Improving coffee production and quality can help the country's economy, as well as around 2.5 million people who depend on this crop for their livelihood. See photo slideshow 
The Productive Partnerships in Agriculture Project (known as PPAP) , an ambitious program which is supporting coffee and cocoa farmers in six provinces in Papua New Guinea, just got a new financing boost . After just one year, the project is already reaching 4 percent of the country’s coffee and cocoa growers –18,000 small farmers who are dependent on these two cash crops for their livelihoods. Many more partnerships are in the pipeline.
Through the initiative, several NGOs, co-ops and businesses in coffee and cocoa are all helping deliver vital services to thousands of small farmers – such as training, planting materials, access to demonstration sites and certification schemes, as well as social services like gender, HIV/ AIDS awareness.
The idea is that such support will allow growers to produce more and better quality produce and see higher incomes, with benefits passing to families and communities, while also providing a significant and much-needed boost to the coffee and cocoa industries.
Jerry Kapka is the founder of Kongo Coffee Limited, the largest locally owned coffee exporter in PNG. The company is based in Simbu province, and nearly all of the coffee he buys comes from local smallholders. He tells me that there is growing demand for Simbu’s premium quality ‘Elimbari Coffee’, named after the mountain that looms large behind the Kongo Coffee factory. This organic coffee is produced at high altitude, at 1000m above sea level, which gives it its distinctive taste.
Jerry has produced guidelines which advise farmers on which beans to pick, and appropriate techniques for pulping, washing, drying and fermentation – all of which determine the overall quality of the beans and the final taste of the coffee. When the cherry is produced to these standards, he pays a higher price to the grower – up to an additional PNGK1.5 (US 60 cents) per kilo.
“I’ve been involved in trying to develop this sort of coffee for 10 years, but could never get far because of financial constraints. Now we are able to use the money from PPAP to work with farmers in the community and help them produce higher quality coffee.”
He predicts that, with PPAP support, he could more than double Elimbari production over the next year. Farmers are producing more and getting higher returns; he is also employing more people in the factory and says that there is growing interest from farmers wishing to participate in PPAP.
“They are seeing the benefits since we have been working with the partnership. We have provided training, recruited youth from different villages and brought them onto the site, and have engaged them to really go out and improve management of the coffee,” he explains.
Of course the real issue is how the farmers perceive the support, and the extent to which it’s helping raise their incomes. Many recent participants will not truly see the benefits until they harvest their coffee later in the year, but there are very promising signs.
Farmers from the first phase of the program report that they are already seeing more and larger beans; they are better able to access price premiums for top quality or certified coffee, and some have for the first time, won access to higher paying specialty buyers.
Sapume Asineha from Kabiufa village near Goroka is a coffee farmer with her husband and together they have around 1500 coffee trees. She has received training from the local coffee company and the results show the kind of gains that improved coffee management can offer.
“Before the coffee wasn’t healthy, it wasn’t good. Now there are good strong trees and we’re seeing more beans,” she says. “We get more money, which we’ve invested in other crops like broccoli, and we get training in how to grow it and the proper process.”
The money from the higher production has allowed Sapume and her family to invest in a new house with more space for her children, and securer foundations. It’s an impressive achievement and testament to the benefits that can come from meaningful investment in smallholder production and their skills.
The beauty of the project is that it is community-driven, using a highly participative process by which partnerships are drawn up between the farmers and the local businesses and co-ops, and it is designed to be mutually beneficial: a win-win for all parties. This sort of initiative is still surprisingly rare, but other countries are increasingly looking to replicate the PPAP model – and it certainly seems to hold a lot of promise.
Says Mark Munnell from Kosem Ltd, a local company in the recently created province of Jiwaka:
“We see the benefits that this project brings to our farmers, not just the vocal ones but the ones that don’t really come and stand up in public, but are there working in the gardens. We’ve got only coffee in Jiwaka. Of course we will give it everything we’ve got.”