Officially handed over on October 9th in Terra Constituency, the cocoa dryer was provided as part of CARE International’s Bougainville Cocoa Families Support (BECOMES) project, supported by the Australian and New Zealand governments in partnership with the Autonomous Bougainville Government and the Government of Papua New Guinea.
The BECOMES project provides support to existing and emerging cooperatives and farming groups by improving collective governance, business administration and inclusive leadership. The aim is to improve the economic and social wellbeing of younger and older women and men in cocoa farming families.
Nikki Wright, Second Secretary from the Australian High Commission, represented Australia at the launch and said it was pleasing to hear that the cocoa dryer will make a positive difference to the group’s cocoa quality and production.
“Cocoa is an important industry across Papua New Guinea, including the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, as it boosts household income for smallholder farmers and their families,” said Wright.
“While we are delighted to launch the cocoa dryer today, we are even more pleased to learn how the trainings prior to this event have increased families’ technical farming skills and business knowledge.”
Controlled cocoa bean drying improves flavour and ensures consistency with international standards. The first cocoa dryer was delivered to Rotokas Agri Collective Action Group in June, with three more cocoa farmers’ groups from Wakunai District to receive cocoa dryers under the project in the coming weeks.
Each group was formed after members from smallholder cocoa farming families attended intensive trainings delivered by CARE, which covered agricultural extension, farmer business management and shared decision-making between husbands and wives.
According to Merselyn Meke Hanga, a leader of Siriepa Agri-Business Group, the trainings were the first for the women to attend.
In addition to enhancing cocoa quality and cooperation, the BECOMES project is also supporting women and youth entrepreneurs by providing information and encouragement to set up enterprises around key value chain services, such as budwood gardens, organic fertiliser, nurseries and communal drying systems to serve the collective needs of the cocoa clusters.
The project is part of a larger program of support from the Australian and New Zealand governments to help regenerate and strengthen the cocoa industry in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville. Since 2016, assistance has included large grants to 25 cocoa farming groups across the region, support to the Bougainville Chocolate Festival and studies to stimulate innovation and investment in cocoa and other primary industries.
(Merselyn Meke Hanga, a leader of Siriepa Agri-Business Group, stands proudly next to the new cocoa dryer in Terra Constituency)