Better crops and fair trade for Vanuatu cocoa farmers

Moli is one of the most successful cocoa farmers on his island of Malo in Vanuatu, thanks to training in good farming practices and fair trade support.

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Father-of-four Moli first planted cocoa plants back in early 2000. But as he had limited knowledge of modern farming techniques or farm management skills, the 300 plants did not flourish as he had hoped.

From 2007 to 2015, he didn’t maintain his plantation or harvest cocoa at all. His cocoa plantation was overgrown and he couldn’t distinguish between the cocoa plants and other trees.

“For seven years, my family struggled to harvest cocoa; branches were everywhere because I hadn’t done any pruning all this time. But thanks to this World Vision program things changed.

“In early March 2016 I was introduced to the Vanuatu Agricultural Research and Technical Centre site where I quickly learnt pruning methods, and by the end of the same month I had pruned my cocoa plantation,” Moli said.

Moli’s hard work paid off when he earned $841 around Christmas 2016 compared to the $168 he earned twice a year in the past. A World Vision livelihoods project is supporting farmers like Moli on Malo Island to improve the quality and quantity of their cocoa. 

The project has increased production and income through sustainable production and processing practices and by facilitating access to financial and business services to help farmers understand and engage with the market.

“The exposure visits to different cocoa production sites have helped farmers, including Moli, by increasing their knowledge and skills in good farming practices, and as a result the income they are earning from their cocoa has increased,” said World Vision Vanuatu’s Program Manager, Vomboe.

Farming techniques such as pruning, spacing and fermentation were also passed on to other farmers not directly involved in the program, by 24 farmers who attended the training. This has also led to an increase in their income.

“Farmers directly involved in the program now have solar panels installed on their houses to improve lifestyles since there is no electricity on the island. They can pay their children’s school fees for the upcoming academic year, and also cover other household needs,” Vomboe said.

World Vision has also connected farmers with Alternative Communities Trade in Vanuatu (ACTIV), a non-profit organisation that works closely with cocoa farmers in Malo by facilitating fair trade for local products. ACTIV also helps farmers earn an income by purchasing their products if there’s a delay with the sea vessel used to purchase cocoa in the archipelago.

Since March 2016, Moli has planted an additional 500 cocoa trees. His wife Monique said all their household needs are now being met and they can even save some money.

“Our lives have changed since my husband learnt new farming techniques. We saved A$276 in December alone for school fees. Now we have solar panels to generate light and our children can study to have a better future,” Monique said.

Left: Moli has learned improved ways to dry his cocoa beans to increase his harvest. Right: Moli has also learned the importance of pruning.