Income from cocoa is the main source of cash used to purchase food and services in many communities in the tropical lowlands of Papua New Guinea (PNG). Despite the availability of improved management technology, there has been poor transfer and uptake of these technologies among smallholder cocoa farmers, and potentially high bean yields and farmer incomes remain unrealised. A series of IPDM options that were shown to improve crop management and cocoa bean yield in research trials were demonstrated to farmers using an on-farm participatory approach that enabled farmers to evaluate the costs and benefits of each strategy before committing to adoption. The options were designed to provide several levels of entry to improved management, and ranged from no inputs (Option 1), manual inputs (Option 2: pruning, sanitation, weed management and regular complete pod harvesting), high level inputs (Option 3: pruning, sanitation, weed management, regular complete pod harvesting and fertiliser application), to intensive management (Option 4: pruning, sanitation, weed management, regular complete pod harvesting, and the application of fertiliser, fungicide and pesticide). Farmers from East New Britain, Madang and Bougainville, the three main cocoa growing provinces in PNG, participated in on-farm IPDM training and surveys to monitor changes in knowledge and management practice. Farmers opted in or out of the training as their commitments or level of interest changed, and new farmers joined in after observing changes in the cocoa blocks. Farmers were trained in epidemiology and crop management, were shown how to apply the IPDM inputs in their own cocoa blocks, and were given a simple training manual. Surveys conducted prior to, and 3 years after the training, showed an improvement in the farmers’ knowledge of cocoa management and a better understanding of cocoa pest and disease epidemiology. Three years after the training, pest and disease incidence in participating cocoa blocks had declined and cocoa yields had increased by an average of 30%. Trained farmers were encouraged to demonstrate improved management to neighbouring farmers, and the program has now been officially adopted as the national strategy to improve cocoa production in PNG. The participatory approach is an effective way of disseminating information and technology to farmers, however, it requires frequent follow-up visits by trained extension staff. We also discuss the significant challenges associated with conducting farmer surveys.
CocoaIntegrated pest and disease managementParticipatory action researchFarmer trainingLearning-by-doing