The National, Monday July 1st, 2013
A WORLD Bank-supported project is helping revive interest in growing cocoa and restoring livelihoods.
COCOA is a lifeline for thousands of small farmers in Papua New Guinea (PNG), providing vital income for some 20 percent of the country’s population.
In 2006, a devastating disease ravaged the crops of thousands of small farmers in East New Britain, the first province in PNG to be affected by the cocoa pod borer (CPB).
The impact of this disease, as many will know, is severe.
Untreated, its larvae tunnel into fresh cocoa pods and decimate cocoa harvests.
East New Britain’s cocoa farmers saw as much as 90 percent of their crops destroyed.
Total production in the province plummeted from 22,000 tonnes in 2008 to under 4,000 in 2012.
This left many families without a basic income, and created a great deal of hardship.
Across the province, communities described how the loss of income left them unable to meet their daily needs, from sending their children to school, or paying for transport to get to town.
Farmers went from harvesting some 15 bags of dry beans, to just one or two bags a month. Many gave up on their cocoa.
Alois Dulia works as an assessor at Agmark, one of the cocoa buying companies in the province. He remembers when the factory was filled with cocoa beans, and farmers were literally queuing to sell their produce.
“There were farmers all the time, and we could hardly keep up with so much supply,” he recalls.
“Now, because we’ve got the disease it’s slowing everything.
“This place used to be full of cocoa. These days, we are always waiting for farmers to arrive.”
Initiated in 2011, the World Bank’s Productive Partnerships in Agriculture Project (PPAP) is supporting community-led projects in East New Britain and Bougainville to help thousands of small farmers control the outbreak and restore their livelihoods.
Five cocoa partnerships have been funded under the first round of the project, helping provide seedlings of more CPB-tolerant cocoa varieties.
Many farmers have received training on techniques to manage CPB, and are working with extension workers to pass on their knowledge in their communities.
Measures such as regular harvesting, pruning, good block sanitation and pod burial can eliminate as much as 98% of CPB infestation.
Hosea Turburat is the manager of the Central Inland Baining Rehabilitation Partnership, part of the PPAP, which will rehabilitate 500 hectares of land.
Altogether it will provide 100,000 new cocoa seedlings, for 500 farmers in the remote Bainings area.
“The main advantage is to increase production, because we are introducing hybrids which are CPB resistant, and also to increase income and improve standards of living,” Turburat said.
“We have already seen really invigorated interest in cocoa. The project has provided assistance to help farmers recover and re-establish their cocoa plots, and replant the trees.”
The project is also helping farmers plant other crops such as galip nut or taro as an additional income source.
Some projects are supporting local agribusiness development and marketing, especially for women farmers.
Funded by the World Bank’s International Development Association and the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the project is supporting coffee and cocoa farmers through 11 partnerships in six provinces to date.
It aims to boost productivity and increase incomes for small farmers.
With growing community interest, more such projects are in the pipeline.
Another 14 partnerships are expected to be approved in the next few months. By the end of this year, more than 18,000 farmers will be benefiting from the project. – Article courtesy World Bank