MAL, MCILI and Australia High Commission launch cocoa book for villages
The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAL), Ministry of Commerce, Industry, Labour and Immigration (MCILI) and the Australian High Commission launched a book that teaches remote communities how to grow and process cocoa into a range of food products that can be sold in villages and markets.
The book, titled “Mekem and Selem Cocoa”, was officially launched on 6 August 2020 at Heritage Park Hotel in a ceremony attended by approximately 50 business leaders and cocoa stakeholders. The book was developed by the Australian Government initiative, Strongim Bisnis.
Strongim Bisnis worked with local, Pacific and international cocoa experts to develop information specifically for remote communities in Solomon Islands. Local experts included cocoa entrepreneurs Diana Yates of Cathliro Chocolate Haus and Grace Fekau of Amazing Grace Boutique Cocoa Farm and Garden Tours, and cocoa trainer Robert Waisu. Regional and international experts included Floris Niu of Kokoa Samoa and Oonagh Browne of She Universe Chocolates in New Zealand.
MAL Permanent Secretary, Ms. Ethel Frances, gave key remarks during the book launch and said, “this book offers information on how to improve the quality of the cocoa we grow and how to grow more, through internationally-recognised methods. By increasing the quality of our cocoa, we can reach boutique buyers overseas who pay a premium, allowing our farmers to earn more from their efforts.”
In addition to teaching people how to improve cocoa quality, the book also gives information on how to ferment, sun-dry and roast cocoa beans. It then shows people how to create food products from the roasted cocoa beans, such as cocoa tea, hot chocolate drinks and chocolate that does not need refrigeration. The food products in the book do not require special tools, may be made in a village, and can be eaten or sold within rural communities as an income-generating opportunity. These opportunities are especially aimed at women, youth and People Living With Disability (PLWD) entrepreneurs.
Australian Deputy High Commissioner to Solomon Islands, Ms. Sally-Anne Vincent, also gave a speech at the ceremony. She said, “the Australian Government is proud to partner with the Solomon Islands Government to create this cocoa book. The book offers opportunities for those in the remote communities to earn more income from cocoa and establish businesses that may help combat the economic impact of COVID-19. We stand with Solomon Islands during these tough times, not just in Honiara, but in the provinces too.”
The books were given to the Director of the Solomon Islands Association of Rural Training Centres (SIARTC), Billy Mae. The cocoa books will contribute to the cocoa training that SIARTC offers to rural students.
The cocoa book is also available to the public, for free, at Strongim Bisnis’ website: https://www.strongimbisnis.com.sb/resources.html. Strongim Bisnis is an Australian Government funded program that supports growth in the tourism, cocoa and coconut sectors with a strong focus on supporting women, youth and PLWD.