High altitudes, volcanic soil and cool temperatures make the Okapa region in Papua New Guinea a fruitful location for growing Arabica coffee plants.
The Highland Organic Agriculture Cooperative (HOAC) is located in the remote Okapa region of the Eastern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea (PNG). Formed by small-scale farmers in partnership with the coffee exporter, Coffee Connection Ltd., strong leadership from founding members on the board has established fruitful relationships with traders in the Fairtrade system. High altitudes, volcanic soil and cool temperatures make this area a fruitful location for growing Arabica coffee plants. The Okapa region provides perfect conditions for growing high-quality coffee and the best coffee in all of PNG is grown in this region.
In 2005 they attained Fairtrade certification and since 2017, reports show 20,800 people benefit from the relationship between HOAC and Fairtrade. As the longest standing Fairtrade certified organisation in the Pacific, HOAC has received approximately USD 2.2 million in Fairtrade Premium. This money has been invested in developing business and community projects that support socio-economic development in the area.
History of Coffee in Papua New Guinea
After its introduction to PNG in the late 19th century, coffee is a major industry for PNG involving more than 2.5 million people which equates to nearly half of the total population. Today the country exports approximately 1 million bags of coffee.
The lack of infrastructure and tremendously small-scale nature of PNG's coffee production has restricted the industry for many years. Poorly designed or non-existent roads and limited access to training facilities and technical inputs are just some of the challenges faced by PNG coffee farmers.
Small producers usually pulp and wash their coffee locally. Poor infrastructure means that many farmers have great difficulty travelling by road to the nearest town, therefore many farmers will sell their parchment to village traders. It is transported to the dry mill where it is hulled, cleaned, graded and packed. From here the exporter transports the coffee to the Goruka port.
Investment has been made in a rural school to accommodate for an intake of all children in the local area. Funding for the building of classrooms, desks and textbooks was made from the Fairtrade Premium.
The Fairtrade Premium has enabled HOAC to facilitate financial literacy workshops and run business management training. This has provided farmers and their families with skills to manage the income they generate from coffee production.
The Fairtrade Premium is used to guarantee wages for casual workers who play an integral part in getting HOAC's coffee to the international market.
Local and cooperative infrastructure
Well-built roads are vital for the efficiency of the coffee supply chain. The Fairtrade Premium has enabled HOAC to build and maintain roads, including the restoration of 35kms of roads which resulted in the employment of more than 300 people who lived in the villages beside the road. Upgrading these roads means green coffee beans can be transported from farms to processing plants with greater ease.
Quality and productivity
HOAC has invested in machinery for coffee pulping so that farmers can process their coffee more efficiently. This helps to reduce waste and spoilage, ultimately improving the quality of the coffee. This allows farmers to increase their coffee prices. The Fairtrade Premium has also been used for the hiring and maintenance of vehicles and machinery which improves the efficiency of coffee production. Video cameras, computers and office equipment have been acquired to allow the cooperative to record data on production, sales and finance more effectively.
Gender equality training has been organised by HOAC to highlight the importance of families working collaboratively to improve their livelihoods and to encourage women's participation in decision-making processes.
A project to build infrastructure for clean running water has been funded. This will impact rural communities where HOAC farmers live and have the potential to affect families throughout the Okapa region.
Local health centres have received investment from the Fairtrade Premium which has funded new mattresses for hospital beds.