Supporting cocoa farmers in Vanuatu leads to community impact and international success
By Terence Malapa, communications officer, World Vision
Today, Moli, 44, is one of the most successful cocoa farmers on the island of Malo, Vanuatu, but this wasn’t always the case.
Back in early 2000, with limited knowledge of modern farming techniques or farm management skills, Moli planted 300 cocoa plants, but the plants did not flourish as he had hoped. By 2007, Moli’s cocoa plantation was overgrown. He couldn’t distinguish between the cocoa plants and other trees.
“For seven years, my family struggled to harvest cocoa,” said Moli. “Branches were everywhere because I hadn’t done any pruning all this time. But thanks to this World Vision program things changed.”
World Vision’s Sanma Community Economic Development project, funded by the New Zealand Aid Programme and HB Williams Trust, supports farmers on Malo Island to improve the quality and quantity of their cash crop production by increasing their knowledge and skills in good farming practices.
“In early March 2016 I was introduced to the Vanuatu Agricultural Research and Technical Centre site where I quickly learnt pruning methods, and by the end of the same month, I had pruned my cocoa plantation,” said Moli.
Moli’s hard work paid off. By Christmas 2016, he earned AUD$841 compared to the AUD$168 he earned twice per year in the past.
World Vision also connected farmers with ACTIV Association (Alternative Communities Trade in Vanuatu), a local non-profit association that works closely with cocoa farmers on Malo Island. The ACTIV helps farmers earn an income by purchasing their products, and encourages cocoa producers to put their learning into practice, to earn more money and improve their livelihood.
Moli’s cocoa caught the attention of the Director of ACTIV and Aelan Chocolate Makers, Sandrine Wallez. “Moli’s cocoa beans are great, and we decided to turn them into chocolate.”
A chocolate maker in Vanuatu, Aelan Chocolate Makers, started manufacturing Moli’s chocolate. All of the cocoa used to produce chocolate from Malo Island is grown and harvested by Moli and his wife.
“Our lives have changed since my husband learned new farming techniques,” said Moli’s wife, Monique. “We saved AUD$276 in December alone for school fees. Now we have solar panels to generate light and our children can study to have a better future.”
That’s not the only thing that’s changed for Moli and his family. The ACTIV and Aelan Chocolate Makers entered Moli’s chocolate into the Cocoa of Excellence 2017 competition in France. In August 2017, Moli’s cocoa beans were named one of the top 50 in the world.
"I was pruning my cocoa trees and heard the sound of a text message on my phone,” said Moli. “It was from Sandrine Wallez, the Director of ACTIV. I read the text, which said my cocoa beans were in the top 50 in the world. I put down my phone and I cried. I cried for about five minutes. Then I prayed to God. I prayed and I mentioned the donor, the director, technical advisor and the World Vision team. It was a big prayer.”
"Moli is one of the proudest, most respected farmers that World Vision has worked with in Vanuatu,” said Dr. Adam Trau, World Vision Resilience & Livelihoods Technical Advisor, based in Vanuatu. “He is a model of sustainability. With knowledge, skills, and market exposure through the SCED project, he has established strong direct links with a buyer for his cocoa as well as prospective international buyers.”
In addition to improving his own business, Moli has set up his plantation as a demonstration and training site for farmers from all around Malo Island. He regularly hosts other farmers to help them learn improved farming and processing techniques, and recently distributed over 200 of his own cocoa seedlings to local farmers.
“Before [Sanma Community Economic Development project] I was depend, depend, depend, but now I know I can [farm] independently,” said Moli. “I'm so proud of the project. It has really changed my mindset and belief in myself. This is what independence means for me and my country.”
Featured image: Moli, sponsored by World Vision, picks home grown cocoa beans for his internationally known chocolate business.