Festival Highlights Women’s Contributions to Cocoa Industry

Winner of the festival’s Cocoa Competition, Elsie Sedo, standing in front of her farm’s solar drier supplied by the PHAMA program and Solomon Islands’ Rural Development Project (RDP). Image source: PHAMA

Solomon Islands, 2 August 2016: From May 30 to June 1 Solomon Islands’ Cocoa Industry Working Group held the country’s first Cocoa Festival in Honiara. The Working Group, established through PHAMA’s assistance in 2012, hosted over 100 attendees at the event including cocoa producers, buyers, exporters, local businesses and government representatives.

As part of the week-long festival, a Cocoa Competition was held to judge the highest quality produce. Cocoa producer Elsie Sedo from Guadalcanal Province won the competition, stirring a great amount of interest from international chocolate producers.

Jimmy Saelea, Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAL), with Cocoa Competition finalists and representatives from the Australian High Commission in Honiara. Image source: PHAMA.
Jimmy Saelea, Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAL), with Cocoa Competition finalists and representatives from the Australian High Commission in Honiara. Image source: PHAMA.

Elsie’s win highlighted women’s contributions and roles in Solomon Islands’ Cocoa industry. More than 50% of producers and processors of cocoa in Solomon Islands are women. In addition to being producers and processors, women are typically quite heavily involved in the growing and harvesting stages, in addition to fermenting and drying of cocoa beans.

In the festival’s Cocoa Competition, 14% of samples came from farms operated and managed wholly by women. Cocoa is an important export earner and source of rural livelihoods in Solomon Islands with 75% of export returns retained by producers. 20-25,000 small holder farmers and their households are involved in production. 4000 –5000 tonnes of cocoa beans are produced annually, mainly by smallholders. Cocoa is one of Solomon Islands’ biggest agricultural export earners, generating around USD15 million in exports per year.

More than 50% of producers and processors of cocoa in Solomon Islands are women. Cocoa is one of Solomon Islands’ biggest agricultural export earners, generating around USD15 million in exports per year. Image source: PHAMA
More than 50% of producers and processors of cocoa in Solomon Islands are women. Cocoa is one of Solomon Islands’ biggest agricultural export earners, generating around USD15 million in exports per year. Image source: PHAMA

Judging of the cocoa was facilitated by international chocolate producers from the United States and New Zealand who blindly taste-tested chocolate samples produced from cocoa beans from the competition’s 10 finalists. These samples were selected prior to the event from 80 samples of beans entered into the competition from across 6 provinces. First and second place were both won by women.

For Elsie, the competition win meant well-earned prize money, substantial cocoa sales during the festival, as well as significant negotiation opportunities with international chocolate producers looking for niche, high quality single origin cocoa.

The Australian and New Zealand Government PHAMA Program was one of the event’s sponsors in addition to ADRA, Rural Development Project (RDP), and Solomon Island’s Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAL).

PHAMA works with the cocoa industry in the Solomon Islands to address quality issues, increase access to market information, and secure niche markets for quality cocoa beans. Cocoa quality improvement is a key focus for the Program with a view to accessing price premiums from high end buyers, and assisting Pacific farmers and exporters to link with those buyers.

PHAMA is working with cocoa growers and exporters to better understand market opportunities around quality and potential modalities for trade finance which is expected to lead to improved export pricing and increased incomes.

PHAMA commissioned a gender analysis of the cocoa value chain in Solomon Islands, which has provided recommendations on how programs like PHAMA can help in empowering women involved in the cocoa value chain. An immediate entry point for PHAMA is the involvement of women in solar drier trials for cocoa. Other recommendations for PHAMA and similar programs include increased access to training, finance, education and awareness, public private partnerships and specific business ideas.

Event sponsors are looking at making Solomon Islands’ Cocoa Festival an annual event to support further growth in the nation’s cocoa industry.

For more information about PHAMA, visit their website here.