"The farmers are one of 26 cocoa farming groups across the Autonomous Region of Bougainville awarded a total of 10.4 million Kina through the Australian-supported Commodity Support Facility."

When Simeon Peinomu submitted an application for grant funding on behalf of Pahari Group, he was hoping to not only increase cocoa production, but also raise the living standards of farmers.

Pahari Group is from Oria village in Buin, South Bougainville, and is made up of 50 farmers – 40 men and 10 women. The group successfully secured a grant worth 465,000 Kina through the Commodity Support Facility to improve the quality and quantity of cocoa production.

Simeon said the first tranche payment was spent on fixing six fermentaries used fordrying cocoa beans.

“After we did maintenance on the fermentaries, the quality of the cocoa beans was muchbetter,” Simeon said. “We also procured a tractor using the grant money, and two farmers travelled to Rabaul to learn new techniques in growing cocoa.”

The farmers are one of 26 cocoa farming groups across the Autonomous Region of Bougainville awarded a total of 10.4 million Kina through the Australian-supported Commodity Support Facility. Each group comprises 50 farmers, with grants used to improve the quality and quantity of cocoa, and to grow the local cocoa industry.

As chairman of the Pahari Group, Simeon holds regular meetings with all farmers to discuss how grant funds will be spent.

“With the second tranche payment we bought tools and pesticides. With the third tranche, we will buy cocoa plant seedlings and distribute them to the 50 farmers,” he said.

The farmers of Pahari are already seeing the fruits of their labour. In 2017, the group won first place at the Bougainville Chocolate Festival and silver in 2018– an annual event supported by the governments of Papua New Guinea Bougainville,, Australia and New Zealand.

“Within a year of fixing our fermentaries, we had won gold,” Simeon recalls. “We had also increased cocoa production levels and been able to fill more bags for cocoa buyers in Arawa.”

But for Simeon one of the biggest benefits was seeing farmers in his community raise their standard of living.

“People use the money they earn through cocoa farming for school fees and housing. Many farmers are now building permanent homes because they have more money to spend.We also have a new road system to make transportation easier.”

Like Simeon, 46-year-old Grace Enoch is another gold-winning grant recipient who has seen positive changes to farmers in her community. From Tunania Village, in Central Bougainville, Grace is the leader of a cocoa farming group called Tunania Open Learning Centre. She said getting the grant funding has been “eyeopening” for farmers in the community.

“They have learned how to improve their block through block management, pruning,growing and budding. And also had training on managing their money to change the way they are living,” Grace said.

“My group has both men and women, but many are disadvantaged. There are many single mothers and widows. I wanted to develop disadvantaged mothers, so they could pay their kids’ school fees and build houses. If they could improve their state of living, their kids could go to a higher level of education using money made from cocoa blocks.”

Grace says many of the farmers have been surprised by how quickly cocoa production has improved through training and small investments using grant funds. The group has focused on growing cocoa clone seedlings which are more resistant to the cocoa pod borer.

“We have 20,000 clone nurseries and each farmer gets 400 cocoa beans from them,”said Grace.

“I am proud of what my farmers have done. They have been really educated about cocoa and learned a lot about new clones.”

Grace has attended all three Bougainville Chocolate Festivals since they began in 2016, winning gold last year and silver this year. But she is already looking to the future and planning what to do with next year’s grant payment.

“If we improve the quality of our cocoa beans through a solar combination drier, our farmers will be the winners of the Chocolate Festival in 2019!”

November 14, 2018