The National, Thursday 18th April 2013
MORE than 10,000 cocoa farming families on Karkar Island in Madang will benefit from a rehabilitation project funded by the PNG Sustainable Development Program Ltd (PNGSDP).
The project financing agreement was signed yesterday by the company, Sumkar MP Ken Fairweather, the PNG Cocoa Coconut Institute, provincial and national governments.
The agreement is between PNGSDP, the provincial government, which will manage the project, and the institute, which will be the implementing agency.
The aim is to restore the ailing cocoa industry on the island and restore farmers’ income to former levels.
David Sode, chief executive officer of PNGSDP said: “The cocoa industry on the island has been in decline for many years because of the farmers’ inability to obtain new high-yield pest-resistant trees and their use of outdated farming techniques.
“More recently, their trees have been hit by the cocoa pod borer, which was identified on the island in 2010.
“The cumulative impact has devastated them. The cocoa harvest fell from 2,000 tonnes in 2009 to 300 tonnes in the first half of 2012.
“The island’s income from cocoa fell from K9 million in 2009 to a mere K1.4 million today.
“This project is therefore not simply a way to improve farming efficiency. It is a way to restore the incomes of 10,000 households.
“PNGSDP therefore is very pleased to be a partner with the national and provincial government and the PNG Cocoa Coconut Institute.”
PNGSDP is putting K2 million into the project with the national government chipping in K2 million and the Sumkar joint district planning and budget priorities committee K1.5 million.
The project will supply one million seedlings to 5,000 village growers (200 seedlings per household).
Kulili and Biapi plantation estates have been contracted to establish the nurseries and Budwood gardens to supply the seedlings.
A further one million seedlings will also be supplied to plantation growers.
Dogowan and Wokilon plantations will also be rehabilitated under the institute’s supervision.
The institute will also establish farmer training facilities at Dogowan and supervise the training of farmers on cocoa pod borer management and other farming techniques.
Karkar farmers asked PNGSDP to help them after they inspected a successful PNGSDP-funded cocoa rehabilitation project in East New Britain implemented by NGIP-Agmark.
The ENB project, for which PNGSDP provided K2.8m out of a total project cost of K3.4 million, has been a big success.
Almost 100,000 of 250,000 seedlings have been planted, work on farmer training facilities has begun and nurseries and budwood gardens are being established.