“There was no warning,” Nelson said. “When we saw it for the first time, it was horrifying. We just saw the insect bites. These looked like fruits that had fallen onto the ground and had lain there for weeks.”
Across the province, communities describe how the loss of income left them unable to meet their daily needs, from sending their children to school, or paying for transport to get to town. Farmers went from harvesting some 15 bags of dry beans, to just one or two bags a month. Many gave up.
Alois Dulia works as an assessor at Agmark, one of the cocoa buying companies in the province. He remembers when the factory was filled with cocoa beans, and farmers were literally queuing to sell their produce.
“There were farmers all the time, and we could hardly keep up with so much supply,” he recalls.
“Now, because we’ve got the disease it’s slowing everything. This place used to be full of cocoa. These days, we are always waiting for farmers to arrive.”
Working together with farmers to control the disease
Initiated in 2011, the World Bank’s Productive Partnerships in Agriculture Project (PPAP) is supporting community-led projects in East New Britain and Bougainville to help thousands of small farmers control the outbreak and restore their livelihoods.
Five cocoa partnerships have been established under the first round of the project, helping provide seedlings of more CPB-tolerant cocoa varieties. Model farmers have received training on techniques to manage CPB, and are working with extension workers to pass on their knowledge in their communities. Measures like regular harvesting, pruning, good block sanitation and pod burial can eliminate as much as 98 percent of CPB infestation.
Interest to plant cocoa has returned
Hosea Turburat is the manager of the Central Inland Baining Rehabilitation Partnership, part of the PPAP, which will rehabilitate 500 hectares of land. Altogether it will provide 100,000 new cocoa seedlings, for 500 farmers in the remote Bainings area.
“The main advantage is to increase production, because we are introducing hybrids which are CPB resistant, and also to increase income and improve standards of living.
“We have seen really invigorated interest in cocoa. The project has provided assistance to help farmers recover and reestablish their cocoa plots, and replant the trees.”
The project is also helping farmers plant other crops such as galip but or taro as an additional income source. Some projects are supporting local agribusiness development and marketing, especiallyfor women farmers.
Funded by the World Bank’s International Development Association and the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the project is supporting coffee and cocoa farmers through eleven partnerships in six provinces to date. With growing community interest, more partnerships are in the pipeline.
Another 14 partnerships are expected to be approved in the next few months. By the end of this year, more than 18,000 farmers will be benefiting from PPAP.