CABI helps South Pacific islands to improve cocoa production
News story, 11 July 2011
Smallholder farmers in the South Pacific islands are getting help to manage cocoa diseases and pests, and thus to increase cocoa yield and quality, thanks to a project run by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community and Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in partnership with CABI.
A decade of low world cocoa prices has not provided an incentive for farmers in the South Pacific Islands to maintain their cocoa trees; this has resulted in a decline in cocoa production. But now market prices are rising and are foreseen to continue increasing during the next decade. The time is right to revitalize the cocoa industry in this region, and particularly to learn to manage cocoa diseases and pests. Currently, Black Pod (Phytophthora palmivora) disease and damage by rats are a significant constraint to increasing production.
The project began in early 2011 when CABI and partners visited two cocoa-producing islands in Vanuatu to work closely with 10 farmer networks. A survey of current farming practices and levels of damage were assessed and appropriate practical management solutions were devised.
During a 12-month trial period, selected farmers will assess the effectiveness of solutions involving removing diseased pods, pruning, shade management and rat control. Farmers will also record their labour inputs for each of the methods and after 12 months will be able decide for themselves which solution gave them the best income return for their labour. The project team will develop a farmer-focused training manual that will be used to train other cocoa farmers in good cocoa management, which will lead to improved production and increased incomes.
This project is funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research.