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Old 01-08-2003, 08:11 AM
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Markham villagers turn to coffee by James Kila

THE MIGHTY plains of the Markham Valley in Morobe province is immediately associated with vast grazing pastures for cattle, wide rivers and an ideal land-mass for vegetable cultivation.

Additionally, to highlanders Markham valley is normally the main source of their much-loved betelnut, mustard and coconut as it is in abundance for cash value.

However, for Markham villagers of Ufuaf and Gantisap who live on the base of the great Finistere Range one crop that has not lost its glitter amongst them is coffee. And sure enough these people grow good coffee on the Markham. Interestingly, the farmers are growing a highlands dwarf arabica variety which they sell for cash income and occasionally referred to it as their “green gold”

A colorful ceremony staged last Friday saw villagers from neighboring Markham tribes converged on Ufuaf, situated 12-kilomtres inland from Mutzing government station to witness the launching of the Ufgans Smallholder Coffee Growers Association. “Ufgans” being the initials of the two villages in the Umi-Atzera local level government council .

The coffee project is the result of the farmers preparedness to sacrifice self-interest for community interest and for hard work and prosperity despite common attributes of low prices compounded even with their area being located one of the dry parts of the country. Therefore, rather than spending much of their time selling peanuts, betelnut and coconuts at Umi Market the industrious villagers ventured into coffee farming as they reckon coffee is an important cash crop which can bail them out from their financial woes.

It was indeed a delight as dignitaries heaped accolades upon these smallholder farmers who took upon themselves coffee farming to sustain their living. The people displayed a portion of their harvest from this year’s earlier flush. They even decorated the arena with beautiful red ripe cherries from the robusta coffee trees to welcome their guests numbering over a thousand. Several pigs were slaughtered and visitors were treated to tasty meals cooked using the traditional Markham valley clay pots.

However, one very important point that was stressed at the occasion was for the Morobe provincial government to consider building a coffee mill in the Markham plains to assist the farmers process their coffee.

The village spokesman at the launching, Giame Philip pointed out that besides lack of proper infrastructures, one big problem is the absence of a coffee mill in the Markham plains to assist the farmers.

“A lot of our coffee is planted in the mountain ridges and a lot of times we find it difficult to transport our produce to the market. That often forced us to sell our coffee to any nearest place where there is a buyer available,” he stated.
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Old 01-08-2003, 08:12 AM
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“Approximately 50-per cent of the coffee produced at Umi-Atzera LLG are sold to coffee buyers in Kainantu. This is because there is no wet or dry processing mill in Markham Valley, “ Mr Philip emphasized.

“Additionally, the distance to Kainantu is close and even Kainantu buyers offer better price than buyers in Lae,” he stated.

“When we sell our coffee at Kainantu we help build the coffee stock in Eastern Highlands, and we get less in derivation grant support here in Morobe,” he added.

A member of the Morobe provincial assembly (Tutumang), Connie Aguan who was present and cut the ribbon to launch the project vowed to take the concern on board and raise it a special business agenda at the Tutumang.

The chairman of the Ufgans coffee growers association emphasized that the coffee industry is very important industry, therefore, the people want to maintain it in a sustainable manner so that it remains a rewarding resource for their children and grand children.

To talk about the Highlands of PNG would be incomplete without the mention of coffee. Coffee is the major source of family income and has played a major impact on the culture and custom of the people. For instance, most cultural activities such as bride price, compensations, traditional feasts and customary exchanges are centered on or around the coffee season.

Mr Philip also outlined the 1998 census statistics which indicated that Markham has over 2-million coffee trees, of which 800 hectares are found in the Leron-Wantoat LLG and only 50 hectares are in Umi Atzera LLG. Of these number about 70-per cent are old stock planted during the colonial times.

“Many of our old people still recall the times when these old coffee were planted. These were during the times of the DASF, the initial for Department of Agriculture Stock and Fisheries,”

“We need new coffee development and we need support from the all levels of the community and governments to make this become a reality,” Mr Philip stressed.

In the first coffee harvest the farmers harvested 93.5 parchment bags and fetched about K6,400 in sales. In 2002 the farmer sold 160 bags weighing a total of 3,987 bags and earned a total of K8,4000. In the current flush the farmers predict a good harvest with expected earnings of over K14,000.

Morobe Governor Songan Luther Wenge was invited for the occasion, however, due to the parliament sitting, he could not make it. Other invited guests included deputy Morobe administrator John Nicholas, Markham district administrator Bart Botike, Coffee Industry Corporation Growers Services Division general manager, Potaisa Hombunaka, Rural Development Bank manager Markham district DAL staffers.

For the Markhams, coffee has fetched good income for them since they started planting the catimore highland variety in 1998 through assistance from the Morobe Province Rural Development Program (MPRDP). The seeds were acquired from the Coffee Research Institute at Aiyura.

They were initially encouraged by the then SRPM to grow coffee, however, after the extension agency of the Rural Development Bank (RDB) winded up it was the DAL officers who took over to assist the Ufuam and Gantisap villagers.
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Old 01-08-2003, 08:14 AM
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CIC-Grower Services Division General Manager, Mr Hombunaka in his address outlined briefly what the coffee industry is doing in its structural reforms to providing efficient extension services to the farmers.

He also pointed out the CIC new extension approach in adopting the alternative Smallholder Support Services Pilot Project (SSSPP).

The SSSPP approach of contracting extension services sees a major shift from a supply-driven techno packages to demand-led service delivery based on bottom-up planning process. CIC will be adopting a leverage approach as facilitator – more use of service providers and networking with NGOs, DPI, Churches, etc. The emphasis will be on farmer training at village levels, LLG and Provincial or regional training centres.

The deputy administrator Mr John Nicholas, who was previously the District Administrator for Markham congratulated the people in the approach they have taken to go into coffee, noting that by contributing sweat equity to agricultural projects is one very encouraging thing community in PNG must endeavor to take.

Markham District administrator Bart Botike commended the people of the initiative taken and indicated to provide support.

“It is in the five-year district plan of the Markham district to support business and commerce, therefore, as long as you put your hands to the soil and work we will assist you, “ Mr Botike said.

A representative of the local MP and Fisheries Minister, Andrew Baing also made a commitment to donate five coffee hand pulpers to the Ufgans coffee growers.

“We know that the economy of the Highlands depend almost entirely on the coffee industry that is why we want to stick to coffee,” said Mr Isasar.

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