By CORA MOABI
COFFEE farmers whose trees are affected by the berry borer pest have no choice but to allow rehabilitation of their gardens, blocks and plantations with recycle pruning.
This was the underlying message to farmers in Eastern Highlands during a major coffee berry borer (CBB) awareness campaign that began on Monday Dec 11 and ran for five days.
The massive weeklong campaign was conducted throughout public places in Goroka town and also into rural communities under the theme, ‘Together We Fight Coffee Berry Borer, Kopi Beri Borer Rausim Kopi Moni’.
Recycle pruning is removing of branches and leaving only the lateral branch to grow for the coffee tree to continue photosynthesis process for suckers to grow. The process gives a new life cycle to the coffee tree with subsequent increase in yield.
“Many coffee plots have not been rehabilitation for years and this is an opportunity for farmers to take ownership to clean and look after their coffee gardens. A garden that is not looked after attracts the CBB beetle,” says Dr Reuben Sengere, Team Leader of the awareness effort campaign in Eastern Highlands.
“Farmers who are worried about the two-year period where their production will be affected might as well say good bye to their coffee trees. The pest will cut off completely their main or only source of income,” he iterated.
The campaign team visited farmers at Keiya, Ketarobo, Fimito, Kafana, Ifiufa and also went as far as villages in the Asaro Valley and Korepa at Daulo Top.
Stakeholders in the coffee industry who demonstrated solidarity in the awareness campaign included the Goroka community policing unit, Apo Angra Kange (AAAK) Cooperative Society, Outspan (PNG) Ltd, community leaders and representatives of the CIC Board.
CIC farmer training and extension manager Matei Labun told farmers during the meeting at Komunive Village in the Asaro Valley last week that the recycle of coffee trees is a normal rehabilitation process which many farmers should have taken ownership of in the first place.
“This is the approach we will take to reduce the population and spread of the borer pest as much as possible.”
Asaro Valley has a special history in coffee. The first commercial plantation was established there before it spread to other parts of the Highlands.
Mobile Extension Officer David Elmai also explained to the farmers that in a coffee garden where the pest reaches full infestation the farmer and the beetles will fight a war for the same bean or cherry.
“What it means is that the pest will end up destroying many cherries and the farmer will harvest less good quality cherries if coffee trees are not pruned and proper sanitation practices are not applied.”
CIC General Manager for Industry Operations Division Steven Tumae also took time out with the officers to share with the farmers.
“We want to encourage you not to lose hope. CIC will start to register and work with genuine farmers during this period. Now, with the presence of CBB, you will need to work extra hard in your coffee gardens.”
“We can eradicate this pest as long as you all look after your coffee trees and you will continue to yield more quality cherries from your trees.”
The other key messages delivered to the farmers were on the characteristics and biology of the CBB pest, economic and social impact the pest would have on their livelihoods, coffee exports contribution to foreign exchange and how the new approach on recycle pruning will take place in the coming weeks and into the New Year.
Fimito community leader Zagoni Makalai supported the call to accept CIC officers into his community. He said they were worried that the pest was already present in their village and wanted more awareness and information on how they could help in the fight against the CBB beetle.
“Mipela pilim bikpela pen tru nau taim binatang i kaikai ol kopi seri blong mipela. Mipela nidim moa aweanes na toksave long we blong wok bung wantaim na daunim dispela hevi.” (We have suffered as a result of this CBB beetle destroying our cherries. We want more awareness and information on how we can work together and reduce its impact on our livelihood).
In a similar awareness at Hegeroto Village, Kabiufa 2 in Asaro Valley, community leader Sape Tobby raised concerns whether CIC and the government would cater for their basic needs and social obligations while they wait within the two-year period for their coffee trees to reach full production.
CIC deputy board chairman Ellison Ketauwo assured that farmers that he will present their concerns to the Board to deliberate.
Dr Sengere added that in the current approach, a one kilometre buffer zone will be created from infected sites and work will begin from there and move into the epicentre of the coffee plots. This will stop the beetle from escaping to other plots or gardens.
He emphasized CIC will provide assistance only in kind and not give cash to communities affected with the pest.
“We will look after your coffee trees for the next two years so you will be able to harvest after the second year. It will not be an easy task but your cooperation is needed to progress the effort against this CBB beetle in your communities.”
He said the anticipated outcome now is to contain and eradicate the pest in the Asaro Valley in Eastern Highlands and Minj and Banz Districts of Jiwaka.
The Minister for Agriculture and Livestock Benny Allan announced publicly in September that there will be no compensation claims.
“Plant Disease and Control Act provides for the destruction of plants and plant parts and the execution of containment and eradication exercise is within the law.”
“Any claims for compensation shall be deemed as extortion and the offender arrested and charged under the relevant laws.”
Meanwhile CIC is calling for support and cooperation from smallholders, block owners and plantation owners in the infested areas to welcome and support the recycle pruning exercise as an important action against the coffee berry borer pest.
A similar campaign was conducted in Jiwaka which is the other of two provinces affected by the CBB beetle.
- The author is Media Liaisons Officer at Coffee Industry Corporation.