EU-STREIT PNG Programme builds the capacity of 722 lead farmers in hard-to-reach rural communities through training on cocoa rehabilitation techniques, access to finance and the need to mainstreaming gender perspectives in value chain.
Wewak, ESP – The Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nations (FAO), under the EU Funded UN Joint STREIT Programme, continues to build on its efforts from last year to improve the knowledge and skills of 722 lead farmers in cocoa bud grafting and block management techniques in three remote communities (Local Level Governments) in Angoram District, East Sepik Province.
In its mission to bring financial services closer to rural communities, the Programme also brought along MiBank officers to open bank accounts and banking cards for farmers, including some mothers and girls, for the first time. This will enable farmers, rural communities and agricultural enterprises to get access to an expanded range of tailored and inclusive banking systems, including loans, payment products, and saving services, which are critical for agri-business.
With the support of local partners, Cocoa Board, and District Division of Agriculture and Livestock officers, the EU-STREIT PNG Programme conducted two bud grafting training for 300 farmers in Pangin Village, Marienberg LLG, and two block management trainings for 422 farmers of Mupa Cocoa Group in Saparu Village of Yuat LLG and Sangriwa Village of Angoram LLG.
The trainees comprise 55 female youths, 89 women, 167 male youths and 411 men from eight villages along the Sepik River. Having received intensive trainings, the lead farmers were each enabled to pass on these skills to at least 10 other farmers in their clusters and communities, so the beneficiaries will exceed 7000.
The cocoa propagation techniques training carried out by the FAO cocoa experts are necessary to replace old trees which have been infested with the cocoa pod borer (CPB) pest. The infestation resulted in low cocoa yields and reduced income for thousands of rural families in the Greater Sepik Region who rely on this important cash crop to support their family needs.
“I have old German-introduced cocoa plants, and with these new budding skills I have acquired for the first time, I will improve my block and I believe I will get some good money to support my family,” said farmer Raphael Yambon of Pangin Village who attended the training with his elder daughter Linda.
The block management trainings which followed, included practical sessions with emphasis on different pruning methods and shade control that are crucial in the general routine maintenance of cocoa trees for high production of improved quality pods.
“We visited these villages as a team with Cocoa Board and District Division of Agriculture and Livestock and were impressed at the good turnout by many youths and female farmers as well,” said Mr Michael Lames, the FAO National Cocoa Production Officer who facilitated these very important cocoa trainings.
In Sangriwa Village, Mr Lames also inspected a cocoa nursery of 20,000 seedling capacity and a bud wood garden of 18 varieties of cocoa clones under Mupa Cocoa Group. The nursery will be supported by the EU-STREIT PNG Programme to commence production and distribution of CPB tolerant seedlings to every farmer and their families in the area.
“We did some rehabilitation work earlier but the support we received earlier from other programs discontinued and the farmers lost confidence. Thank you EU-STREIT for offering the support to the rural farmers to continue with cocoa works,” said Mr Kapia, Chairperson of Mupa Cocoa Group.
Sensitisation on the importance of mainstreaming gender perspecitives into the cocoa value chain was also conducted, showing the different and vital roles played by men and women within households and communities. This training activity helps bring recognition on the the valuable/quality determninant roles women and girls play in the cocoa value chain which is a stepping stone for a sustainable value chain development.
“We must appreciate our women and girls by helping out with some responsibilities starting in the house and replicate the same in the cocoa blocks or the agri-food value chain in general,” explained the FAO Gender and Youth Inclusion Officer, Ms Tamara Mandengat, to the farmers.
Accompanying the EU-STREIT team were the MiBank officers who also took time to explain to the villagers why they should open bank accounts and save some money for later use or access small loan benefits.
Among the new bank costumers was Mrs Yustin Philip, a mother of three adopted children. “For village mothers like me we need such services in order to save some money for future needs like school fees for our children. Mobile phone banking is a new thing, but it will make banking and savings easier and I will learn how to use it,” said Mrs Philip, who is also Chairperson of Maramba Women Association – a local NGO in the area.
The EU-STREIT PNG, being implemented as a UN joint Programme (FAO as leading agency, and ILO, ITU, UNCDF and UNDP as implementing partners), is the largest grant-funded Programme of the European Union in the country and the Pacific region. It focuses on increasing sustainable and inclusive economic development of rural areas through increasing the economic returns and opportunities from cocoa, vanilla and fishery value chains and strengthening and improving the efficiency of value chain enablers including the business environment and supporting sustainable, climate-proof transport and energy infrastructure development.