The Samoa Trust Estates Corporation (S.T.E.C.) has been tasked with hosting the Cocoa Nurseries for a major cocoa initiative project.
Already running a replanting programme for cocoa and coconut on the Government estate plantation near Faleolo airport, Assistant C.E.O. of Projects and Leases, Natasha Kolose, said S.T.E.C. was approached as being the best option to run a commercially viable nursery that can sustain itself.
“Our first question is, why don’t you put the nursery at M.A.F. but they already have nurseries and they are not mandated to manage nurseries for commercial purposes,” she said.
“The difference is there is 100 percent assurance that those seedlings grown in the nursery will be used. Whatever the private farmers don’t use will be put back into our plantations.
“The idea is the nursery will run itself so it has to be commercial, the agreement with New Zealand is it has to be something and this will be determined by Samoa Cocoa Industry Association (S.C.I.A.) as well to make sure that the nursery is catering to the needs of the people and so the idea is that once it is up and running.”
Ms. Kolose said they really want to see the benefits go to the farmers.
“Coming to S.T.E.C. was also about security and sustainability because there was a lot of concern about going to a private farm with accountability, transparency.”
She said the development initiative has been unique to other typical projects she has seen and is pleased that there is more emphasis on local perspective and drive.
“The thing that I appreciate most about this project is that it has been very two way,” she said.
“That’s the difference between this project and a lot of other projects that I’ve worked with.
“In the very beginning during the planning stages, the donors had a five-year plan. However, the plan has changed and they have decided to stop half way and consult with the S.C.I.A. about what worked and what improvements are needed, so it’s a different set up.”
The 600 square meter nursery will be unique because its purpose is to ensure that the best variety is produced for Samoa and its markets.
“This nursery is special because it is a grafting nursery. At the moment we have two varieties, trintario and creole and these are the ones that we have on our lands and most of our farms. M.A.F. has done some extensive work on their end as well but they’re also looking at what will meet New Zealand’s market demands. With that ongoing research, we’ll start to get a more definitive plan as to what we should be grafting.
“Our plantation is organic at the moment. That is the intention, to keep it but it’s also the biggest struggle. It costs so much because its labour intensive. That’s another area that the project is helping us with because they help us a lot on processing of the compost and doing things to make the soil sustainable because we have to declare that it’s organic.”
Ms. Kolose said it’s been very positive to be involved in the project and being trained on nursery management and having the opportunity to work alongside different development partners.
“Right now the New Zealand consultants are working with us on record management,” she said.
“We’ve started to build a database using G.I.S. to trace every single seedling to their source stream. It’s something that we never used to do but since they have been working with us, we have seen some really good changes with our work processes and also in being able to work with partners that we wouldn’t normally work with.”
The first nursery is expected to be up and running by the end of the year in Upolu with plans in the pipeline to host one in Savaii.
“First phase is on Upolu and the second phase will be in Savaii so discussions on where is currently undergoing, trying to decide where to host it. It will be a duplication of what we are doing here; it should kick in the beginning of next year.”