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How fertiliser use cal) increase cocoa, cassava yields, by report From Collins Olayinka. Abuja

1 A 71TH the right mix of ferV V tiliser and agrochemical, coupled with improved crop husbandry in West Africa, it is possible to increase the yields of cocoa and cassava without deforestation that is now threatening the ecosystem in the subregion, a group of researchers has said. The researchers from the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, discovered farms could.be spared roughly two million hectares of tropical forest from being cleared or severely degraded with the increase in the use of fertiliser on cocoa timber. On the average, farmers are using less than four kilogram of total nutrients per hecrare

in the region. The study suggests that farmers could have achieved the same outputs withour rampant deforestation, through the intensified use of fertiliser and agrochemicals, coupled with improved crop husbandry. According to IITA, the farmers could have doubled their income and avoided' deforestation and degradation on 2.1 .million hectares and in the process, would have generated a value of over $1,600 million on 13 billion tonnes of C02 emissions that would not have come from deforestation. The study, which was published in the peer-reviewed Environmental journal, Management said lowinput farming for cocoa,

cassava and oil palm has ing in large losses of biodiresulted in widespread versity and high carbon deforestation and degreda- emissions. The Guinean Rainforest tion of West Africa's tropical forest area. (GRF) of West Africa, identiCocoa production in West fied over 20 years ago as a Africa is an important com- global biodiversity hotspot, mercial sector and a source had reduced to 113,000 km2 of livelihoods for about two at the start of the new milmillion households in the lennium, which was 18 per region. For the last 20 years, cent of its original area, Cote d'lvoire has been the according to the rerort. largest producer, in' terms of The principal driver 0 this output and numbers of pro- environmental change has ducers, followed by Ghana, been the expansion of lowNigeria, and Cameroun. input smallholder agriculThese countries are now ture that depends on enviaccounting for 70 per cent of ronmentally destructive practices like slash-andglobal cocoa supply. According to the study, burn and land clearing. The findings should be cocoa production in West taken into consideration in Africa's Guinean Rainforest region doubled between discussions around efforts to 1987 and 2007, but most of reduce emissions from deforthis increase was fueled by estation, say researchers. clearing forest areas, result- Instead of considering com-

plica ted strategies involving monetary or in-kind transfers to farmers or communities for altering their land use behaviour. The researchers said that REDD funds could be used as incentives and to promote agricultural intenSification efforts that would lead to higher rural incomes, greater food security, and avoided emissions through the achievement of higher agricultural yields. According to the reports, there are more frontiers forests in West Africa for future generations to exploit. It said strategies to reduce deforestation and conserve- " biodiversity in . West Africa' must focus on transforming agricultural practices from tradItional to modern sci-

ence-based methods. According to the authors, funding support for reducing carbon emissions due to deforestation and degradation (REDD) to mitigate climate change as discussed in the Copenhagen Accord offers the potential of significant new public resources for needed investments in agricultural research. The value of avoided C02 emissions is conservatively estimated at $565 per hectare for achieving the envisaged doubling of yields. A Significant proportion of REDD+ funding should be used to increase the adoption and level of fertilizer use in a "fertilisers for forest" mitigation programme, the researchers said.

Edo begins disbursement of NIb agric loan tofarmers From Alemma-Ozioruva Aliu, Benin City

DO State Government has begun the disburse路ment of Nl billion loan to farmers in the three senatorial districts of the state where they were urged ,hem to make good use of the resources to make the state more agriculturally independent. A breakdown of the beneficiaries at the disborsmemt ceremony at the Samuel Ogbemudia stadium, at the weekend, showed that farmers from the Edo south Senatorial district made up of seven local government areas , got the highest with N470. 616 million, followed by Edo North comprising six local government areas with a total amount of N331.602 million, while Edo central got N197.843 million. Speaking at the presentation ceremony, the governor said the disbursement of the loan was delayed to make sure that the money gets to the right farmers and at the right time. He said his aaministration would not tolerate situations where loans meant for local farmers are . shared by top government 路 functionaries without getting to the real farmers in the local community. He said this was why he asked the Deputy Governor to chair the committee, which went round the local government councils to identity the actual farmers. "They set up Agricultural Cooperative Bank to provide loans to farmers , then all of a sudden, every retired military general oecame a farmer, every retired head of service became a farmer, every serving permanent secretary became a farmer, every director in the ministry became a farmer and the actual farmer never got one naira. So today I feel happy and I want you to help me salute the deputy governor, who headed the committee to ensure that the definition of farmer does not change for the purpose of this facility" . Tlie state Commissioner Osagie for Finance,

E

Negbedion, who said the sclieme, was to support the farmers in the state in collaboration with the United Bank for Africa (UBA), reveal that 720 cooperatives qualified under the scheme.

He said arable farmers, which made up of those that grow cassava, yam, rice, maize had 559 cooperatives were qualified for the loan. They got a total of N636 million, with each cooperative getting the

sum of NI. 135 million. Others, he said are farmers who grow tree crops like oil palm, cocoa and mango with total of 30 cooperatives and were given a total sum of N90 million, with each cooperative . getting

the sum of N3 million. He said the fishery sector has 65 cooperatives and got a total sum of N112 million, with each cooperative getting NI.723 million, Livestock farmers has 50 cooperatives and got a

total of N114 million, with each cooperative getting N2. 325 million, while the agro allied farmers got a total of N48 million for their 16 cooperative groups with each one getting the sum of N3 million.

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THE GUARDIAN, 12 April, 2011