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FEATURE STORY

Restoring Livelihoods for Cocoa Farmers in Papua New Guinea after Widespread Crop Disease

June 26, 2013

After the cocoa pod borer disease decimated harvests, a program is helping restore farmers’ livelihood and boost the country’s agriculture sector. View slideshow

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Cocoa is the main source of livelihood for thousands of small farmers in Papua New Guinea.
  • In 2006, the cocoa pod borer disease decimated cocoa harvests, leaving many farmers without income.
  • A World Bank-supported project helped revive interest in growing cocoa and is restoring livelihoods.

Cocoa is a lifeline for thousands of small farmers in Papua New Guinea (PNG), providing vital income for some 20 percent of the country’s population.In 2006, a devastating disease ravaged the crops of thousands of small farmers in East New Britain, the first province in PNG to be affected by the cocoa pod borer (CPB).The impact of this disease is severe. Untreated, its larvae tunnel into fresh cocoa pods and decimate cocoa harvests.

 

Crop disease caused hardship for cocoa farmers

Farmers here saw as much as 90 percent of their crops destroyed. Total production in the province plummeted from 22,000 tons in 2008 to under 4,000 in 2012. This left many farmers and their families without a basic income, and created a great deal of hardship.

Nelson is a farmer in Vudal and cocoa is his main cash crop. In 2006, he had never seen CPB before.

Open Quotes

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. Close Quotes

Nelson
Farmer

“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.