Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Cocoa programme for Lower Watut communities

Cocoa is a major revenue-earner in Papua New Guinea and with the arrival of the cocoa pod borer (CPB) in 2006, efforts have been stepped up to save this very-lucrative commodity in the nation’s agricultural industry.

Fearing the potential negative impact of CPB on the industry if nothing was done, a national cocoa workshop on preparation of a strategic plan for the cocoa sector in PNG was held in April 2009, to discuss the findings and suggestions by a consultant headed by Agrifood Consulting International and to plan a way forward to save the industry.

A strategic plan was developed which contained five major goals including productivity – to increase average yields to 0.8 tonnes per hectare by 2015; production – to increase exports to 100, 000 tonnes by 2015,; profitability – to increase cocoa income to growers by at least 80% by 2015; CPB –losses due to CPB infestations contained at less than 10% of production and quality to enhance PNG’s market position as a supplier of high quality cocoa by 2015.

This is the plan on the national scale and Morobe Mining Joint Ventures (MMJV) is helping to ensure that this plan is implemented through the establishment of a cocoa programme for the villages and communities located in the footprint of its operations in Bulolo, Morobe province.

MMJV has commenced a cocoa programme especially for the Lower Watut people in partnership with all stakeholders including, the three levels of government, non-government organisations (NGOs) and the local people.

MMJV ensures that the local people fully participate in the project to build a sense of ownership for the sustainability of project for future generations.

The cocoa programme is being implemented in partnership with Bris Kanda, a non-government organisation (NGO) group working in the Huon Gulf district of Morobe province.

The activities involved in this programme are establishment of cocoa nurseries to increase the number of household involved in planting improved cocoa varieties by 10% by  mid 2011; establishment of budwood gardens in strategic locations so hybrid cocoa gardens can be expanded in the future,; extension services – to ensure that skills training and good block management practices are regularly carried out in the communities and cocoa fermentery funding assistance to provide seed funding (to those eligible to process cocoa) which will be repaid under a current revolving scheme.

The communities’ contribution to this project is through sweat equity, while MMJV is providing substantial funding, with Bris Kanda providing extension and other support services.

Most of these communities and cocoa groups have been working with Bris Kanda for a number of years and MMJV’s assistance is a big boost to their efforts to produce and sell quality cocoa beans as cocoa is their main cash crop.

The villagers thanked MMJV for initiating the program and Bris Kanda for providing the expertise and are committed to working together in improving cocoa production in the area.

According to a four year and five months study conducted by the University of Sydney, Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources in Australia and commissioned by Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIR) which ended on May 31, 2009, the PNG cocoa industry earned an estimated K168 million annually on production of 42 000 tons which makes up 2% of the world market.

A large part of this comes from nearly 70, 000 smallholders in 14 of the 20 provinces. The three major producing provinces are East New Britain, Madang and East Sepik.


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