Farmers hopeful that CPB-tolerant cocoa improves livelihood
As a mother, Janet says that having a thriving cocoa block has taught her to be self-reliant and not depend on her husband's fortnight pay.
But this was before the arrival of the Cocoa Pod Borer disease (CPB), and Janet is now hoping for a rehabilitation of her old cocoa trees.
World Vision intervened in 2021 through the ANCP funded - Climate Smart & Inclusive Cocoa in Usino, Madang Province.
The project aims to share new skills on climate-smart and inclusive cocoa farming, apart from the savings component of the project for empowered, resilient, and transformed livelihoods.
"As a woman and a mother who is part of this project, I have about 500 cocoa trees for my children and before the CPB, my children would harvest, sell and earn their own money", she adds.
But that is no longer the case, Janet says, "we're all down, our houses are empty and for my family, we only depend on my husband's fortnight pay to support us financially, and we have to wait 2 weeks for that".
Still, Janet's children are hopeful that their lives will be restored and improved through the project, as such, they have been urging their mother to allow the cutting down of full-grown cocoa tree's so they can ask a relative to bud their cocoa trees.
"This year, we plan to start working on our cocoa block, hopefully, we prune the tall trees and budding can begin".
Our intervention is timely as climate change continues to have a massive negative impact on all traditional ways of farming – in this case, the cash crop farming of cocoa.
Janet says, project staff and farmers are currently working on her daughter's cocoa block and will eventually move to her block. She says she's been advised to clear her block and plant vegetables under overgrown cocoa trees to prepare for pruning to be done with a chainsaw.
Project staff also asked farmers not to burn cleared bushes and shrubs but to use them in contour formation and for organic farming.
"Cocoa trees in my block are overgrown, my children and I have started cleaning our cocoa block as they (the project team) have advised but due to the current wet season, we have stopped and will re-start when the season changes", she adds.
Janet further says that handheld axes will not be able to cut down overgrown cocoa trees, pruning them will need a chainsaw.
Project Logistics Officer, Jacob Sareng Jr confirmed that 8 chainsaws have been purchased to ease the burden of farmers from using handheld axes and bush knives (machetes) to prune cocoa trees.
He further confirmed that 3 chainsaws are allocated to the two cooperative society partners and are under project officers who will support farmers to ensure fairness.
He adds that from the 8, two are small and can be handheld whilst 6 are Stihl N90 chainsaws that can be used to trim larger cocoa trees.
"The chainsaws are under the custody of World Vision project staff, three are with officers Buson and Amos who work with Gigaso cooperative society and the other three are with officers Kilong and Bofeng who work with the Kou Cooperative society", he adds.
From the 8 chainsaws purchased, farmers have now been equipped and empowered to pick up where they have left off last year.
According to Project Coordinator, Dehaan Lapawe, the tools delivered to registered farmers comprised secateurs, 2-meter pole pruners, loopers; handle saws, and knapsacks. Basically, the climate-smart farmer toolset
Kenekem, also a registered farmer with the Gigaso cooperative society had to leave behind his home in the mountains; so, he can have access to the knowledge and skills he will need to improve his cocoa production.
"I manage two nurseries and a budwood garden under the Gigaso Cooperative society with the help of four others, we do general housekeeping of the cocoa plants", he adds.
Kenekem says their work is progressing well, but he needs iron pickets to support the poly bags; another factor is the wet weather because they require dry soil to fill poly bags in preparation for cocoa seed transplants.
"I'm also looking forward to receiving my tools so I can work on my cocoa block. The tools will help me to trim my cocoa plants, (those that need trimming) and other cocoa block housekeeping activities", he adds.
He says that the new chupon budding process taught to farmers is very interesting because cocoa plants are now bearing fruit at a much lower height compared to the past; this he says will make it easy to harvest – even children can harvest pods when they're ripe and ready.
"I have tried the chupon budding process in my cocoa block, and my plants are bearing fruit. I will just have to wait until they're ready to see if the harvest is good", Kenekem adds with a smile.
He says he is expecting some harvest around April or June this year to confirm if the chupon budding he has done in his cocoa block can decrease the CPB on cocoa pods.
The USINO CACAO project is in its second year and is going towards the third year of implementation, and will support more than 2000 farmers, among them Janet and Kenekem.
Implemented by World Vision in partnership with the Gigaso and Kou cooperative societies, with generous funding support from the Australian NGO Cooperation Programme (ANCP).