(APIA, SAMOA) – Forty koko (cacao) farmers from the Asau and Faasaleleaga districts participated in the Youth Koko Initiative Training Workshop which kicked off in Savaii last week.
The program is under the COVID-19 Preparedness and Recovery: Diversification of the Economic Sector in Samoa (CPRDESS) Project.
Funded by the Government of Japan the project is 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 upskill and build the capacity of young farmers in the koko industry.
“The project, through the Youth Koko Initiative, aims to strengthen and diversify the agriculture and fisheries sector to ensure that Samoa’s economy is resilient to the impacts of COVID-19,” said Tupe Crawley Lemisio, Project Coordinator for CPRDESS.
The two-day training was held first in the Asau District with a site visit and practical training at the Savaii Koko nursery by the Vice President of the Samoa Koko Industry Association, Alo Kolone Vaai. It then moved to the Faasaleleaga District with a site visit and practical training at the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries nursery.
A young, female koko farmer from the Faasaleleaga district, Grace Leva’ai, said the training has provided valuable insights for her. “Grafting requires a lot of attention to detail as it is a delicate process, it’s a skill that we have been fortunate to learn and try. We also learnt of the different types of koko, and more importantly, understanding contract farming, it’s benefits and disadvantages for farmers. The training has encouraged me as a farmer to keep learning and building my career path in agriculture, particularly in the koko industry. There are many economic opportunities for youth in the industry and I am grateful to be part of this network”.
The Youth Koko Initiative is an ongoing programme that aims to train existing youth farmers as well as engaging new, young farmers in the koko industry.
“It has been a meaningful programme, seeing more young people coming through with requests to be involved and are willing to learn, especially those who are currently smallholder cocoa farmers, and we look forward to expanding further,” said Helen Skipps, training facilitator from the Samoa Chamber of Commerce.
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.
Project Officer, Samantha Rogers, encouraged young farmers to join the programme. “In the coming weeks, we will be delivering this training in Upolu. If you are an interested young farmer, please contact our office at the Samoa Chamber of Commerce for more information”.
The trainings were delivered in collaboration with the Samoa Koko Industry Association, Samoa Trust Estate Corporation and the Samoa Chamber of Commerce and Industry.