A major cocoa initiative facilitated by the Samoa Chamber of Commerce and funded by the New Zealand government is ready implement its five-year plan.
According to Chief Executive Officer of the Samoa Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Lemauga Hobart Vaai, after nine months of consulting with farmers as well as public and private sector partners they are ready to embark on a nationwide drive to improve and increase cocoa yields to bring the industry back to its glory days.
“We’re not going somewhere new, our people have been growing cocoa for generations, we just want to take it where we were before. Back in the 60's through to the 90’s Samoans were huge cocoa producers. We’ve learnt from the mistakes of the past and we will move forward and create opportunities in employment and increase our exports,” he said.
Just over a year ago then Prime minister of New Zealand, Bill English, announced NZ$4.8 million in funding to support a five-year programme. The programme is intended to help Samoa achieve its goal of developing a thriving, sustainable, resilient and inclusive agriculture sector, with a particular focus on local crops where smallholders have a comparative edge.
Under the directives of the project, the Samoa Cocoa Industry Association (S.C.I.A.) was established and incorporated recently. The C.E.O. of the chamber said that it was important for the cocoa project to be inclusive of everyone, which provided some challenges along the way while organizing the project.
“One of the first things we have done is organize a national body to run the project long after the time line. There has to be a local body which brings all the farmers associations together because we have multiple farmer associations and we have S.W.A.G. who just started recently a month ago. It’s important for us that everyone is included in the process. After nine months of consultations, they’ve agreed on a constitution and in two weeks we will be calling the committee for the first time to commence the project.”
Lemaunga says that the project will include made-to-fit plans for all types of farmers and it’s the hope of the S.C.I.A. that they will be able to access to all the opportunities and resources as part of this initiative.
“We will be working on capacity building and giving them better options on how to grow cocoa and also give them resources needed. We are using local mentors and providing additional support by providing them with professional pruners from overseas,” he said.
“Its giving support to local cocoa farmers so that they can increase their yields and we’ll be providing technical expertise on how in improve the quality of their yield as well. Which is what the overseas market wants. It’s a huge project.”
The Samoa Chamber of Commerce and Industry in collaboration with New Zealand partner, Agrichain will coordinate the project.