By JOYCE INGIPA
M OST -75 per cent – of the eight million Papua New Guineans in the country are subsistence farmers who toil the land to survive.
Boas Isamo, 43, from Managalas in the Afore district of Northern, is one of those, a farmer who grows coffee and owns a plantation in his 180-hectare land in his Sakarina village.
He is married to a Central woman and they have four children ranging from 12 to 18 years old – all living and studying in Port Moresby.
“We live in Popondetta but because of the business engagements in Port Moresby, we had to move down,” Isamo said.
“The coffee plantation was initially started by my late father before Independence when the white people were still around. The white men taught my father and them how to grow coffee.
“When I shared my story with the Investment Promotion Authority (IPA) in 2015, they encourage me to go ahead and register my business with them.”
Isamo is the owner of Local Farmers Industries Ltd that supplies pawpaw to most hotels and supermarkets in Port Moresby that he grows at his wife’s village in Vanapa in the Kairuku district of Central. Pawpaw is just one of his fresh produce.
Isamo never had a chance to complete his formal education.
“I did my primary schooling at the Sakarina Primary School in the village and completed grade 10 at the Afore High School in 1980 but couldn’t further my secondary education because my big sister wanted to go to school so I stayed back to help in the house,” he said.
The village boy now owns a farm in Vanapa and a coffee plantation in Managalas.
“I supply pawpaw to Airways Hotel, Ela Beach Hotel, Crown Plaza, Holiday Inn and Lamana Hotel besides RH Hypermart in Port Moresby. I supply 2-3 tonnes a week.”
The work Isamo was doing was recognised by the Department of Agriculture and Livestock and the Coffee Industry Board and approved his industrial licence for coffee in 2015.
“You can have a plantation but you’ve got to have a bit of capital to be given an industrial licence. So after seeing what I was doing and upon inspection of my office in Korobosea, the Coffee Investment Corporation gave me my coffee industrial licence.”
In 1996 when Isamo finished work from Ok Tedi Mining as an auto mechanic, he went to Port Moresby where he met his wife and in the following year they moved to Popondetta to restart the plantation.
“I went back home with my wife to work on the plantation and also to encourage other farmers to grow coffee. When villagers were clearing the place for planting other crops like taro and yams, I told them to plant coffee instead.”
Isamo expanded his coffee plantation by allowing other farmers to put land together and become holders with him.
“I have been a farmer for more than 15 years so I told the farmers to come together collectively as a plantation instead of farmers because we have been farmers for a long time.
“The bank gets the money generated from coffee sales and distribute it to all the farmers’ personal bank accounts.”
The only obstacle for Isamo now is securing a market for his products and transportation.
“It would make life easier for us if the government helped the ordinary farmers to look for ways to transport and export our fresh produce to the international markets because the bulk of our population are farmers in the rural areas.
“My plantation now comprises 6,500 coffee farmers and we are registered under the name of Managalas Coffee Plantation Developments with the Investment Promotion Authority.”
Apart from coffee, Isamo is involved in other community activities in supporting his local people.
“From the profits generated from his sales he has built the local Afore airstrip and helped support the Afore High School. I have used my own resources to build the airstrip in which small planes and helicopters landed during the cyclone Guba period in 2007.”
The Managalas Coffee Plantation Development is now selling its coffee beans to Outspan Coffee which is a subsidiary of Olam International that has a factory in Goroka and is based in Lae.
Isamo packs his coffee beans into bags and transports them by truck to Oro Bay wharf in Popondetta where the bags are loaded into containers to be shipped off to Lae and to the buyer at a cost of K6,000.
“At other times I charter planes to land on my airstrip to transport the beans.
“Another thing is to bring down stream processing and packaging to the village level so we can know that our produce is safe for transporting and export.
Isamo was selected by the PNG Coffee Industry Corporation and Agriculture Deaprtment to attend the International Coffee Expo that would be hosted in Tokyo next month. He is looking forward to showcase and present PNG coffee to the world to attract potential importers.
“My business objective in the long run is to look for a way to help local farmers in the Northern province and PNG with the assistance of the national government to look for a way to export our products overseas.”
“When 75 per cent of PNG’s population are subsistence farmers, what better way can the Government take back PNG than through agriculture.
“I am a prayer warrior with the nation’s Prayer Ministry and I have prayed for the Government to recognise the agriculture industry for a long time and I believe this Government will look into it”.
Isamo’s parents passed on earlier and all his elder siblings are missionaries with the Christian Revival Crusade (CRC) Church.
By JOYCE INGIPA