“We have a lot of needs, we need tools for pruning, budwood knives, budwood tapes, and other tools needed to do cocoa work, says Marex.
Marex Marika is very passionate about cocoa farming and has worked alongside other cocoa and agriculture projects over the years. Marex is now a contact farmer under the ANCP funded - Climate Smart & Inclusive Cocoa in Usino, Madang Province, Papua New Guinea.
He further explains, “These tools will help to increase our cocoa production and will also help us rehabilitate our old cocoa blocks”.
Marex adds that many farmers under the project are eager to receive cocoa farming tools that were promised to them in the early stages of the project, however, the dates selected for the distribution of these tools have lapsed, confusing many.
“Farmers are becoming restless as they need these tools but I advise them that there are systems in place and we will still receive them, we just have to focus on our cocoa work and work well with the project team”, he says.
However, the project has advised that under the agreement with the cooperative societies, only farmers that have registered with either of the two established cooperatives will receive the tools; unregistered farmers have to register to access the tools.
Marex is very excited about the project as it has now rekindled a dormant part of him since the arrival of the Cocoa Pod Borer Disease (CPB).
“I lost some interest in cocoa after the CPB but I thank God for opening another door for us through this World Vision Project”, he adds.
Marex recently harvested 5 kilograms of wet beans from one of his cocoa blocks, much to his disappointment as he had previously harvested and sold actual bags of dried cocoa beans earning enough income to support his family.
At the current price rate, 1 kilogram of cocoa is equal to 1.75 Great Britain Pound (GBP) which translates to around 7 PGK. In the case of Marex, his 5 kilograms would earn around 30 PGK. (6.98 Pound sterling) or (12.17 Australian Dollars).
In local currency, 30 PGK cannot sustain a family for more than a day.
Although Marex was dissatisfied with his current rate of production and income earned, he is also excited and believes that the current project will steer farmers in the right direction considering their production rate and the CPB scare.
According to studies, with proper care, most cocoa trees produce pods by the fourth or fifth year and can continue for another 30 years. A typical pod contains 30 to 40 beans and there are about 30 pods per tree; approximately 400 dried beans make up one pound of cocoa.
Marex is part of the Kuo Cooperative Society, made up of an estimated 1, 117 farmers; the other is the Gigaso Cooperative Society, also with an estimated 1000 farmers as well.
Hence, more than 2620 farmers stand to benefit from this project in terms of gaining new skills on climate-smart and inclusive cocoa farming and savings for empowered, resilient and transform livelihood in a period where Climate Change is having a massive negative impact on traditional ways of farming – in this case, the cash crop farming of cocoa.
The project aims to introduce the new, "18-month improved release clones”, and teach farmers how to plant and care for their cocoa plants, how to manage the hygiene of their cocoa blocks using the climate-smart practice of tree management, canopy control, intercropping, and organic farming to increase production, quality, and income that will translate to improved lives of the farmers and their families.
“We thought that making our blocks CPB tolerant was to bring in some new cocoa plant from somewhere in the world, but that is not the case. Project technical staff, Bofeng, and Buson visited us and explained that we already have a way of making our cocoa block CPB tolerant through the Chupon bud grafting method, “says Marex.
However, before budding new Chupon (cocoa tree sprout), old overgrown cocoa trees need to be sawed down to allow for new sprouts to enable implanting – or bud grafting, the term used.
The Theobroma Cacao (the scientific name for the cocoa tree) can have a height of around 1 – 2 meters, and a fully matured cocoa tree can be 6 – 9 meters tall.
As such, cutting any tree of 9 meters, using the best hand-wielded ax is still time-consuming, even for one tree, and this has become an issue for farmers because a majority have trees that have gone past 5 years, the full maturity stage.
Adding onto the prior is that most farmers have more than one cocoa block that may contain at least 500, to a thousand trees; imagine trying to cut down 500, 9-meter tall cocoa tree’s in three days or less, it is a struggle.
“I’m not sure if chainsaws are part of the tools that we will be receiving but we need chainsaws to reduce the height of our old cocoa trees, chainsaws are a big need for us”, says Marex.
He adds that they do not require very large chainsaws but the O70 Chainsaw – which is easy to handle and can also be used to prune overgrown branches.
Marex believes that this will greatly assist farmers to rehabilitate their old cocoa blocks, improve plant hygiene, enable Chupon bud grafting, and; thus enable the growth of CPB-tolerant cocoa trees to increase production and empower improved livelihoods.
Other farmers also shared similar opinions as Marex, one, in particular, is Asi Sinandup.
Asi, as a lead farmer also expressed gratitude for the project in his District and believes that it will inspire an improvement in their lives and that of their families.
“What we need now are the tools to start the actual work. We have the manpower and are willing to work but we need World Vision to equip us, through skills training and tools,’ he adds.
He says that currently, they are using gardening tools such as axes and bush knives to clear and prune their cocoa blocks which are not the correct tools, hence it is a struggle.
“Some of us have cocoa blocks which have been here for 10 to 15 years, and to rehabilitate them, we need the correct tools and the correct skills, we need chainsaws to rehabilitate our old block so the Chupon bud grafting can take place”, says Asi.
The ANCP funded - Climate Smart & Inclusive Cocoa in Usino, Madang province was initiated in 2021 and is expected to cease in 2026. It is currently in its second year of implementation.
Dehaan Lapawe, the project Supervisor says that the project has acquired 6 chainsaws for this purpose which will be under the care of project staff assigned to communities under the project.
“Each farmer will receive 300 clones, the project will advocate for 200 clones for family use and the other 100 clones will go toward savings for change and emergencies via S4TGs, a crosscutting component of the project," he concludes.