Cocoa farming project gets boost with grant award
Department of Agriculture director Lealao Melila Purcell confirmed Friday that more than $200,000 from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) will assist local farmers for a new cocoa farming project launched this year.
The USDA project document released Monday designated the local DOA as the recipient of $215,596 partnering with the Native Hawaiian Holding Company Inc. “to implement the Native Samoan Agribusiness Strategic” to “develop the cocoa industry in the American Samoa.”
Hawai’i based Native Hawaiian Holding was in February this year awarded by ASG the sole source contract for the contact center industry training and employment program. They also operate the One Stop Job Center in Tafuna.
Lealao said the money can go towards among other things clearing land for cocoa planting and purchasing cocoa plants from Samoa for planting here.
Cocoa trees were once in abundance in American Samoa especially in Tualauta County, where a large section is still called KoKoland, according to Lealao, but the vast majority of these cocoa trees have long disappeared as land was used to build homes and other structures to accommodate an increasing population.
During a July meeting this year with the Chamber of Commerce and a senior diplomat from Indonesia, the DoA director revealed that his department was reviving this project, hoping to make it an export for American Samoa, with the US market targeted, as buyers are already looking at the territory as a cocoa source.
Lealao said there are already two cocoa plantations on island and that DoA has implemented the cocoa planting development projecting that in five years it would eventually be an export product.