No more living like ‘wild pigs in the bush’: Village chief

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The National senior writer MMALUM NALU spent three days, from July 11 to 13, to check out how the US$94 million
(K318 million) World Bank Productive Partnerships in Agriculture Projects (PPAP)-funded road projects and coffee plantation rehabilitation initiatives had impacted the lives of some 35,000 coffee growers in  Western Highlands.(Jiwaka) and Southern Highlands (Lower Mendi). Here are his reports:

Left: Abraham Mekint

Mekint … villagers had been living like “wild pigs in the bush” until the PPAP came into our lives
Kamdika Village chief Abraham Mekint says his people had been living like “wild pigs in the bush” until the 4.5km Avi-Kamdika feeder road was built by PPAP.
“Local Members of Parliament (MPs) and the Government had neglected us for far too long until the PPAP came along. We are now producing lots of coffee beans.
“Our women and children are now busy helping to work the land and carrying bags of coffee beans to the Avi Market,” he added.
“On behalf of the people, we are so grateful and thankful to all who worked to bring this World Bank project into the remote part of Papua New Guinea (PNG),” he added.
“The loan funding had been well spent, not only on coffee rehabilitation and production, but also on feeder road construction,” Mekint stressed.


Anita Joseph

Anita … for the first time in decades, vehicles are accessing our village
Village woman leader Anita Joseph said the feeder road had literally “taken a heavy load off our shoulders”.
“Previously, we had much hard work, carrying heavy bags of coffee beans and walking to Avi and town (Mt Hagen). The road has helped lessen our struggle, a journey that took an hour and a half.
“Our children also had to help carry not only coffee bean bags, they also carried bags of vegetables and kaukau (sweet potato). It was such a struggle and burden to get our produce to the market.
“For the first time in decades, vehicles are now coming here (Kamadika). Praise the Lord and PPAP for coming into our community,” she added.
“On behalf of all our women and children, I thank all involved in bringing and implementing this project for this remote area.
“Vehicles can now access our village to transport our coffee and produce. It is such a relief for all villagers.
“The roads have also made it easier for our children to go to school and all who needed to go to hospital for medical treatment, especially pregnant women,” Anita said.

Stephanie Wambi

Stephanie … delighted that the PPAP had changed the lives of so many people for the better
Stephanie Wambi, 27, is PPAP Coffee Partnership Project Coordinator for the Southern Highlands based in Lower Mendi, Imbonggu District.
It is no mean feat working in one of the toughest terrains in the country, given the ongoing tribal problems in Southern Highlands.
The gritty Stephanie took up the “coffee challenge” in 2016 although Southern Highlands was not well known for coffee growing and production.
Today, she has taken coffee growing and production to “new heights”.
“I joined this project in 2016 after graduating from Unitech (University of Technology in Lae),” Stephanie said at Yaria Village in Lower Mendi.
“In 2015, I worked as an extension officer under the previous coordinators. As an extension officer, I worked all around this area, with this being just one zone.
“This project covers three districts, Nipa-Kutubu, Kagua-Erave and here in Imbonggu.
“I usually walk around this district, providing the farmers or coffee growers the technical advice. I visit farms, spending at least a week out on the field.
“Last year, they nominated me as the project coordinator. Since then, I have been staying in the office, giving out work and assignments to extension officers,” she said.
Stephanie said: “There were many challenges that I had to face. My determination to serve the people as a Southern Highlander drove me on.
“It was not easy at the start. I worked around people and they became part of me. This place is now my second home.”
Nipa-Kutubu, Kagua-Erave and Imbonggu have three registered cooperatives with 810 registered farmers, 729 men and 81 women.
“PPAP supplied all types of aid for agriculture, such as pulper machines, fertilisers , tools and services such as training and coffee growing knowledge.”
She said seven nurseries had been set up in Nipa-Kutubu (four) and Imbonggu (three) to date, with each having 20,000 seedlings.
“We had a target of planting 216,000 seedlings but, unfortunately, some failed to grow well. We have so far produced 165,000 seedlings, 119,000 of which had been distributed to farmers.
“We had a shortage, so we sourced 18,000 seedlings from Mt Hagen to add to the distribution,” she added.
Stephanie said a major challenge to the project was transportation, given that “we are covering three districts over a wide and tough terrain”.
“The other problem is that more farmers want to join the project but we had to reject them due to limited funding,” she added.
Stephanie said: “We are delighted that the PPAP had changed the lives of so many people for the better by giving them a regular source of income.
“They are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and are heading towards the light. It is so encouraging to see many young villagers, who were previously wasting their time in playing cards (gambling) and drinking homebrew, now involved in coffee growing.”

Tepa Watinga

Watinga … previous governments neglected farmers for decades
Avi Coffee Cooperative chairman Tepa Watinga said previous governments had neglected the densely-populated Avi Block in Waghi Valley for decades, despite it being a major coffee producer for the country.
“There are more than 18,000 people from all over the country who have been living and working on 144 four-hectare blocks in a Government resettlement scheme.
“The PPAP has constructed two feeder roads to help farmers take their coffee beans to market. The Government has looked down on us and doesn’t want to know us,” Watinga said.
“This is state land but the Government doesn’t know the frustrations and stress that the farmers and coffee growers are facing. We have been living in the dark for the last 43 years, since Independence, with all the roads in deplorable conditions.
“We are grateful that the World Bank, through the PPAP, has helped ease our plight. We see this as divine intervention,” he added.
Watinga said: “Coffee production is now growing due to aid, knowledge and feeder roads that facilitate transport of produce to markets.
“This PPAP is a success and a role-model for the future of agriculture projects.”

Francis Wata

Wata … quit his job as health inspector to venture into coffee growing and production
PPAP lead partner Francis Wata said the Southern Highlands people were today extremely keen coffee growers.
“They have also found the highlands, especially Imbonggu’s Lower Mendi , ideal for coffee cultivation,” said Wata who is also the owner of Undiri Coffee Investments Ltd (UCI).
“All they need is someone to lead them on the right and successful path in coffee growing and production. This is what I am trying to do for the Yaria villagers,” he added.
Wata said: “I took the initiative to set up nurseries and grow coffee to attract the attention of the World Bank and PPAP. I really had to work extremely hard to convince the PPAP team to support us in providing funding and aid.
“I quit as a health inspector to help my community here and others in Southern Highlands to venture into coffee growing and production. It was a risk to venture into this but I had to do it because there was no one in the Southern Highlands’ administration who was interested in going big into coffee growing and production.
“There was also no one from the Coffee Industry Corporation (CIC) to help with extension work. I had to use my own resources to help and partner with farmers.
“It was a lot of hard work for some six years. When PPAP started funding farmers in Eastern Highlands, Chimbu and Western Highlands, I set up a coffee company to seriously venture to help farmers in Southern Highlands.
“My application for funding was successful and I am now working as a PPAP lead partner to help farmers. We are now into our third year and I am very happy with the progress to date,” he added.
Wata said Southern Highlands was not known for coffee, but the farmers embraced change.
“The little farmers had interest but there was no support from the Government nor the provincial administration. Once-thriving coffee gardens and blocks were abandoned. There was no intervention until the PPAP concept made its debut here. We needed a good team to revive and drive coffee growing and production in this province.
“Other provinces like Eastern Highlands, Chimbu and Western Highlands had support from government and MPs. That was not the case in Southern Highlands.
“But we have the land with soil and climate ideal for coffee growing. We need to set up more coffee nurseries, raise interest, tools and aid to attract the interest of farmers,” he added.
Wata said coffee growing and production took off after the PPAP provided farmers with tools, training, financial management and coffee extension, drying beds and seedlings.
“Coffee growing could also help ease the law-and-order woes in Mendi and Southern Highlands,” he said, adding that coffee growing was introduced in Southern Highlands in the 1960s and 70s but had never taken off like the major producers in other highlands.
“Now, with the PPAP, the farmers are very happy. PPAP has helped to put money in their pockets,” Wata said.

Margaret Claude

Margaret … more and more women going into coffee farming
Margaret Claude, a woman coffee farmer in Yaria Village, Lower Mendi in Southern Highlands, says more and more women are going into coffee farming.
Margaret, a widow with no means to support herself and her children, turned to coffee growing with the support of the PPAP-backed UCI.
“Many widows, poor women and church women are today partners of the project. We neglected the revenue potential of coffee for many years but now, thanks to UCI and PPAP’s Wata, we have returned to work the land and growing coffee. Over the last four years, the crop is growing well. Extension officers have visited and trained us on how to tend to the coffee plants. The plants have matured and we have started selling coffee beans.
“With the earnings, we could afford to buy school uniform for our children and pay for their bus fares.Whatever is left is used to buy soap, cooking oil, rice, food, blankets, mattresses, mats, plates, cups and spoons.

Left: Naria (centre) shows Yamba (left) and Piopo his coffee garden in remote Kaluwe Village, Pangia.

“Our standard of living has improved because of coffee. We are happy that PPAP has supported UCI with tools and other aid for farmers.
“We thank the World Bank and PPAP, CIC and UCI for helping us little people in the village. The services are flowing in because of coffee. Oil and gas will go but coffee will remain,” she added.


Kenneth Kuim Toap

Toap … PPAP a socio-economic game changer for all provinces
Southern Highlands’ Agriculture and Livestock adviser Kenneth Kuim Toap says the PPAP has succeeded in reviving coffee growing and production in the province.
“Ccoffee was once Southern Highlands’ major agriculture crop but floundered along the way until PPAP was introduced in 2016. We are now seeing the impact of the PPAP on the lives of villagers and the industry,” Toap said.
“I had reiterated many times to the the provincial administrator that agriculture extension work had collapsed in the province, until PPAP moved in.
“We have three PPAP projects in Southern Highlands, in Kaupena, Pangia and Lower Mendi. All three projects are progressing very well.
“I have continuously told the provincial administrator and the governor that if we want to improve the lives of the people, we should not give them free money.
“The provincial government is now focusing on agriculture, especially coffee, which is our revived lifeline. When the PPAP stops (on Dec 31, 2019), the onus is on the provincial agriculture and livestock to lead and forward the industry’s growth.
“The PPAP is a game changer not only in this province but others as well. We have much to thank PPAP for this very posirive socio-economic impact,” he added.
Terry Naria, a coffee grower from remote Kaluwe Village in South Wiru, Pangia, Southern Highlands, says coffee cultivation is growing like never before in the province under PPAP.
He said this during a visit to his coffee plantation by Pangia PPAP lead partner Daniel Piopo of Kori Coffee and Southern Highlands’ deputy adviser of Agriculture and Livestock Nelson Yamba.
“We were not like this before PPAP made its debut here. Then, coffee was growing wild, with no care. PPAP educated and taught us about coffee plantation maintenance and coffee tree pruning.
“That is why our coffee is now growing very well,” he added.
Naria said the earnings from coffee production and sale were helping many growers in South Wiru to better their lives.
“We can now afford to pay our children’s school fees, build houses, buy plates, spoons and cups, and look after our families,” he added.
Naria said he had already harvested a bag in his maiden harvest and that he expected production to increase to four bags in his next harvest.
“I need labour to help me pick my coffee,” he added.

Left: A PPAP-funded nursery in Yaria Village
Lower Mendi, Southern Highlands.

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