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A significant development progress for Bougainville as it finds its feet in the country and the world, recovering from a decade long crisis.
On Thursday, March 17, 2016, representatives from the governments of Australia, New Zealand, PNG and the Autonomous Bougainville Government signed a partnership initiative to develop agriculture in Bougainville.
A first ever kind of grass roots targeted economic development initiative after the Bougainville crisis.
The initiative is called Commodity Support Facility (CSF).
Its long-term goal is to drive economic development, making people at grassroots level earn money and ultimately improving their lives.
Several hundred people gathered at Bel Isi Park in Buka to witness the inauguration of this significant economic intervention.
It began with a flag raising ceremony- the raising of the flags of PNG, Australia, New Zealand and Bougainville.
Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) President John Momis and his few ministers were present to welcome and endorse the initiative.
Momis said the initiative would help his people earn money to develop themselves and in the long term- make an informed decision about referendum due in 2019.
Every year K 7 million will be made available through the Commodity Support Facility (CSF) and Momis said the ABG was contributing K 2 million.
Australian High Commission’s Minister Counsellor Rodney Hilton said Australia has a common interest in Bougainville together with the PNG Government, the ABG and New Zealand Governments and that is to ensure there was stability, security and prosperity for Bougainville.
He said to achieve stability, security and prosperity, there must be economic development.
“You need economic development for communities, you need jobs, you need income, you need the opportunity to earn your income to educate your children to generate a better brighter future for the whole of Bougainville,” Hilton said.
He reiterated that was what the CSF would have to achieve.
Hilton has been in PNG for over twelve months now and he said the key economic development sector in Bougainville was agriculture and a special part of agriculture was Cocoa.
“Cocoa is actually a pivotal part to your economic development, it touches two-thirds of the population here,” he said.
Hilton encouraged Bougainvilleans that their cocoa was recognized globally-citing an incidence where an international mission of personnel from the ABG and farmers travelled to Indonesia and Singapore to see some of the major cocoa producers in the world.
Their trip was sponsored by the Australian Government and their aim was to draw on those expertise to learn about cocoa production.
This delegation took with them a sample of Bougainville cocoa and experts had a taste.
They recommended the uniqueness of Bougainville Cocoa.
They wanted to place an order right there.
“So we are talking about taking Bougainvile Cocoa to the very heart of global cocoa production centres, Indonesia and putting it up against Indonesia’s cocoa, ” Hilton said.
The Commodity Support Facility he said will support the whole of primary industry with diversification and expansion into fishery and forestry sectors later.
Hilton said the program is going to be big in terms of economic development driven by Bougainville’s primary industry department.
K 7 million a year will be set up as grants so people can apply to help produce cocoa.
He said they were looking for innovation and new ideas and expanding it to helping farmers work with finance organisations, having access to funds to expand their business.
They will also increase supply of tools and fertilizers, run design competition for fermentary and encourage innovative transport to bring cocoa to buyers.
There will be greater support to developing women and youth and providing better market information to farmers.
The economic intervention ideas Hilton said should be unlimited.
New Zealand, a leading country in agriculture is very supportive of the initiative and a massive awareness about this K 7 million- a year economic intervention will be rolled out before people or farmers start accessing grants to develop their cocoa.