By LEO WAFIWA
Of the many contributing factors in the demise of farmer cooperative societies, lack of transparent leadership and poor governance are two common causes.
Some cooperatives that are still around exist by name only and have become dysfunctional.
The Coffee Industry Corporation’s Productive Partnerships in Agriculture Project (CIC-PPAP) and its lead partners are reviving some of these cooperatives or grower groups through its industry rehabilitation effort.
The groups are being strengthened through ongoing field work and participatory training.
One such opportunity was provided for Kasuka Coffee Cooperative at Kalebo Village located in the mountains of Erap in Nawaeb District, Morobe.
The training was facilitated by agri-business firm Wia Trade Enterprise Ltd from March 12 to 16, 2018.
The lead partner is rehabilitating existing coffee gardens in the Erap LLG with 813 farmers covering 40 hectares under Kasuka Cooperative as a co-partner.
Leading the sessions was PRAP expert Sallyn Lomutopa and training partner Thomas Oruga as service providers.
It was the first for 60-plus male and female farmers from eight cluster groups representing their respective villages namely Gisi, Torowa, Sabang, Kalebo, Bayang, Tifito, Balawang and Kawarang. Interestingly many young men and women attended.
The aim is to strengthen farmer groups by first recollecting the past, learning from the mistakes, map out the opportunities and potentials, and move forward as a functional business group.
“This opportunity should have come earlier,” says female farmer and women representative Tikereng Nowaro, 40, of Sibi Village.
The training began with farmers themselves deciding house rules which included starting at 8am with a prayer, no smoking and chewing of betel nut during training sessions.
The training focused on the gaps in group structure and also on how everyone in the village(s) could organise and get their group to function efficiently.
Some topics covered were village mapping, van diagram and relationship design, historical profile, trans-sec, seasonal calendar, strategic planning methods using SWOC/T (strengthens, weakness, opportunities, challenges/threats) problem solving and action plan matrix.
Each session was followed with group discussions and activities that were lively in the last three days as participants became comfortable with each other.
An evaluation of farmers’ perception of the training was conducted as well using a simple training evaluation questionnaire.
PPAP project manager Potaisa Hombunaka emphasised the importance of transparent leadership and governance for the success and sustainability of farmer groups.
“People saw the downfall of cooperatives because of bad leadership and have lost respect and trust, and are less willing to participate in group work,” he said.
“Consequently group cohesiveness has declined and reviving these cooperatives against this backdrop is not an easy task.
“It is important to get everybody together to understand their roles and responsibilities and where they want to go. They collectively get involved in the planning and decision making process.
“Creating and developing functional groups is important for their sustainability.”
Kasuka Coffee Cooperative was formed in the 1980s by coffee growers from villages located south east of Nadzab Airport alongside the Leron River.
In November 2016 the farmers partnered Wia Trade Ltd under the World Bank, IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development) and PNG Government (with support funding of K1.8 million) to revitalise their coffee gardens.
In the last 16 months the PPAP coffee and agri-business firm Wia Trade is setting the platform for a partnership approach to rural development in the Nawaeb District. This is where all stakeholders in government, institutions, private sector companies and farmers need to work together to bring change to rural communities.
Meanwhile, the PRAP training also coincided with the launching of several items on Thursday, March 15 at Kalebo Village. A record 216,827 Arabica coffee seedlings produced by eight cluster groups are ready for transplanting to gardens.
PPAP technical officer Alphy Semy explains the seedlings are expected to produce a minimum of 540,000 kg of cherries after between three and five years when the trees reach full maturity or production stage.
He said converting to green bean this would give just over 87,000 kg or 1450 bags, enough to fill four containers.
“At today’s Y grade price of K7.50 per kg, the projected additional revenue is estimated at K650,000.
“Ninety per cent of this revenue will go directly to the farmers of Kasuka Cooperative,” Semy said.
Wia Trade managing director Dr Joel Waramboi, says Erap LLG currently has 314,315 coffee trees from 130 gardens covering 120.9 ha. The annual yield from these trees is just over 700,000 kg of cherries on a scale of 2.5kg per tree.
It was a proud moment for the chairman of Kasuka Cooperative Benny Kemoga who said Erap has awakened and was ready to supply more coffee in three years’ time and beyond.
The farmers will sell their coffee to Wia Trade which is setting up a factory at Nadzab to provide a convenient marketing access for them. The lack of such a market has been a setback for farmers in the Wain-Erap area of Morobe over many years.
The author is Information and Communications Officer for the CIC-PPAP.