Crater Mountain coffee growers in dire need of road access

THE people of Crater Mountain in the Unavi LLG of Lufa District, Eastern Highlands  Province, are in dire need of a serviceable road to sell their coffee and to access social services.

The area is accessible only by light one-engine Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) and Adventist Aviation Services (AAS) planes from the township of Goroka.

There was a 50 km road access in colonial days from Lufa station to Unavi via Gouno. However it is not accessible by vehicles for many many years due to neglect by those in positions of authority. Eastern Highlands Provincial Government and Lufa DDA are urged to consider rehabilitating at last 5 to 10 km per year over the next years.

Crater Mountain is a tri-border area, where the Eastern Highlands, Simbu and Gulf provincial borders meet.

At present mothers and young women carry coffee bags and walk for hours to Wara (River) Wamu located close to Lufa Station to sell to roadside buyers.

“We just want some money to buy some necessities and walk back to the village so we do not get a chance to negotiate a fair price for our parchment coffee,” says a mother in Tok Pisin.

Over 300 growers gathered at Ubaigubi Village for a gender training and shared this concern to a team of officers from Coffee Industry Corporation’s Productive Partnerships in Agriculture Project (CIC-PPAP) early this month.

Apart from peanut, coffee is the major source of income for the remote people of Crater who are scattered in several villages in the mountains.

Lack of road access is a major obstacle depriving the growers to return to their gardens. Consequently they have neglected their coffee trees, but are now reviving some gardens thanks to the CIC’s rehabilitation project.

“Without coffee we’re nothing. We do not have the money to get our coffee bags onto MAF and SDA charter flights to Goroka,” says Mathew Falau Chairman of Crater Coffee Farmers when welcoming the CIC-PPAP team at Ubaigubi Village on Monday 7 May.

“Ol meri em ol transport blong mipela ya. Ol save helpim mipela long karim kofi go olgeta long Wamu. Pls sori long ol mama na bikpela pikinini meri blong mipela” (Our women are our transport. They help us to carry coffee all the way to Wara Wamu. Please help our mothers and elder daughters), says Mr Falau.

The Research Conservation Foundation (RCF) a non-governmental organization based in Goroka is the lead partner under a public-private alliance or partnership arrangement with CIC-PPAP  carrying out coffee improvement work in Crater Mountain.

The lead partner has been distributing coffee pulping machines and other basic tools to 611 growers in three villages namely Mengino, Maimafu and Ubaigubi.

Extension officers working for the lead partner are training and working with the growers to prune coffee trees that have been neglected for years.

Schools, aid posts, agriculture extension programs and other Government services came to a complete stop several years ago as public servants, including teachers and community health workers stopped going to Unavi due to terrible road conditions.

The CIC-PPAP team observed that the Crater Mountain villages including Unavi LLG has a population of over 20,000 and a lot of coffee can come out of the area as a long as a reliable road is in place.

The CIC-PPAP manager Potaisa Hombunaka says one way for farmers to sell their coffee is through group marketing which the lead partner is working on.

Mr Hombunaka also called on the provincial administration and Lufa District Development Authority (DDA) to write to the Department of National Planning & Monitoring to factor this road in the currently designed 2018-2022 Third Medium Term Development Plan.

The coffee rehabilitation is a PNG Government (Department of Agriculture and Livestock) initiative supported by World Bank and IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development) through loan financing. It is implemented by the Coffee Industry Corporation through a Project Management Unit known as PPAP-Coffee Component.

Approved for release:

Potaisa H. Hombunaka (Mr)
PROJECT MANAGER of CIC-PPAP