A group of cocoa farmers from the Qbora Farmers Business Group in Tinputz District in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville has started construction of a solar combination dryer to improve the quality of their cocoa.
Qbora Farmers Business Group is made up of 50 members and is located in the Torpanos village in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville and was formed in 2016 after the group applied for a grant, funded by Australia and New Zealand Governments in a partnership with Papua New Guinea and Autonomous Bougainville Governments.
Group Chairman, Felix Brian, said the new solar combination dryer will make a significant difference to the group’s cocoa quality and production.
Solar dryers are devices that use solar energy to dry substances, in the farmers’ case, cocoa beans.
“The solar combination dryer in this community will be a big help. The quality is one thing the solar will address. We have been talking a lot about quality and production and the solar dryer will help us a lot with that,” said Felix.
“Two boys went to training last year to impart skills to others. We are now training our farmers to address quality and produce good cocoa, so they can get better money for their hard work.”
Felix says, having the solar combination dryer will allow farmers to shift their reliance on firewood.
“Before people were using 44-gallon drums to dry cocoa, but they can only be used for six months before they need to be replaced. The cocoa quality is also very bad, with a lot of smoke coming out from the drums,” said Felix.
22-year-old Marcia Rose is part of Qbora farming group and owns 300 cocoa plants with her husband and mother.
“I believe there will be less work, because we will be using the sun to dry the beans instead of smoke. We also rely on men to carry firewood and to dry cocoa, but now women will be able to do this task,” she said.
“Before joining the farming group, I only knew very basic cocoa farming skills. The project has taught me how to look after the cocoa, how to do cutting and pruning and how to take care of plants.”
“There are 50 farmers in this cocoa farming group, but almost 300 people in this community are benefiting through this project.”
Both Felix and Marcia hope the boost in their cocoa quality provided by the solar dryer will help them enter their cocoa beans into the Bougainville Cocoa Festival for judging.
This year’s Chocolate Festival will be held in Arawa over the course of two days, from the 7th to 8th of August.