Growing Interest in Koko Farming amongst Youth

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Koko farming has seen a resurgence amongst local youths thanks to continuous, targeted trainings for young farmers in the industry. Two workshops that were carried out last week proved valuable for current and aspiring youth koko farmers in Upolu.

“I learnt in this program that there is more to koko Samoa than the hot brew that we are used to. I learnt that koko Samoa is a highly valued product in the overseas market. It is used to make products such as chocolate, cocoa butter, Vaseline, etc. Samoa was once a highly sought-after market for premium koko and seeing the potential of Samoa’s koko industry has been very encouraging for me as a new farmer,” said Esther Eti, a new koko farmer from Lepa.

The trainings are a continuation of the Youth Koko Initiative Training Workshops held in Savaii earlier this month, as part of the COVID-19 Preparedness and Recovery: Diversification of the Economic Sector in Samoa (CPRDESS) Project. Funded by the Government of Japan and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with the Samoa Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the trainings focused on koko grafting, processing, and contract farming to build the capacity of young
farmers in the industry.

“It’s a pleasure to see the youth engaged and eager to grow their knowledge and skill in growing, harvesting and creating opportunities in the koko industry. Not only are they receiving much-needed training, they also got the chance to build partnerships and networks through information and resource sharing,” said Verena Linneweber, Officer in Charge for UNDP.

Samoa’s youth unemployment rate is currently at 16.5%. The CPRDESS Project is one of many that hopes to change this, and the challenges presented by the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19, by equipping young men and women with the skill and knowledge to create new business and employment opportunities in the agriculture and fisheries sector.

The Youth Koko Initiative is an ongoing programme that aims to train existing youth farmers as well as engage new, young farmers in the koko industry. Vice President of the Samoa Koko Industry Association (SKIA), Alo Kolone Vaai, highlighted the importance of the Youth Koko Initiative for the industry.

“It’s critical for our youth to have access to these programmes as they will be the ones to take the industry forward in the future. As existing farmers and SKIA members, our duty is to impart our knowledge to ensure that the youth are doing it right and are aware of all the necessary requirements to take Samoa koko to overseas markets. I very much look forward to the growth of this programme.”

Alo also encouraged the participants of the workshop to join SKIA to strengthen partnerships in the industry. The Samoa Chamber of Commerce draws its pool of trainers for this Youth Koko Initiative from its wider network of commercial farmers and agriculture experts to deliver learning objectives emphasising the changing environmental and economic conditions so that young people understand adaptive methods now used to sustain cocoa farms and the industry.

This phase of trainings involved a theory and practical learning of the grafting process of koko, contract farming and cocoa processing. This also included site visits to the Samoa Trust Estates Corporation’s Koko Nursery and WILEX Company.

Samantha Rogers, Project Officer for the Chamber of Commerce under the Youth Koko Initiative said the programme hopes to revitalize and diversify the agriculture industry in Samoa, particularly for koko.

“We hope that through this programme, more youth will be drawn to the agriculture
industry and that farming be realized as a viable career pathway.”

The trainings were delivered in collaboration with the Samoa Koko Industry Association and the Samoa Chamber of Commerce and Industry.