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Old 28-09-2003, 08:39 PM
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Struggle for survival in the remote outback of Oro by James Kila

A COMMENTATOR once stated that: “Wherever coffee has been introduced, it has spelled revolution. It has been the world’s most radical drink, in that its function has always been to make people think. And when people began to think, they became dangerous to tyrants”

Notably, in a remote community in the Oro province coffee is credited to have contributed to the emergence “cold hard cash” for the people and has paved way for the formation of a primary co-operative group marketing. The co-operative is a collective group effort in acquiring much needed facilities to enable marketing of the community’s coffee produce.

The Binandere community is very isolated and disadvantaged in terms of basic government infrastructures and other basic services.

“The Struggle for Survival in the remote outback of Oro” is a phrase which fits nicely is describing this community which dwells in the upper tributaries of three major river system in Oro province, namely Gira, Mamba and Eia rivers.

It is interesting to note that some of the best brains this county has produced hail from this remote Binandere area. However, contrary to that it is saddening even to notice lack of physical development in the area. The inhabitant still live similar lifestyle enjoyed by their forefathers, and that is subsistence agriculture.

In fact, it was through coffee that light began to filter in and somewhat exposed them to the realities of today’s cash economy.

In 1997 the Coffee Industry Corporation established an informal coffee management division (CMD) at Ioma and a central training point at Ainsi village to serve growers in the Gira, Mamba and Eia river deltas. The inhabitants in the areas are purely subsistence economy.

The population is in the vicinity of 6,800. There is only one airstrip, at Dodoima which serves the community. There is no proper wharf, two very run-down rural health centers and very minimal government services. This qualifies the area as underdeveloped and very remote and purely of subsistence economy.

Another saddening situation is the education in the area. It was reported that there is only one grade eight teacher who looks after the top-up school in the area with over 1,000 students. He acts as the headmaster and teacher as well.

The mode of transport is by walking and by canoe and rafts using the three river systems. It was under that condition when the CIC established with support from the former local MP Dr John Waiko.

Currently there is a total of 712 coffee farmers. Thirty-five of them are already member of the PNG Smallholder Coffee Growers Association. Of these number they have a total of 216,000 plants. From this figure an average production expected in 2003 is over 800 bags of 50kg parchment bags.

First coffee planting in the area took place in 1997 when CIC placed a full-time officer in the area.

First coffee production to reach the market from this remote community eventuated in 1999 when first nine bags of coffee produced were sold through the CIC freight subsidy scheme pilot project from the remote Dodoima airstrip.

The following year (2001) twenty-seven ( 27) bags were sold through the Sowara port by boat to Lae through Angco. However, a rather sad incident occurred which saw these bags were destroyed through vandalism while transiting at Sowara wharf awaiting shipment to Lae.

A remarkable increase was seen in 2002 when 158 bags of parchment were put on canoes and rafts and ferried down the Gira river. The farmers also built a shed from bush materials, mainly sago leaves and camped with their produce to be sold.

Since there is no wharf the only ship to market their coffee is MV Ukusia which loads at Bau Island, which is about 45-minutes by speedboat from the mouth of the Gira River.

All the communities in the area bring their coffee by canoes and rafts to the mouth of the Gira River, which are then are loaded onto the speedboat and transported to Bau Island and then transhipped onto MV Ukusie.

In fact, the sweat equity by these remote people is immeasureale. They are finding are finding it quite an enormous task to sell their coffee. They have absolutely no Provincial government and LLG support.

Furthermore, basic government services to the area is nil.

CIC assisted by providing fuel to transport 158 bags by speed boat to Bau Island for loading onto MV Ukusie. These coffee were taken to Lae and later arranged for processing into green-bean at the Busu factory
The Binandere people and the Warias of Morobe province were once traditional trading partners. And getting into Morobe for the Binandere people is much easier and of more convenient then to the provincial headquarters at Popondetta.

A traditional chief of that village is seriously thinking of breaking away from Oro province to join Morobe merely because the routes being used today to bring much needed services to the Binandere people seems to come from Morobe, and not Oro province.

This area is quite capable of being a major robusta coffee producing area of the Oro province.

Right now the people require a wharf, a water boat or barge to bring their coffee to central marketing point at the Oro coffee mill and possible three warehouses or produce shed, three speed boats ad other basic input supplies such as tools to boost coffee production.

In fact, people in the area are producing organic coffee, however, with the problem of market inaccessibility they are facing a hard time to sustain production.

A number of growers said if the government is serious about stabilizing the kina and looking to agriculture to move this nation then it should honour what is in the Constitution whereby when a community contributes K1 in sweat-equity then the government chip in another K2.

These group of people desperately need this K2 contribution of the government right now. They were initially being dragged out of their comfortable caves by CIC. Now that the government is not supporting the CIC budget allocation it can not continue to assist these people and keep them out of their caves forever. These once feared warriors are heading straight back into their caves to live their primitive lives. This is their SOS call.

The farmers after being faced with the constant neglect by successive government have organize themselves to form a co-operative marketing group which they name “Gieama Coffee Growers Marketing Group”. The group is registered with the Investment Promotions Authority (IPA). Hopefully, the group may lead towards improving basic infrastructure and become and economically viable community.

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