A new data-base system will allow growers to take charge of their organic or fair trade certification for the first time and directly link them with customers.
Presenter: Jemima Garrett
Speakers: Andreas Lombardozzi, Managing Director, African Pacific Vanuatu Ltd; Peter Napwatt, CEO, Vanuatu Agriculture College
GARRETT: Much of the world's cocoa is grown on big plantations.
Vanuatu's cocoa, like that from many other Pacific countries is high quality and organic, but because farmers have very small plots, it has been hard for them to compete.
African Pacific Vanuatu Ltd is a new kind of private sector organisation.
It calls itself a transparent service provider - a match-maker dedicated to getting a better deal for growers.
Managing Director, Andreas Lombardozzi, says the first step was getting cocoa growers together.
LOMBARDOZZI: From 2007 we've doubled the price of cocoa by bringing the competition in and marketing Vanuatu origin. You know, Haighs in Australia is now supporting Vanuatu cocoa, which is absolutely fantastic, and building a relationship with Vanuatu cocoa growers.
GARRETT: The next step is much more radical - it aims to put ownership of organic and fair trade certification in the hands of the grower.
Demand for traceable, ethical and organic cocoa is strong but only 10%
of the world's cocoa is certified.
For small growers certification costs are high but in Vanuatu they are being overcome by using mobile communications to create and update an accurate computer-based database that can be controlled by growers.
Andreas Lombardozzi says the new certification process is very different to that of the past.
LOMBARDOZZI: The certification would be paid for, in terms of organic at least, would be paid for by a processors. And he would include a certain grower group in that certification but that means that grower had to sell his particular organic through that processor and that eliminated competition. And even in terms of some fair trade certification, once that grower is certified under that relationship he doesn't own that, he doesn't have that data at hand, and so it is very difficult for him to say 'Oh I've got Fair Trade but I want to sell to Rainforest Alliance or another certification group'. He can't do that. But in terms of our new system, when they own the certification themselves, because they have presented themselves as the owner of the data then you can start creating competition between the certification bodies and I think that is the new way we can drive down the costs, you know, reduce the burden of certification away from the grower. The grower in the past has carried the burden of certification and that's not necessarily fair. Under this new system it is the certification bodies that will have to compete to get the grower's product.
GARRETT: Andreas Lombardozzi, Managing Director of African Pacific Vanuatu Ltd.
The new certification process and the database are being extended to include an electronic payments system - so farmers will need to learn new skills.
Peter Napwatt, CEO of the Vanuatu Agriculture College, is ready to help.
NAPWATT: We have only one mandate and that mandate is to train farmers in Vanuatu and that is who we are. So if there is anything that is new we will bring it onto Vanautu Agriculture College. Everytime, I always look around for different agriculture innovations that must give farmers the edge to be able to compete in the market. So I am grateful that Africa Pacific and PGEP (Pacific Growers Export partnership) actually came in and we started something different, because this is beginning to revolutionise farming in Vanuatu in a very big way. I can see it.
GARRETT: The database is already helping African Pacific Ltd and agricultural extension officers respond better to farmers needs.
It revealed more than half of Vanuatu's cocoa farmers are growing less than half a hectare of cocoa - not enough for a sustainable living.
LOMBARDOZZI: So we can now look at them in the data base, call them up in the data base and approach them directly and find out first, 'Do you have more land?'. And from that point we can really now engage, and then we can send the extension officers out to them, we can create appointments for them. Suddenly you are moving from a very chaotic and dispersed and top down system, to a system that serves the grower in terms of his needs and you are creating that relationship just like you would in Australia or anywhere else. I think meeting the grower at his own level, at a one-to-one level is really core to this.
GARRETT: African Pacific Vanuatu Ltd has already got runs on the board with its Nui line of coconut-based cosmetic products and organic chocolate.
Peter Napwatt is optimistic that grower-owned databases and mobile technology will have a lot more benefits for farmers.
NAPWATT: There are a lot of products out there, and I think what we have started here may lead on to other products as well. We really don't know where we can stop. At the moment we are dealing with coconut and cocoa but there is coffee there as well and there is other things. So scope for Vanuatu engaging with the system that (inaudible) set up is really great.