The 2018 edition of the annual Cocoa Festival which is the celebration of Nigeria’s cocoa origin and showcases the rich cultural heritage of Eti-Oni people is here! It is scheduled to hold between 2nd and 9th December 2018 at Gureje Square, Eti-Oni, Osun State, Nigeria. The annual ceremony kicked off in two spectacular events in the UK by ‘Friends of Eti-Oni’, a non-profit organization set up by a group of British women and registered in the UK in conjunction with Eti-Oni Development Group, EDG to support the vision of HRM Oba Dokun Thompson, the Oloni of Eti-Oni, Osun State, Nigeria to transform the rural community of Eti-Oni into a sustainable model smart town in line with the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.
An afternoon of tasting and pairing to showcase Eti-Oni Signature Dishes, savoury and sweet chocolate recipes which were created to balance a complexity of flavours to tantalize the palate with African, Caribbean and European Influence infused with Eti-Oni cocoa or interlaced with Eti-Oni chocolate developed and hosted by Jon Ganna, a Fellow of the Guild of Master Chefs on Sunday 21 October, 2018 at Huntingdon, UK.
The Annual Royal Cocoa Festival Dinner held on Wednesday 24 October 2018 at the Hoare Memorial Hall, Church House, Westminster, London SW1P 3NZ.
The objective of the events is to create awareness of the origin and value of cocoa in Nigeria and to inculcate a cocoa culture that will build bridges between cultivation in production regions and consumption in the Western world. The ultimate objective is to change the cocoa narrative in Nigeria and other regions from the current extractive position to an integrated view that takes cognizance of the various potentials for wealth creation along the value chain.
The events also created opportunities for networking, cultural exchanges and improving of bilateral relationships through engagement and contribution towards transforming communities that cultivate the cocoa beans from which chocolates, loved by all in Europe and the rest of the West, are manufactured and provided a platform to exchange ideas with various stakeholders in the Global Chocolate Industry for the realization of our vision of the economic and social regeneration in these communities.
The Dinner was indeed an exciting and memorable evening with 120 VIP Guests beautifully anchored by Otunba Gbolahan Macjob. The welcome address was by Princess Busola Fawole (Patron, Friends of Eti-Oni) followed by a brief introduction of Friends of Eti-Oni by Ms Yemisi Jenkins MBE (Global Coordinator, Friends of Eti-Oni). The Chairman of the Dinner was His Excellency Hon Guy Mayers (St. Lucia High Commissioner to the UK) who in his opening remarks pointed out the importance of Africa and the Caribbean to take advantage of their brotherly roots and build on the potentials the tourism industry offers as a way to develop several business opportunities together.
The Special Guest of Honour, Professor the Lord Alton of Liverpool (Member British House of Lords) in his remarks mentioned that the Eti-Oni enterprise was one he was happy to identify with as it is all about deepening relationships and that the Eti-Oni Chocolate has become the Symbol of creating true bilateral relationship and not exploitative ones.
Other speakers included Sophie Jewett (CEO of York Cocoa House) who was the Special Guest Speaker. She gave an inspiring narrative of her journey in the chocolate business. Chantal Coady OBE (Founder of Rococo Chocolates) shared her experience with chocolate from when she was very young all through becoming a chocolate maker and now producing cocoa. Angus Kennedy (CEO Kennedy’s Confection, the oldest confectionery magazine in the UK) spoke about his life’s journey and interest in cocoa and his plan to come and live and work as a cocoa farmer in Eti-Oni to make a movie on life as a cocoa farmer as a way to working on adding value to cocoa production.
His Royal Majesty, Oba George Akande (The Olusi of Usi-Ekiti) brought greetings from Nigeria sharing his experience at the 2017 edition of the Cocoa Festival and extolled the work of Oba Dokun Thompson on cocoa in Nigeria with the message now extended to the UK.
The highlight of the evening saw the Coffee Table Style Hard Cover 160 Page Book, The Royal Origins and Traditions of Cocoa: A Photo Documentary; Eti-Oni – History Lifestyle & Landscape written and compiled by HRM Oba Dokun Thompson presented by Andrew Whiting (Chairman Beech’s Fine Chocolates). There was also a brief book signing ceremony and presented to some of the VIPS that included The 5th Baron Lord Hylton, Baroness Cox of Queensbury and Fiona Bruce MP. Also present were Alastair Masser (Former Special Adviser to David Cameron, now Communications Director of Legatum Institute), Hon Anton ‘de Piro (Chief of Staff at Stanhill Capital), Rebecca Tinsley, Dokun Omidiora (MD/CEO Intro Africa Group), Otunba Lai Oriowo, Arc Biodun Fari-Arole, Pastor and Dr (Mrs) Abraham, Pastor James Ademuyiwa, Atiti Izogie (Founder and CEO Eyato Designs London), Ewelina Ochab, Jennifer Obaseki of Obaseki Solicitors, Mobin Rafiq, Stella Okuzu (FCMB Bank UK Ltd), Henrietta Abraham (Acting Chairperson, Nigeria British Chamber of Commerce, UK), Princess Odiakosa (CEO Kalabari Gecko Chocolates Nigeria) and other notable Nigerians who have excelled in their various fields of endeavor in the United Kingdom including the Medical, Real Estate, Finance, Information, Communication and Technology (ICT), Legal fields etc.
In his remarks, HRM Oba Dokun Thompson appreciated everyone and said they were all truly loved in the same spirit that the Cocoa Festival embodies for true friendship and partnerships to achieve peace, love and development. In his vote of thanks, Mr. Ben Oguntala (Member EDG Advisory Board) appreciated all the sponsors particularly the Gold Sponsor – Taste of Harmony (Handmade Chocolates, Handmade Flower Bouquets and Special Gifts), Silver Sponsor – Obaseki Solicitors, Bronze Sponsor – FCMB Bank (UK) Limited supported by Stanhill Foundation, Boekenhoutskloof (Franschhoek, Cape of Good Hope, South Africa) and the several partners that included: Duffy’s Fine Chocolate, Beech’s Fine Chocolate, Kalabari Gecko Chocolate Nigeria, Pod Chocolates Nigeria, Kennedy’s Confection, Triple T Media Studios, Studio 24, Nigeria British Chamber of Commerce, African Tourism Market and Eti-Oni Tourism. He went further to say when he met HM The Oloni a few years back, The Oloni said to him that part of his mission was to redefine Africa which rang a bell to him but had no idea of what that meant and how he intended to go about it but by the end of the evening and looking around the room at the array of guests from different cultures and backgrounds representing several countries across several continents, he now began to have a clearer understanding and really commend his work and achievement to date in such short period and making him part of it.
The evening climaxed in the tradition of the Friends of Eti-Oni with the Patron presenting beautiful bouquet of flowers to all the ladies who had contributed to the success of the evening, the recipients included all the lady speakers, Baroness Cox, Fiona Bruce MP, Lady Alton and Lady Hylton surprise presentations were made to the wife of the St Lucia High Commissioner to the UK and Princess Yemisi Thompson-Bello (The Twin Sister of HM The Oloni) who flew in to join her brother in the celebrations after which beautiful gift boxes of fine chocolates donated by all the partnering chocolate companies including Rococo and York Cocoa House were won in a raffle draw that brought the evening to a close. A remarkable and memorable evening, positively charged and left everyone asking for more. Lord Hylton’s comment was simply, the event had given him some answers to the plight of farmers in Somerset while Fiona Bruce commented it was a lesson learnt about true friendship and partnerships.