The right tools for coffee farmers
EVERYONE has heard the saying; ‘the right tool for the right job’, and ‘you are only as good as your tools’. This is very true for an average coffee grower when it comes to the choice and use of tools.
“Tools are our survival kits. You can’t send a fisherman out to sea with an axe, unless off course he can kill a shark with it,” says farmer John Ropa of Hagen Central in Western Highlands Province.
Ropa is one of 1080 farmers operating under Rilke Coffee Ltd in Western Highlands Province who have been receiving tools and materials to help with clearing and pruning of their coffee gardens, control weed, dry coffee and control quality in a bid to boost production and quality at the growers’ level.
The effort has put smiles on the face of growers taking part in the rehabilitation activities being carried out by Coffee Industry Corporation (CIC) through its Productive Partnerships in Agriculture Project (PPAP).
“The reality is many of us are in the bush. We cannot afford these tools so do not come to tell us how to produce more quality coffee without providing the necessary tools,” says Abraham Yama, one of 432 farmers operating under Timbuka Coffee in Western Highlands and Jiwaka province.
Tools and materials distribution are some of several interventions aimed at raising production and quality following a plunge in both due to volatile world market price in recent years.
Tools that have been distributed under Call 1 and 2 are bush knives, files, spades, secateurs or scissors, bowsaws, knapsack sprayer, round-up weedicides, canvas, coffee films wires for pig fencing and hand coffee pulpers to use in cluster groups.
The tools are distributed based on farmers’ needs assessment and at a subsidized cost.
“It cost a farmer around K1,500 to purchase all these items. Under CIC-PPAP’s tool distribution program, a farmer pays only 10 per cent of the total cost to get the tools to his or her requirements.
“Farmers pay a little amount only to take ownership of the items,” explains Project Manager Potaisa Hombunaka.
By end of year 2016, the 13 partnerships under Call 1 and 2 will have distributed the much needed tools to 13, 663 farmers or households in five (5) areas or provinces namely Eastern Highlands, Simbu, Jiwaka, Western Highlands and Madang.
The remoteness of some projects like in Okapa, Eastern Highlands, and inland Simbai in Madang Province where road and market access remains an obstacle to rural farmers is a major challenge. But all Lead Partners and stakeholders including extension officers are passionate to deliver the project.
Early this year in June I walked the mountains of Simbai to observe and report on what the intervention meant to the rural population there.
“Em nupela samting ya. Mipela i no bin bilip” (This is a new kind of thing. We didn’t believe it at first).
“Mipela no lukim kain helpim long indipendens kam. Mipela ting ol kago kam we ya” (We didn’t receive any help like this since independence. We were thinking where are these cargoes coming from,” says female farmer Lilian Jack from Kongrau Village.
“In Simbai it is unusual to see people standing in a queue to get tools. It’s a new thing. This is why the farmers here value what we give them.
“The intervention is urging farmers to return to their coffee gardens because money is in the ground,” says Vincent Keniemba, Project Coordinator for Anglican Church who is servicing 877 farmers in inland Simbai area.
Seven (7) new LPs under Call 3 will extend these benefits to additional 5892 households in Southern Highlands, Enga, Madang (up-scaling for Simbai), Morobe and East New Britain.
The total number of households or farmers that will have received the tools under Call 1 to 3 will be 19,555. The target household for the project is 30,000 by June 2019 and this should be attained by Call 4 which will be finalized in October 2016.
Distribution of tools is one of several industry rehabilitation activities aimed at increasing coffee production to two (2) million bags by 2020 and six (6) million bags by 2030 as anticipated by Government.
From a grower’s perspective, an increase in coffee earnings can motivate him or her to consider savings and investment in the households’ financial wellbeing and livelihood. This is the expected outcome of the project.
To give the right tools for the right job also means developing growers’ capacity to plan and manage their coffee earnings. Here partnership groups have been conducting personal viability trainings in gender equality and women empowerment, HIV/AIDS awareness and financial literacy.
A high number of women farmers and their families including others not participating directly under the project have been making use of these learning opportunities.
“Coffee is a man’s job here (highlands). May be because they own the land and coffee being a permanent crop, men take the lead.
“Our men in the hausman are beginning to appreciate our help.
“My husband and I discuss how to use our coffee money. I see some changes in him. He is happy when the money stays longer with us when I look after it.”
This is the reaction from a female farmer Susan John. Susan is one of 300 women who successfully graduated from several financial literacy training conducted by Lead Partner Timbuka Coffee in Western Highlands and Jiwaka province.
Coffee is a significant source of income to keep a family out of absolute poverty. As a tree of life, it is a useful resource and a means to other ends. As one middle-aged grower alluded, “Growing coffee hasn’t allowed me to have all in my life that I wanted, but it moves me in that direction, and that is something”.
The Monitoring and Evaluation consultants of CIC-PPAP are currently conducting field verification of tools distributed by Lead Partners to all growers under Call 1 and 2. This is to verify farmers actually received the tools and are using them to work in their gardens.
“Quality data is a catalyst to inform stakeholders of the outcomes of impact orientated projects. The CIC like other commodity organizations must have good and reliable data from coffee rehabilitation activities for productivity and quality improvement in farmers’ gardens. The outcome of good and quality data at farmers’ field level will guide sound policy decisions at the highest level,” says Abner Yalu.
Mr Yalu is Senior Monitoring and Evaluation Consultant with the CIC-PPAP project. The M&E has developed comprehensive user friendly system and process to keep project outputs and activities to deliver outcomes. The system includes development of field activity record forms linked to Management Information System.
“Data are collected quantitatively to measure financial and physical progress and qualitatively to measure improve functionality and behavioural change of farmers,” says Mr Yalu.
The process enables PPAP consultants to verify project output of activities at ground level.
The author is Information & Communications Officer for Productive Partnerships in Agriculture Project under Coffee Industry Corporation.
A young farmer Abraham Yama is one of 432 farmers opening under Timbuka Coffee in Western Highlands. He is using tools distributed by CIC-PPAP Lead Partner to prune his coffee garden.
Some of 877 farmers in Simbai receiving their tools from Anglican Church of PNG, a Lead Partner of CCIC-PPAP.
A farmer and his wife from Kongrau village who got up as early as 3am to walk to Simbai station to get their tools. The wife is carrying their hand coffee pulper and they are ready to walk back to Kongrau Village.