The European Union-funded Support to Rural Entrepreneurship, Investment and Trade in Papua New Guinea (Eu-Streit PNG) in collaboration with Foundation of Women in Agriculture Development (Fowiad) Cooperative Society Ltd on April 7 launched the first distribution of 6,150 cocoa pod borer (CPB)-tolerant seedlings to 123 farmers in the hinterland of East Sepik.
This partnership follows an agreement between Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations under European Union funded Streit PNG and Fowiad, a leading women and youth non-government organization (NGO), on Feb 17.
Fowiad for the last 20-plus years has been supporting over 2,000 women and youth including widows and single parents to venture into agriculture to support their livelihood. The 29 female and 94 male recipients of the clonal seedlings are from Jambitangit and Lingu villages in North Wosera LLG.
“We want to say thank you to Fowiad for bringing FAO under EU-Streit PNG to support us under this programme,” said ward Mmember and farmer, Smith Takura on behalf of cocoa families who gathered at the Fowiad nursery site in Hayfield, Maprik to receive 18 varieties of clone seedlings.
Deputy coordinator of the EU-Streit PNG programme Dr Pavel Burian at the official launching urged the farmers to take part in cocoa work as a serious business for the programme to support them well through Fowiad.
“The programme will help you to take active part in agriculture as a business and not as a leisure activity. Therefore we will help people who are able to mobilise themselves so it is important that you put in your own effort to benefit from the programme and not be left behind,” said Dr Burian.
The farmers who are members of active cluster groups were overwhelmed upon reception of 50 seedlings each, which they had been eagerly waiting for years.
To ensure that no one is left behind, one recipient per household was selected after having benefited from cocoa propagation training. She/he, with the support of their family unit or hamlet is expected to propagate their own supply of clonal seedlings. In the process, they will continue to improve on their budding speed and at the same time train at least 10 other farmers, thereby passing on this important live skill for the communities even after the end of the programme.
“The minimum period for seedlings to start bearing fruits is 18 months as long as you (farmers) manage your cocoa blocks to ensure that the seedlings grow well. We also have a package of activities within the agreement signed with Fowiad, to work closely with you,” explained Dr Rabi Rasaily, senior agricultural Officer of EU-Streit PNG.
Women and youth who are often ignored or left behind in many agriculture opportunities in the past are now showing keen interest in cocoa farming activities like CPB seed propagation (budding) trainings that the programme, in close collaboration with local partners like Cocoa Board, East Sepik Provincial Department of Agriculture and Livestock (DAL), NGOs like Fowiad and cocoa cooperatives are rolling out to rural communities in the Sepik.
Budding of cocoa seedlings is the latest innovation in the cocoa value chain to produce CPB tolerant varieties to replace old cocoa trees which have been infested and destroyed by the CPB pest.
The aspiring women’s leader behind Fowiad is Monica Otto who, with the support of her extension officers, were joined by the EU-Streit PNG team to launch their first supply of CPB-tolerant seedlings under the partnership agreement.
“You fathers and husbands are the pillars, centre and soldiers of the family and I call on you to stand behind our mothers and girls, letting them to take the lead in the cocoa value chain development with the support of EU-STREIT PNG,” said Otto.
Her call was echoed by the programme’s international gender and youth Inclusion specialist, Patu Shang who invited the husbands to give their wives, daughters and the youth in general the opportunity to take a front row in the development of the cocoa value chain so as to guarantee a sustainable future.
“We cannot leave our women and young population behind. We’re either walking with them side by side or they are in front while the husbands give the necessary push, because FAO and the EU are conditioning this programme for everyone in the household to benefit,” said Patu.
Gender and youth inclusion is a key part of this rural agriculture development programme with women playing a key role in the targeted value chains of cocoa, vanilla and fisheries under EU-Streit PNG.
Also present to witness and report the launching of this first distribution was the Department of National Planning and Monitoring (DNPM) representative Jason Peter. “The cocoa, vanilla and fisheries value chains has the potential for you (famers) to venture into agribusiness to help alleviate poverty in rural areas of the country, therefore, you must play your part seriously to benefit from it,” said Peter who coordinates all EU-funded programmes in the country at the level of the DNPM in Port Moresby.
So far 43,355 CPB-tolerant seedlings have been distributed to over 10,000 farmers and the recipients include 38 per cent women and youth. Among the women are single mothers and widows. Of the total number of seedlings distributed 15,712 were supplied under a LoA with the Cocoa Board, 21,493 were distributed with direct supervision from EU-Streit PNG staff while 6150 is the first distribution of 100,000 seedlings was under a LoA with Fowiad.
The programme, working hand in hand with local partners, will continue to supply CPB-tolerant seedlings. Prior to receiving the seedlings, farmers are always trained in cocoa propagation, pre-seed germination, block management and rehabilitation techniques, etc. Many rural farmers in the Sepiks depend on income from cocoa bean sales to support their livelihood.
The EU-Streit PNG is the largest grant-funded programme of the European Union in the country and the Pacific sub-region. This agriculture rural development programme focuses on supporting smallholder cocoa, vanilla and fish farmers in the 10 districts of East and West Sepik.
It is being implemented as a UN joint programme under the leadership of FAO, partnering with the International Labour Organisation (ILO), International Telecommunication Union (ITU), United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and UN Development Programme (UNDP).
The FAO and the other four UN agencies operate in collaboration with the PNG Government.
- Story and pictures supplied by Streit PNG.