Bougainville cocoa farmers support extended

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More cocoa farming families will have the opportunity to access support to allow them to make the most of sustained global demand for cocoa, after a project in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville was extended.

The Bougainville Cocoa Families Support Project (BECOMES) project – which aims to support the economic and social wellbeing of cocoa farmers and assist women, young people and men to better manage their cocoa plots has been extended for two years.

This will allow BECOMES to reach smallholder farming families and other targeted groups in Buka, Selau/Suir, Tinputz and Wakunai districts.

The project is supported by the Autonomous Bougainville Government and the governments of Papua New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand through the Bougainville Partnership and delivered by Care.

First Secretary from the Australian High Commission’s Buka office, Clayton Harrington, said cocoa farming is a growing industry with the potential to create a sustainable livelihood for many Bougainvilleans.

“Over the past four years we have seen individual smallholders improve their farming practices and management,” Mr Harrington said.

“BECOMES works closely with model farming families and groups to improve their technical skills, managerial capabilities and community cooperation to boost cocoa production.”

The families are then tasked with the responsibility to share their expertise with neighbouring farmers and nearby communities.

BECOMES is increasingly focused on promoting inclusive opportunities for innovative women and young people to participate directly in cocoa farming or provide sector support services.

This includes targeting entrepreneurs looking to establish nurseries or bud wood gardens, run communal drying systems, sell packaging materials for cocoa or raise poultry for food or fertiliser.

First Secretary at the New Zealand High Commission, Alicia Kotsapas, said there are signs of a shift towards more inclusive cooperatives and business groups.

“This means that more people – including women and youths – are empowered to participate in and benefit from farming, which is good for individuals, families and communities,” Ms Kotsapas said.

Malena Keravis, BECOMES model farmer pruning her cocoa at Kaskurus in Tinputz District

BECOMES encourages more women to participate in cocoa farming by improving their access to extension services and other resources.

It also promotes greater equality in household decision-making and labour and provides access to technical training and agricultural tools specific to the needs of women.

In the four years since it began, BECOMES has reached more than 2,000 Bougainvillean cocoa farmers and will continue to support a range of activities to boost output, improve quality and gain better market access.

Feature Pic: Male officer demonstration during Post Harvest & Quality Control Training

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