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Improving lives by solving problems in agriculture and the environment

Rehabilitating cocoa for improved livelihoods in the South Pacific

A decade of low cocoa prices has led smallholder farmers in the South Pacific Islands to neglect their cocoa trees, resulting in a decline in production. With market prices forecast to rise, the time is ripe for rehabilitation. Through farmer field schools we are explaining and demonstrating a range of integrated pest and disease management (IPDM) methods to control common problems such as black pod, as well as techniques such as pruning and shade management, before they are trialled by farmers.

Project Overview

So, what's the problem

A decade of low world cocoa prices has led smallholder farmers in the South Pacific Islands to neglect their cocoa trees which has resulted in a decline in cocoa production. However, with market prices forecast to rise during the next decade, the time is ripe for a significant rehabilitation effort in the South Pacific. In addition, the emergence of higher-value certified organic or single-origin cocoa markets provides an additional incentive for farmers to intensify management and to improve production, as they possess the fine-flavour varieties of cocoa and favourable climatic conditions for producing premium cocoa. 

Constraints to cocoa production in this region include pests and diseases such as Black Pod (Phytophthora palmivora) and damage caused by rats. Cocoa production could be increased through integrated pest and disease management (IPDM), while quality could be improved through attention to the fermentation and drying processes.

What is this project doing?

The current level of farmers’ awareness and understanding of cocoa pests and diseases and the possible integrated pest and disease management (IPDM) methods such as cultural, biological and chemical control will be assessed by interviewing farmers in each of the three Vanuatu cocoa farmer networks.

CABI will explain and demonstrate a range of IPDM methods for control of Black Pod, such as phytosanitation, use of resistant varieties, rational pesticide use (if appropriate) as well as more general techniques such as pruning and shade management to members of each farming network through Farmer Field Schools .  Trial plots will be established to demonstrate a selection of different IPDM methods and selected farmers will record their labour inputs for each of the methods over the trial period.

CABI will also raise farmers’ awareness of the Cocoa Pod Borer (Conopomorpha cramerella) currently affecting cocoa production in Papua New Guinea through presentations to appropriate stakeholders.


The project has only recently started but the focus of the initial phase will be to identify which of IPDM approaches will improve farmers’ income the most. After a 12-month Participatory Research Appraisal, farmers will be able to evaluate the results of the IPDM trial and will determine which option(s) offer them the best returns to effort for their cocoa crop. This will enable the project team to tailor an IPDM training package to be disseminated to additional farmer groups during the three subsequent years of the project.

See a case study on this project.

The team

Project Manager

Staff image of Sarah Thomas

Sarah Thomas  Plant Pathologist

Bakeham Lane
United Kingdom
T +44 (0)1491 829030

Project team

Staff image of Barbara Ritchie

Barbara Ritchie

Plant Health Specialist


  • Vanuatu


  • Start: 01/01/2011
  • End: 30/06/2014


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Improved management strategies for cocoa in Papua New Guinea

Cocoa is a highly important export in Papua New Guinea, 80% of which comes from smallholders dependent on it for their livelihoods. But, production is threatened by the cocoa pod borer. Tricky to control, it is now one of the most serious threats to the global cocoa industry. We are developing effective ways to detect and predict infestations such as evaluating improved clones and then promoting better crop management, intensification and diversification, and region-specific extension.