This film is held by the BFI (ID: 18320).


The story of Lawani, a Nigerian cocoa farmer and member of a Co-operative Primary Society, who with his son and hired labourer, successfully harvests and sells his cocoa beans.

The commentator introduces Lawani, a Nigerian cocoa farmer with a four-acre farm, and shows the work on the farm performed by Lawani, and his son, Belo. Belo serves as the clerk of the farm - 'Lawani can't read or write, but Belo has been to school' - and gains experience from his father in the hope that he will one day assume full control of the farm. The commentator offers details of the picking and fermenting process - 'Beans are still damp when you take them from the heap' - before the beans are then packed. This is, the commentator explains, when the farmer's 'biggest worry begins' as traditionally prices are now agreed. Yet, Lawani has joined a co-operative society, which markets the crops for him. The society is shown in operation - 'the society helps to improve crops' - as Belo invests his money in a bank account through the society and then attends a meeting in the evening. Lawani then goes to the society headquarters and meets the men who run the Union, including the President, who is a member of Nigeria's parliament and a cocoa farmer himself. Next, the produce is loaded from the warehouse, inspected and transported by lorries and trains to Lagos, where a ship is sailing shortly to America. The film emphasises the speed and efficiency of this process, concluding that 'small farmers have joined together and have been able themselves to find men of character and ability to lead them and manage their affairs'.



In December 1947, Colonial Cinema, the quarterly publication of the Colonial Film Unit, outlined the role and objectives of the unit. ‘It is a first principle of Colonial Film Unit production’, it began, ‘that its films shall be made specifically for Colonial audiences, with distribution normally confined to Colonial territories. At no stage, from initial choice of subject to recording of the commentary, is consideration given to any other potential audience’. The editorial noted however that ‘when theme and material are of sufficiently general interest, the question of a re-edited version for other audiences may subsequently arise’ (Colonial Cinema, December 1947).

The editorial referred to two CFU productions that were being re-edited. The first was Weaving in Togoland, now intended for ‘use principally in primary schools’ and the second was Good Business, ‘which will reach wider audiences, and [will be] the first to be given theatrical distribution’. The editorial further explained that ‘generally speaking, the theatrical version will be a “streamlined” edition of the original, with a specifically written commentary. The difference will be in technique rather than approach, so that the film will remain substantially unaltered’ (Colonial Cinema, December 1947).

The Colonial Office’s file for Nigerian Cocoa Farmer confirmed that the film was a re-edited version of Good Business, ‘undertaken on behalf of the Colonial Office as an allied service’. The file outlined the costings for the film. £206 was paid to the Crown Film Unit ‘in respect of final editing and recording of commentary and completion’, while an additional £5 was paid to the commentator Ralph Hurcombe and a sum ‘not exceeding £25’ was paid to cover the fine grain duping of the original film. However, while Colonial Cinema had stated that the re-edited film would be shown in theatres, the Colonial Office’s file explained that Nigerian Cocoa Farmer was intended for non-theatrical distribution at home and overseas (INF 6/30).

There are significant distinctions between Good Business, a film intended for African audiences, and Nigerian Cocoa Farmer, intended for British audiences. These differences are not only in the film text – and specifically the commentary – but also in the intended function of the films. Colonial Cinema argued that ‘for the African peasant for whom the film was made, the message of Good Business needs little elaboration. For audiences elsewhere it should prove an unusually interesting sidelight not only on the economic life of West Africa, but also on an important aspect of African social development’ (Colonial Cinema, December 1947, 88-89). Good Business played in Nigeria as part of Peter Morton-Williams’ experiments with African film audiences, and he explained that the original film was made with the help of members of the Ibadan farmers co-operative to ‘encourage Yoruba cocoa farmers in the development of co-operative marketing societies, and the production of high quality cocoa’ (Morton-Williams, 1952, 20). William Sellers, the head of the CFU, had told an audience at the British Kinematograph Society in 1947 that ‘with appropriate editing and a specially written commentary’, Good Business should show ‘not the dark continent of the picture-postcard travelogue, but a good honest slice of Africa as it really is, throwing light on a little-known aspect of colonial development in which African initiative, self-reliance and self-government play a significant part’ (Colonial Cinema, March 1948, 10). Film historian Rosaleen Smyth elaborated on this ‘dual propaganda purpose’, arguing that what was ‘primarily a promotional film for the co-operative movement’, was now adapted ‘for showing to non-African audiences to demonstrate the achievements of British colonial rule’ (Smyth, 1992, 167). 



Nigerian Cocoa Farmer is an example of a Colonial Film Unit production which was re-edited for non-African audiences. While the original film – Good Business – was intended as an instructional film for African farmers, members of the Colonial office recognised that it also represented a ‘most valuable account of an achievement of the kind that home and foreign critics of British colonial rule usually claim to be non-existent’ (Smyth, 1992, 167).

Nigerian Cocoa Farmer now promoted this broader message of colonial development within Africa, replacing some of the specific details and instructional elements with a new commentary. It retains the narrative and photography of Good Business, but from the outset the commentary evidently caters for a non-African audience. The British commentator offers detail for those unfamiliar with farming life in West Africa – ‘a farmer gathers the harvest twice each year’ – and later notes that the Americans, ‘like ourselves, must import cocoa’. The tone and language of the commentary is also different. For example, in Good Business the commentator directly involves the audience, by asking questions – ‘Where is Lawani going in the truck?’ – and states, somewhat simplistically, that ‘Lawani is a wise man because he realised that alone he is weak but several farmers together are strong and important’. In Nigerian Cocoa Farmer, the commentator states instead that ‘small farmers have joined together and have been able themselves to find men of character and ability to lead them and manage their affairs’.

This sense of change and development, recognised within Good Business and further emphasised within Nigerian Cocoa Farmer, manifests itself in a number of ways. For example, the commentary in both films notes the improvements in education – ‘Lawani can’t read or write, but Belo has been to school’ – and highlights the need for both modern education and experience within farming. The film illustrates the emergence of a self-governing society (the President of the Union is ‘a member of Nigeria’s parliament [and] a cocoa farmer himself’), and the export trade with America and Britain. In particular, it highlights the growth of co-operative societies ‘with government encouragement’. This is common in other CFU productions – for example, Co-operative Fishing shows North Sea fishermen forming a co-operative society and ‘the advantages they enjoyed through using co-operative methods’. In Good Business this emphasis on co-operative societies is intended to persuade the viewer and encourage further membership, while Nigerian Cocoa Farmer instead serves as an indication to non-African audiences of the developments and initiatives introduced under British rule in West Africa.

Tom Rice (April 2009)


Works Cited

‘Editorial Notes’, Colonial Cinema, December 1947, 75.

‘Good Business’, Colonial Cinema, December 1947, 88-89. 

Morton-Williams, P., Cinema in Rural Nigeria: A Field Study of the Impact of Fundamental-Education Films on Rural Audiences in Nigeria (Lagos: Federal Information Services, 1952).

‘Nigerian Cocoa Farmer, 1948’, INF 6/30, accessed at the National Archives.

Sellers, W., ‘Address to the British Kinematograph Society’, Colonial Cinema, March 1948, 9-11.

Smyth, Rosaleen, ‘The Post-War Career of the Colonial Film Unit in Africa: 1946-1955’, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol. 12, No.2, 1992, 163- 177.




Technical Data

Running Time:
10 minutes
Film Gauge (Format):
16mm Film

Production Credits

Production Countries:
Great Britain
Central Office of Information
Colonial Office
Hurcombe, Ralph
Production Company
Colonial Film Unit





Production Organisations