It takes a lot of sweat and muscle to turn 15 hectares of dense forest into cocoa groves. For the labourers at the Diocese of Ysabel’s Garanga farm, it took a year and a half of chopping down trees and preparing soil with only basic machinery.
That started in 2004. Now the farm is running well, growing cocoa for export and other produce for the local market, including papayas, coconut, and betel nut for chewing.
The core funding for this work comes from the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund.
We saw it with our own eyes a couple of days ago. The Canadian team, Archbishop David and Mary Vunagi, Bishop Richard Naramana and others from the Diocese of Ysabel walked down a makeshift palm-tree boulevard in the centre of the farm and saw the lush crops on either side.
All around Garanga are elevated wooden buildings, homes for farm workers. There is also a newly built chapel with a handmade leaf roof.
We also saw the cocoa drier—net mesh high on a wooden platform with space for fire underneath. The cocoa is kept warm and dry until a boat arrives to take it to Honiara.
It’s high-quality produce. Last year Garanga’s cocoa was selected as an exemplary Solomon Islands crop for foreign buyers to taste.
Bishop Naramana explained to us the challenges of Garanga: the struggle to pay the workers (who in turn pay their children’s school fees), the continuing manual labour with axes and bush knives, and the floods that sometimes wash away crops.
The diocese perseveres because, as with its other ministries, they are driven by a vision.
“When the farm is in full fruition and can generate enough income it will support the mission of the church because now we are a growing but poor church,” said Bishop Naramana. Already the labourers have prepared another 20 hectares for farming.
Now the Canadian team can return with good news to PWRDF and encourage them to keep up their $15,000 annual grant. This farm is on the move.