Build our economy on agriculture is the story of Bougainville for Papua New Guinea. The National’s Senior Writer MALUM NALU was part of a World Bank Team that travelled to Bougainville, East New Britain and East Sepik to gauge the success of the Productive Partnerships in Agriculture Project (PPAP) cocoa and coffee components. This is the first stop – Bougainville:
IT’S an amazing story of how the people of Bougainville, after the crisis, have rebuilt their lives and economy on agriculture, especially cocoa.
They are growing cocoa like never before with the support of World Bank’s PPAP and other international agencies – building houses, buying trucks and sending their children to universities with cocoa money.
Atave … farmers now have high-yield clonal cocoa seedlings
Charles Atave says PPAP’s funding and guidance in agriculture development and technology has helped Central Bougainville cocoa farmers significantly.
“Yields are higher and income is stable and growing. Private nurseries charged so much for seedlings and we didn’t have high-yield clonal cocoa as we do today,” he said.
“Under the PPAP, every registered farmer was given 200 clonal seedlings. When these grow up, we will be producing so much cocoa,” he added.
Atave said the production growth momentum could be disrupted if PPAP suddenly stopped their support.
“It must continue for the good of people here. We want field officers to continue working with us. Farmers live in very remote areas and these clonal seedlings are new technology. When they mature, the high cocoa production will bring us so much money,” he added.
Atave said cocoa was the major breadwinner for the people of Bougainville.
“Cocoa was the major cash crop in pre-Bougainville crisis and still is today. Cocoa is everywhere in Bougainville, even up in the hills and mountains, unlike other cash crops. As PPAP is about to end, my concern is that there must be someone to continue helping us with our cocoa planting, especially the clonal varieties.
“We don’t want to be left in the dark without any ensuing assistance for progress. I think it is too premature for PPAP to leave.
“I am delighted that the World Bank team has visited us on the ground and talked with us.”
Omariko … training has brought about benefits to cocoa farmers
Bougainville village chief Ambrose Omariko says the PPAP has given good life-skills training to his people.
Omariko, who is chief of Donsiro Village at Morgan Junction on the road leading to the abandoned Panguna Mine, said: “One major benefit of PPAP has been training. They have trained us to manage our cocoa fields as well as the income from cocoa sales.
“Men, especially, must know how to properly manage their earnings. Misusing monies can cause problems for both communities and families.
“They must not waste money on unnecessary things like alcohol. There must know how to budget expenses and set aside savings,” he added.
Doris … intercropping cocoa and vanilla
Doris Nayat, a woman cocoa farmer in South Bougainville’s Oria Village, is intercropping with vanilla.
Vanilla is lucrative with prices at more than K1,000 per kilogramme.
“My family started growing vanilla recently, and we are waiting eagerly for our (maiden) harvest.
“We are intercropping cocoa with vanilla. We learned how to cultivate vanilla in Rabaul.
“We have started growing vanilla because prices are now very good and lucrative,” she added.
Geraldine … generational training to sustain and grow cocoa production
Autonomous Region of Bougainville (AROB) PPAP Cocoa Project manager Geraldine Paul says the cocoa project has transformed the lives of the islanders.
Gearldine, who works for PPAP lead partner World Vision in Arawa, said farmers were delivering truckloads of cocoa beans daily for sale.
“The Bougainville’s economy is largely cocoa-driven,” she added.
The PPAP made its debut in Bougainville in 2012 through a partnership with Monpi Cocoa Exports, with the baton now passed on to World Vision.
Geraldine said the PPAP’s project would end on Dec 31.
“This partnership has lifted the lives of farmers with the introduction of clonal cocoa seedlings. Each farmer participating in the project received 200 clonal cocoa seedlings each.
“They also got tools like knapsacks, pruners, bow saws, secateurs and other essential tools to help them maintain their cocoa blocks.
“The main goal of the project is to improve the livelihood of the farmers, making sure that they have money at the end of the day.
“When they plant their 200 cocoa trees, they are expected to have a full harvest within two to three years. From the trees, they can have four to five dried bean bags.
“With the current price at K450 to K470 per bag, each farmer would earn between K2,500 and K3,000 whenever they go and sell their bags.
“That’s a lot of money,” Geraldine said, adding that World Vision also teach and train farmers how to manage their finances and savings.
“This programme has given them guidance on how they can spend their money wisely, and make informed decisions within their households. That is inclusive of their wives, husbands and children on how they prioritise and plan their spending.
“If it means building a new house, sending their children to school, the sale of cocoa beans assists them to do that.
“One other important element of this project that has actually contributed so much to the community is partnership, not so much at the top level, but within the farmer groups.
“You go to a block and you see that the block is being managed well, the community is clean, you know that there’s partnership within the community and they are all working together.
“They are replicating the same within their own cluster groups. There’s a lead farmer who works with 25 farmers. The technical training that we provide to our farmers is generational training.
“Generational training means it doesn’t stop there. This skill will be passed down to their children, and their children will provide it to their children.
“In the past, there was no such quality technical training,” she added.
Mara … PPAP-funded road providing farmers with easier access to markets and services
Kariapa Village chief James Mara says the PPAP-funded Kariapa-Wapa feeder road in Tinputz, North Bougainville is a game changer for his people.
“The road will bring in many benefits to my people,” he said.
“It will help us transport our cocoa, copra and other crops to market, as well as providing us with easier access to services.
“I am very happy because this road has now taken away many of the problems we faced.
“I praise the World Bank for funding this road through the PPAP. We are among the least-privileged people in Tinputz.
“Vehicles can now pick us up at our doorsteps. We can travel to town and back at ease.
“Before this road was constructed and opened, we used to walk a long distance to the main Bougainville Highway, with heavy loads on our shoulders.”
Tau … PPAP effective in generating farming activities and income
Central Bougainville lead farmer Koi Tau says the project had worked very effectively in generating farming activities and income since its introduction.
Tau owns a nursery which supplies seedlings to farmers in the area, as well as Torokina on the other side of the island and South Bougainville.
“I am very happy with this project. Everyone wants the project which is ending at the end of the year. We hope there is a project extension because cocoa is our main source of income,” he said.
He said the clonal cocoa was fruiting three times what an average tree used to produce.
“Everyone, including myself, make a lot of money from cocoa. I pay school fees for my three children in Port Moresby, Lae and Rabaul.
“I look after all of them with the income from cocoa. And I have also ventured into other businesses, such as raising and selling chickens.,” he added.
Tau said PPAP had only been around for the last three years but the benefits were tangible.
“The farmers have seen the benefits of the project and want it to be extended,” he said.
Paulias … three new roads and upgrading of existing roads
PPAP senior engineer Raymond Paulias says the project had seen the construction and commissioning of three feeder roads in Bougainville covering 14km at a cost of K8 million.
Two of the roads are in South Bougainville and the third, in North Bougainville.
Paulias, who looks after Component 3’s market access infrastructure, said the key drive to cocoa production and supply was road links and access.
“We basically upgrade existing feeder roads to improve market access for our farmers,” he said.
“The total portfolio for the component in PNG is just under K32 million. We have rehabilitated six feeder roads in East New Britain including one culvert up in Warongoi.
“In the Momase Region, we have completed a 6.1km feeder road in the Markham area (Morobe), and we are just about to complete another 6km road in the Transgogol area (Madang).
“Currently, we are progressing rehabilitation work to five feeder roads in East Sepik – four in Maprik and one in Yangoru – at a total investment of K10 million.
“The aim of the investment is to ease some of the constraints afflicting farmers so that the cost of transport to market is reduced.
“The project started in 2014 and is coming to the closing phase. The project should end by the end of this year.”
Koluvai … laid down guns for cocoa cultivation
South Bougainville lead PPAP cocoa farmer Timothy Koluvai says cocoa has contributed significantly to bringing peace to the once-troubled island.
“I was also involved in the Bougainville Crisis that saw fighting between opposing groups. Many others and I have laid down our guns and are now growing cocoa as Bougainville prepares for Referendum in November.
“Even those who hold guns need money,” he said in his Oria Village in Konnou.
“Since this the launch of the programme (PPAP), we have gone to locations labelled as ‘no go zones’, and helped the people.
“We gave them cocoa seeds and this helped to bring about peace among people who were once enemies. We had a double conflict: First was the Bougainville conflict and the second was the Konnou conflict.
“Not many people died in the previous conflict with the PNG Government, but in the Konnou conflict, so many people died.
“Now, we are all living in peace, and cocoa has played a part in this process.
“Cocoa played a major role in Bougainville before the crisis, and this continues today.”
Koluvai’s house in Oria is the major coordination point for the PPAP and lead partner World Vision.
He said the PPAP had played a major role in transforming the lives of the people of Bougainville.
“I am happy that 800 or so farmers in my area are benefitting from the project,” Koluvai said.
“Now they have money in their pockets, money for school fees, money for the needs of their families.
“This project has had a major impact on the lives of the people.
“The clonal cocoa we are now growing has no season, meaning we harvest all year round.
“I am happy for the support that PPAP has given to the people of Bougainville and Papua New Guinea.”
Koluvai said feeder roads for cocoa farmers built by PPAP were also a game changer for the island.
Tina … PPAP has helped us to become financially independent
Tina Dikisi, a woman cocoa farmer from Morgan Junction along the road leading to the abandoned Panguna Mine on Bougainville, says women on the island are happy with the growing cocoa production and industry.
“It has had a big impact on our lives,” she said, adding that the villagers and farmers had been looking into ways to earn money to help their families after the Bougainville Crisis.
“Cocoa has really taken away this burden of looking for money or income. It has helped us to pay school fees and food for our children. Mothers are now so grateful for the peace and benefits that are helping us to focus our attention on raising our children,” she added.
Tina said as Bougainville geared up for the Referendum in November and a possible independence, “the PPAP has helped us to become financially independent”.