The National, Wednesday July 17th, 2013
By JOHN PANGKATANA
FARMERS in Ambunti-Drekikier, East Sepik, are waiting for the Government to honour its contractual obligations to implement their cocoa and coconut project.
The 26,000 farmers were beneficiaries of Government funding in 2010 to develop more than 35 fermenters and nurseries under the public-private partnership programme through Sepik Commodity Development Ltd.
The Government had approved K3 million for the project.
So far Sepik Development Ltd, through team leader Nick Klapat, has distributed more than 5.8 million seedlings costing K2 million in phase one of the project.
While the project proved to be a success so far with the farmers enjoying the benefits, there has been a delay for the past two years because of outstanding payments to the Cocoa Coconut Research Institute (CCRI) in Rabaul to buy and deliver 250,000 seedlings and bud-wood.
Ambunti-Dreikikier Cocoa Farmers coordinator Arnold Tawong said the amount needed was the balance yet to be released by the Government.
“It is actually just over K1.5 million to successfully complete the project,” he said.
“The purchase of the bud-wood and seedlings will allow the farmers to set up their own fermenters. This will cut down huge costs.”
Tawong said they were consulting the Agriculture and Livestock and National Planning departments for reliable project audits and endorsement for future funding support to extend the service to more farmers.
“One success story is Asanoko village, in the Dreikikir district, which produces a tonne of cocoa weekly,” he said.
Tawong said the success of the project complemented the Government’s priority on agriculture to be the backbone of the country under Vision 2050.
“Rural farmers need that financial and technical empowerment to maintain interest in the sector,” Tawong said.