By LEO WAFIWA
FARMERS under Coffee Industry Corporation’s Productive Partnerships in Agriculture Project (CIC-PPAP) are actively reviving rundown coffee blocks in Jiwaka.
Large portions of blocks are being restored under a partnership arrangement with private sector firm Agro Dev Trade Ltd, a lead partner of CIC-PPAP who is implementing coffee rehabilitating activities with 605 farmers.
The coffee improvement work is financed by a loan facility from World Bank and IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development) with support funding from PNG Government.
“The farmers like many others are kind of the Thomas type. They want to see to believe,” said lead partner Jacob Taru of Agro Dev Trade Ltd.
“They prefer to work as individuals after observing how their fathers have been used under the plantation management system for some 30 years,”
The private sector firm with CIC-PPAP funding is partnering over 600 farmers to rehabilitate 24 blocks each ranging from 15-20 hectares, hence over 400 hectares of coffee.
The 24 blocks have been subdivided to less than 5 hectares for the 605 farmers and undergoing rehabilitation which will include clearing, pruning, infilling, replanting and improvement to drainage. Kalanga Plantation with clear ownership is also participating with only 5 hectares of its coffee been rehabilitated. The plantation owner can use knowledge gained plus income from the 5 hectares to continue to rehabilitate his plantation per year or get funding from elsewhere. Plantations with land owner issues will be difficult to work with unless a common understanding is reached and plantations subdivided to clans or whatever group dynamics determined by land owners themselves.
A block is about five hectares with five rows of coffee trees and is divided by a drain.
Taru said the farmers like working that way and it suits them.
“We’re not imposing any structure on them.
“If there are any boundary or landowner issues we let them deal with it.
“We’re learning as well and blending in with the local approaches and everyone is happy.”
I had the opportunity to visit some farmers and their blocks in Dei Council on Tuesday Nov 7.
Interestingly all family members, including women, have been allocated blocks and farmers are helping each other to improve their coffee trees.
Agro Trade Dev Ltd is using a farmer-led group extension service approach under PPAP modality to foster group cohesiveness and integration among the communities. The approach is working well with 13 farmer groups as co-partners.
“Our extension and field officers are also farmers. They train a farmer who trains another after seeing the results in terms of yield and general appearance of the coffee trees and blocks,” Taru continued.
“These people have been left outside of coffee work for some 30 years under the plantation system. This is about two generations we talking about.
“Our policy under PPAP coffee modality is to bring farmers together and train them to work as a group. We are happy to see farmers learning and teaching each other.”
The PPAP modality encourages private sector partnerships to take the lead by working in continuous close contact and communication with farmers.
The objective is to build and strengthen the linkage or relationship between the lead partner and co-partners or farmers groups. The intention is for this relationship to continue rehabilitation work after the life of the project in June 2019.
To mobilize farmers under a group is not that simple. People must first have trust and confidence in the leadership.
Taru has worked as an extension officer for coffee plantation management firms for 30-plus years in Western Highlands and Jiwaka. Many described him as a person who has great love and passion for coffee. During the plantation years he came into contact with fathers of children who are now over 40-years-old and have taken over the plantations.
Many block owners wanted to become part of the coffee rehabilitation intervention which will provide tools and materials support, training in coffee husbandry, financial literacy, gender equality, leadership, etc.
“There is continuous check and progressive reports on our rehabilitation efforts which keep pushing us to complete specific tasks in a given time frame.
“We like that. It shows the seriousness of this project,” says farmer Mark Pora, 45, of Prandaga village in Tok Pisin. Mark is one of some farmers working as extension officer for the project.
“We know what our lead partner is doing with money and this is good.
“Funds are release on trench basis to our lead partner. Any other intervention should strengthen what we already doing with our lead partner under CIC-PPAP,” adds another farmer Put Nolgi aged 40.
The demise of the plantation sector was due to many factors. Among the list are landowners not receiving the benefits they expected, poor leadership and lack of community and public relations.
“Those who want to lead must work with trust and respect. We do not welcome operations where directors or leaders will use us for their personal benefit and ego.
“Here at Dei Council we’re already organized. We already have a structure here. There is potential to extend the modality to cover remaining blocks and plantations,” say farmers Mathew Morang and Arnold Goie.
The PPAP model is also fostering partnership with local MPs, district development authorities (DDAs) and provincial governments to support coffee rehabilitation in their area.
Strict procurement of goods and services by lead partners to carry out their work with farmers is an important element of this PPAP modality.
There is a budget line for every activity and funds are dispersed on trench basis following confirmation of activities undertaken as per specific work plans.
“One lead partner in Eastern Highlands spent some time in jail for misapplying funds intended to service farmers.
“Also some lead partners that have spent outside of agreed activities, considered as ineligible expense, and are being pursued to repay.
“There is no room for misapplication and mismanagement. This project is about helping farmers and we must do it right. If you cannot get it straight then you not playing my game,” says CIC-PPAP manager Potaisa Hombunaka.
Farmers in Jiwaka and Western Highlands are used to harvesting and selling cherries to road buyers. The aim of Agro Dev Trade Ltd is to construct a factory to process coffee to green bean to sell overseas for a better price.
The company for the last three years has been successfully organizing farmers to produce quality yield for this purpose.
“We have seen an increase in our production. I used to sell 40 drums of cherry coffee. The last time I sold over 100 drums. I couldn’t believe this result,” says farmer Arnold Goie.
- The author is Information & Communications Officer for CIC’s Productive Partnerships in Agriculture Project (CIC-PPAP), a World Bank and IFAD financed project on a loan arrangement with PNG Government.