Australian-funded project empowers farmers with disabilities

Jan 8, 2024 | Blog, News

Julie and her family are members of the Etanaba 93 Farmers Cooperative Society in Bana district, one of 50 cocoa farming cooperatives in Bougainville that have benefited from the Australia-funded Commodity Support Facility (CSF) project.

In a transformative initiative, the Australian Government-funded Commodity Support Facility (CSF) project is bringing positive change to cocoa farmers, particularly those facing physical challenges. Julie Patrick, a cocoa farmer residing in Nagobis village in Bougainville, is among the beneficiaries witnessing the project’s impact firsthand.

Julie and her family are proud members of the Farmers’ Cooperative Etanaba 93 in Bana district, one of the 50 cocoa farming cooperatives in Bougainville that have reaped the benefits of the CSF project. Designed to support farmers through training, capacity building, and financial assistance, the CSF aims to boost cocoa production quantity, improve quality, and strengthen market access. Notably, it places a strong emphasis on fostering inclusive economic and agricultural development in Bougainville, focusing on women, youth, and people with disabilities.

Farming, inherently physical and labor-intensive, presents unique challenges for individuals with disabilities like Julie, who faces mobility impairments. However, with the support of the CSF project, she has been able to adapt her cocoa farming techniques to accommodate her disability.

The CSF-backed Integrated Pest and Disease Management training, along with the Cocoa Budding training conducted by the Department of Primary Industries, has been instrumental in empowering Julie. These initiatives have equipped her with the skills to nurse, plant, and manage cocoa clone trees—shorter, higher-yielding, and more disease-resistant than hybrid trees. Despite her mobility challenges, Julie has successfully managed her plot, leading to plans to expand her cocoa block and increase her income.

Attending the training sessions on cocoa budding proved to be a turning point for Julie, motivating her to continue tending to her plots with newfound skills. She has not only implemented these techniques herself but has also shared them with her family members, benefiting the entire household.

“For a person with difficulty walking like me, clone cocoa is easy to manage and is shorter than other tree varieties. It is easier for me to prune and reach the pods during harvest time,” explained Julie, expressing her gratitude for the project’s impact on her life.

Since its inception in 2016, the CSF project has provided over K35 million in grants, benefiting more than 50 farmer cooperatives and 2500 small-holder farmers. Julie’s success story reflects the positive strides being made in empowering individuals with disabilities in the agricultural sector, marking a significant step toward more inclusive and sustainable farming practices in Bougainville.