Capacitating 1375 Papua New Guinean farmers in best cocoa practices, gender roles and financial literacy skills

By: PNG Business News November 21, 2022

EU-STREIT PNG, in collaboration with local partners and government agencies, trained 1375 farmers, including women and youths, in the Sepik River area of Papua New Guinea on best cocoa farming techniques and on gender inclusion in agriculture development and financial literacy skills.

The FAO-led EU-STREIT PNG Programme continues to provide learning opportunities to improve cocoa farmers’ skills in hard-to-reach areas of the Sepik region for increased profitability and improved livelihoods of thousands of households who depend on this cash crop.

In collaboration with the Division of Agriculture and Livestock (DAL) in Angoram District of East Sepik Province and PNG Cocoa Board, a total of 1375 farmers, inclusive of women and youths from three villages, were upskilled in best block management practices, and cocoa propagation techniques – critical to producing pest tolerant seedlings 

Conducted in Asangumut, Murken and Jungit villages (in Yuwat and Marienberg Rural Local Level Governments), the training sessions had lasted for three weeks, brought together 1350 participants from the three villages plus an additional 25 farmers who enthusiastically trekked from surrounding villages to join. In terms of gender and youth participation, there were 665 women and youths representing 48% of total 1375 farmers who were very keen to attend the training and learn new skills.

In Asangumut Village, residents in collaboration with Manbanda Cooperative Society, assisted the Programme to organise the training which was conducted under the theme ‘Integrated Pest and Disease Management (IPDM) and focused on application of appropriate pruning methods on matured cocoa trees following the crop calendar.

Pruning is an important cocoa farming activity in block management that allows for shade control for sufficient sunlight and airflow to reduce risk of diseases such as black pod and to provide more nutrients that leads to abundant flowering and hence increased fruit yields.

The cocoa budding training was the focus of training sessions organised in Murken and Jungit villages, in partnership with Jangama Apaukra Cooperative Society and Jungit Cooperative Society, which pulled together 943 farmers with a high interest from women and youths numbering 487 or 52% of the participants.

“I learned many good things, like how to properly look after our cocoa trees to produce quality beans that will give us more money to pay school fees for our children, buy new clothes to wear and pots to cook. Only cocoa will move us, and I want to say thank you,” said a female farmer and mother Mrs Ruta Sore form Jungit Village.

Sharing on behalf of the youth, Vincent Anduare and young cocoa farmers said: “The budding skills will help us to produce CPB pest tolerant cocoas that will provide a source of income to help get rural youths out of poverty.”

Commenting on the challenges people in these remote communities face and how the Programme, in collaboration with local partners, is trying to improve cash flow and economic opportunities in these rural communities, the FAO National Cocoa Production Officer, Michael Lames, said: “These are very remote and hard-to-reach communities like Jungit which is located towards Madang Province, so it was a relief to come to their aid. When these cocoa trees come into production, the income will support improve their lives in the villages.”

Lames added: “It was good to see many villagers opening their bank accounts with MiBank – a partner of EU-STREIT PNG Programme – instead of taking the risk to travel long distances along the Sepik River and then onto a Public Motor Vehicle to Wewak Town and it’s good we came to them.”

As is the practice in all STREIT’s implementation sites, the Programme will follow up with the distribution of agricultural inputs and materials like polybags and shade cloths to help the trained farmers in these three locations to set up their nurseries for the production of CPB tolerant seedlings. These seedlings will then be procured by FAO and re-distributed to farmers in the same area.

During the gender and youth mainstreaming sessions, aimed at promoting women and youths’ involvement in decision-making processes for an increased income from agrifood value chain activities, farmers were divided into groups according to their ages and sex in a view to discussing their 24-hour activitiesMen and women, both old and young, explored their roles and responsibilities, starting from household chores to farming, in order to identify where workloads could be shared to improve production and income as well as respect and togetherness at household levels.

Through this activity, participants came to the self-realisation that valued labour inputs especially by women that were neither balanced and nor recognised within family farming setups.

The Gender and Youth Inclusion team will conduct regular follow-ups to ensure women and youths are included in the cocoa cooperative management committees and also to ensure the official registration and lagalisation of youth groups in these remote villages.

MiBank officers under the Programme’s mandate to create an enabling environment for improved access to finance and banking services also accompanied the FAO mission team and staged multiple sessions on financial literacy awareness and opened bank accounts for the farmers and villagers.

The EU-STREIT PNG Programme, being implemented as a UN Joint Programme (FAO as the leading agency, and ILO, ITU, UNCDF and UNDP as partners), is the largest grant-funded Programme of the European Union in the country and the Pacific region. The Programme aims to help improve the lives of the people from East Sepik and Sandaun provinces, by focusing on increasing sustainable and inclusive economic development of rural areas through improved economic returns and opportunities from cocoa, vanilla and fishery value chains while strengthening and improving the efficiency of value chain enablers, including the business environment and supporting sustainable, climate-proof transport and energy infrastructure development.

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