A changing coffee culture

Women farmers take lead from post-harvest to marketing


OWNERSHIP of land is a hausman affair in Papua New Guinea. Our social norms favour the inheritance of land by men and consequently menfolk own permanent tree crops like coffee.

Men dominate decision-making, often spending the coffee income without consulting their wives. This inequality in the agricultural sector is documented in many research work in rural communities.

Nevertheless, the attitude towards women taking over in agriculture business is making inroad into the countryside. Some inspirational women farmers are standing up and paving the way for a brighter future in the coffee industry – thanks to the support from Coffee Industry Corporation’s Productive Partnerships in Agricultural Project (PPAP).

I had the pleasure to meet some of these women farmers in Western Highlands and Jiwaka province who felt honoured to share their story. Despite many odds, these courageous mothers are taking control of coffee growing from post-harvest to marketing.

The mothers are operating under Rilke Coffee Ltd and Timbuka Coffee Estates Pty Ltd, two Lead Partners of coffee component of Productive Partnerships in Agricultural Project (PPAP).

Jenny Pioye and Hetty Ron are two of these buoyant mothers who operate under Rilke Coffee. They have been managing their coffee gardens for over 10 years. Their husbands concentrate on other activities while they manage regular garden cleaning activities, organize harvesting and selling of cherries.

Wai bai man toktok. Mi wok hat. Mi yet go salim. Mi yet decide. Kofi em bikpela wok.” (Why will my husband have a say. I work hard. I sell the cherries myself. I decide myself. Coffee is not an easy job), Jenny says.

Jenny adds her husband has moved on to do other things and she single-handedly manages seven hectares of coffee gardens located in Kagamuga area of Central Hagen LLG.

All her seven children are studying overseas and she employs labour from surrounding areas to weed and pick cherries during harvest season.

As for Hetty, she lives with her husband and four children. But the husband concentrates on his driving job while Hetty takes full control of their two hectare coffee gardens located in Anglimp, South Waghi area of Jiwaka Province.

She says the husband only helps to transport the coffee cherries to the factory and returns with a receipt. Hetty collects the payment later but they plan their spending and savings together.

Both Jenny and Hetty are looking forward to taking part in training sessions to be organized by CIC-PPAP Lead Partner Rilke Coffee.

The training will really help us to manage our labour and finance as well,” admits Jenny.

Groups with a great number of women in leadership positions have greater female membership. This is one opportunity recognized by PPAP to increase women participation in coffee. Timbuka Coffee is a successful story.

Of the women farmers operating under Timbuka, one is a young widow.

Lily Anis from Central Hagen has two young children. Her husband died in 2013 leaving her with only 200 coffee trees. Like most women in her village, she rely on vegetable gardening which she sells at the market to feed her children. The few coffee trees are not Lily’s only means to an income but acts as a constant source during harvest season.

I don’t want to feel helpless. My confidence is boosted with the training I’m receiving and the support I will get to extend my coffee garden.”

Last year Lily participated in personal viability and financial literacy courses organized by Timbuka Coffee which helps her to budget her little earnings from coffee and vegetable sales.

Yu save nogat man long helpim mi so mi save plenim mani long dispela sait olsem.” (You know there is no husband to help me so I budget my little earnings), says Lily.

The women farmers were part of 469 smallholder farmers in the three districts of Western Highlands and Jiwaka who participated in five training workshops conducted by Timbuka in 2015.

In one workshop there were 469 participants where 97 were female farmers and 53 youths who own coffee gardens. The farmers acquired knowledge and skills in coffee husbandry techniques, coffee harvesting, processing and quality improvement, and coffee marketing.

Timbuka Coffee is managed by Daisy Casupang, a local business woman in Western Highlands. Daisy was a first women recipient of PPAP funding under call 2 in 2013. She has three co-partner groups operating in the Nebilyer and Hagen Central District (Western Highlands), and Avi in Jiwaka.

As I woman I thought it was an opportunity to identify and bring together women in my area to get some help from this coffee work.

We did farmer profiling and I realized that there were some single mothers whose husbands had died and some who are disabled.

So we’re just trying our best to help these mothers by distributing nurseries, basic coffee gardening tools and also inviting them to trainings we’re conducting under PPAP funding,” says Daisy.

Daisy is a woman of few words. She let the Project Coordinator represents her in public gatherings and presentations. She enjoys concentrating on what she is good at, providing guidance and leadership behind the scene.

The images she encountered of women working long hours in coffee gardens and not benefitting equally from coffee earnings challenged her to enter the coffee arena which was predominantly a man’s business in the highlands. Daisy knew what she wanted and is slowly making a difference among the women farmers she is working with.

Timbuka has been serving the farmers under CIC-PPAP for three years has grown into a recognizable Lead Partner in the coffee rehabilitation effort to improve production and quality and subsequent the livelihood of farmers and their families.

But there’s still a long way to go. Timbuka is operating as a service provider and is unable to process and export from her 432 farmers. Her dream is to build a factory to process and export coffee.

For the moment she is focused on providing training on best farming practices, personal viability courses, financial literacy and gender equality for her men and women farmers.

I want to give confidence to these mothers to work their coffee gardens to get more yield and a little bit more income to sustain their livelihood,” says Daisy.

The main aim of the coffee rehabilitation program is improving the livelihoods of coffee households to increase yield and quality. The program is providing training in good agricultural practices, post-harvest handling techniques, financial literacy and gender modules. The project is also working to build the capacity of farmer business groups or cooperatives and facilitate market linkages.

The coffee rehabilitation work is rooted in the idea that given the opportunity, hardworking men and women in even the poorest places can generate income, jobs and wealth for their families and communities,” explains project manager Mr Potaisa Hombunaka.

The PPAP is a coffee rehabilitation project initiative of CIC funded by a loan facility from World Bank IDA (International Development Association) and IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development) with counter funding from PNG Government.



The author is Information & Communications Officer for Productive Partnerships in Agriculture Project (PPAP) under CIC.

(L-R) Coffee mums Jenny Pioye and Hetty Ron are two buoyant mothers who have been managing their coffee gardens for over 10 years.

Coffee Field Technical Officer Steven Tevo interacting with coffee mothers operating under Timbuka Coffee with Daisy Casupang (right), a first women recipient of PPAP funding under call 2 in 2013. She is increasing women participation in coffee.

Female Emelda Take from South Waghi and her daughter in a rehabilitated coffee garden. She is one of several women farmers operating under Kosem Coffee Ltd of Jiwaka Province who successfully participated in the 2016 National Coffee Cupping competition.