Apia, Samoa – The Samoa Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme conducted a series of Cocoa coaching workshops targeting youth and women farmers in both Upolu and Savaii. From these trainings, -32 youth koko farmers were selected to participate in the final workshop under the COVID-19 Preparedness and Recovery: Diversification of the Economic Sector in Samoa (CPRDESS) project, funded by the Embassy of Japan in Samoa. This is a 12-month project that started in late March last year and will end on the 30th of September 2022. The participants completed a two-and-a-half-day training which kicked off last week at the LAVA Hotel Conference Room.
The workshop intended to bring together a final group of young cocoa farmers, all of whom have participated in one or two of the trainings that was conducted over the years. These participants were selected as they were seen as the most engaging and enthusiastic of the group and had well established cocoa farms in Upolu and Savaii.
The participants including 10 female farmers were able to absorb knowledge and experience from local Commercial Koko famers, hear about loan schemes (SCB & DBS) and grant schemes (SBH & SAFPROM under MAF). The workshop included site visits to the Samoa Koko Industry Association’s cocoa nursery at Afia, SERENDI COCO’s cocoa processing facilities and a demonstration on chemical management by representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Crops Division in Nu’u. The Pacific Island Centre (PIC) in Japan also delivered a virtual presentation on the current market trends for Cocoa in Japan, export opportunities for the Pacific Island and in Particular for Samoa as well as opportunities for networking and accessing the Japanese market. President of the Samoa Koko Industry Association SKIA: Alo Kolone Vaai who has also been an active trainer for this program stated that “I am always very happy to see these young koko farmers that have emerged since the start of this program. Cocoa is a long-term crop and it will serve you very well for 10 to 30years if they are well looked after. That is the aim of these workshops, to teach this next generation of cocoa farmers how to better look after their cocoa trees. Samoa was one of the leading producers and exporters of cocoa in the Pacific region, however the number of exports rapidly decreased due to the effects of climate change, severe cyclones in the early 1990s which completely destroyed many koko farms. The amount of cocoa our country supplies overseas now is nothing compared to what our ancestors used to export, hence the establishment of SKIA which aims to return our country as one of the leading cocoa suppliers in the Pacific. The Youth Koko program conveniently coincides with this goal and I am very thankful to the United Nations Development Program and the Japanese Embassy for funding these workshops and I hope there will be many more such opportunities in the future.”
One of the participants, Taelega Toma Naumati Sa’anapu, expressed his gratitude to the implementing parties. “I would like to give thanks to the UNDP and the Samoa Chamber of Commerce & Industry Inc for the great opportunity to be able to attend this training. To be honest, this is the first time I have participated in such a well presented, well performed and well-planned training program. Many of my fellow participants I have met today are from all over Samoa and it just reflects the level of interest our youth have for farming life especially through the development of cocoa. I really hope that the youth who participated here today will take something from this program to further expand their koko farms to become local koko exporters in the future.”
The workshop concluded with UNDP Deputy Resident Representative Verena Linneweber’s closing remarks and stated, “With REDSAF, we support the Government of Samoa and communities in recovering from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and help increase their resilience to such future shocks with particular focus on the agriculture and fisheries sector. One important way of doing this is through creating employment opportunities for unemployed women and youth and strengthening their livelihoods and asset base.
The Youth Koko Initiative in particular is an important element in these efforts, by equipping Samoa’s young koko farmers – like yourselves – with the skills, knowledge and resources to commercialize and expand their koko farms, and by revitalizing and strengthening the links within Samoa’s koko industry. We hope that this will generate employment opportunities and increase Samoa’s export potential for koko to overseas markets.”