Farm: Moanti Smallholders
Varietal: Typica, Arusha
Processing: Fully washed & dried on raised beds
Altitude: 1,750 to1,900 meters above sea level
Owner: 437 smallholder farmers delivering to Mr. Tony Tokah
Town / City: Goroka, Okapa district
Region: Eastern Highlands
12 April 2015
Overall: Floral; IPA; Candy-like sweetness; Apple;
Roots #1 - Papua New Guinea
This coffee, appealingly named Roots #1 after the group from which it hails, is the cumulative and delicious result of the hard work of 437 (as of late 2015) smallholder farmers from the Okapa district in Papua New Guinea’s famous Eastern Highlands. The ‘Roots #1’ group was founded by Mr. Tony Tokah, a smallholder farmer himself, who began working with his family and a group of about 200 from his community to collect and deliver coffee to the Monpi Coffee Exports mill in 2010. Since that time, farmers working under the name Roots #1 have more than doubled in numbers due to Tony’s commitment to purchasing coffee exclusively from farmers within his community,.
Coffee is the primary cash crop in the region and is central to most families’ livelihoods. Accordingly, producers’ coffee ‘gardens’ are very well-maintained, and farming practices ensure that coffee continues to be a viable source of income for many years to come. Members of the group are also reliant on the sale of store goods, sale of fresh produce (vegetables, fruits) and livestock for their income – though this accounts for a very minor part of income. Sweet potato cultivation is also prevalent, as it has been a staple crop for consumption for a very long time, and most farmers also rear livestock (goats, pigs, sheep, chicken) to help put food on their family’s tables.
Producers associated with Roots #1 are committed to improving their livelihoods and their community using coffee production and marketing as their foundation. They strive to produce very high quality Arabica coffee in a region well-suited to this goal: with plentiful rain and rich volcanic soils, farmers can count on ideal growing conditions for their coffee. Although proper soil analysis is not feasible in this context, given the lack of specialized facility and cost of conducting tests, soil fertility has been observed to be particularly good within the community. Farmers sustain soil fertility not through chemical inputs but rather though keeping a good cover of leguminous cover crops within their coffee gardens. After receiving training from affiliates of Monpi mills, many of the farmers are also now applying coffee pulp to their coffee trees, as well. Pest and disease control is usually done by hand, and there is no need for irrigation as rainfall reaches 2,000mm per annum.
Traditionally, the coffee harvest starts in May and ends in October. Farmers first float their coffee in small tanks to remove any damaged beans. They then pulp their own coffee using small, hand-operated pulpers. After being pulped, the coffee is fermented for approximately 24 hours (depending on climatic conditions). This lengthy fermentation time is due to the cool temperatures characteristic of the highlands. When fermentation is complete, the coffee is washed with clean, running water and is transferred to raised beds for sun drying for a period of approximately 5 days. During cloudy days, drying time extends to about 7 days. Black beans and any with visible damage or staining are removed by hand during this time. Very few farmers from the group dry on tarpaulin sails (the usual drying method in this region). The resulting parchment coffee is then transported to the Monpi mill, where the parchment will be dried further, if needed, and eventually graded and milled.
The biggest hindrance to farmers belonging to the group is infrastructure deterioration over the past decades (in particular, bad road conditions). This has led to no access to markets, or limited access as farmers must carry their coffee over great distances to reach markets. Now with the Roots #1 coffee buying point established, farmers’ burden in carrying coffee has been substantially diminished with shorter distances to sell and a good price transfer to farmers.
In the future, coffee farming is seen as a means to maintain important native vegetation and wildlife within the natural environments in which coffee is seen to grow. Individual farms have demarcated conservation areas within farms. There are also designated community conservation areas. Natural water sources are also preserved within the local communities. Coffee will continue to be seen as cash crop that fits into cultural ways of preserving the forest and its inhabitants, though unpredictable weather increasingly poses issues. Farmers are making every effort to mitigate climate change through education and training to teach them new methods of farming in unpredictable environments.
Training is also delivered to farmers annually with focus on relevant best practices in coffee farming and appropriate technologies required to improve coffee quality and quantity. Sustainable Management Services (a division of Monpi that provides services helping with sustainability) has begun to conduct annual extension field work within coffee farming communities, as well, including internal inspection/checks on homestead sanitation, such as toilets and rubbish pits.
In the future, the community plans to continue improving their production so as to offer one of the best coffees available within the Eastern Highlands. They also look forward to having a dry mill establishment of their own and are making plans towards this goal.