.

The bakery unit, again, commenced production on June 7, 2022. Adebola equipped the bakery with modern facilities and ensured that production commenced, managed on Public Private Partnership (PPP) approach with the Institute’s Cooperative Investment and Credit Society (CI&CS).

Adebola explained that one of the major items on 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.
 
The management has also facilitated a World Cocoa Foundation/African Cocoa Initiative Phase II (WCF/ACI II)-sponsored third Flavour Quality Laboratory (FQL) at CRIN. The grant was to support the hosting country (institution) by supplying the equipment and fund the training and activities of the laboratory for two years, while the host will provide adequate laboratory space.

The interactions of CRIN with NEPC have also yielded an N50 million grant. The NEPC offered the grant to support the production of cash crop, particularly cocoa and cashew.

According to Ibiremo, the programme leader of the Cashew Programme, the institute embarked on capacity building of the stakeholders at Ogbomosho and Kabba (Kogi State). The other component of the grant is the establishment of a polyclonal seed garden, and CRIN successfully procured two hectares of land at Ilero (Oyo State) and Kabba College of Agriculture (Kogi State) for the purpose. About 1600 grafted seedlings of cashew were used.

A visit by journalists to the institute also revealed that there were ongoing structural transformations in the institute. They cut across road construction, laboratory, conference hall, electrification, training centre, perimeter fencing, furniture and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) upgrade, among others.