The Cash Crop Development project in Papua New Guinea was established to help the coffee growers of the Baiyer Valley region of the Western Highland to get a better return for their coffee, and to help them diversify their sources of cash income. They are subsistence farmers, well able to feed their families and their villages, but they rely on the income from coffee for the cash to pay for things like children’s education, medical care, and to be able to buy the assets that make modern life more comfortable and secure – improved housing, improved water and sanitation; as well as things like phones and radios.
When coffee was first introduced they established a factory to process their harvest, and a cooperative to market their beans for them. However PNG is very divided along tribal boundaries, and a period of tribal fighting destroyed the factory, and wrecked the cooperative. The coffee was still growing, and was still their source of cash income, but without those facilities they could no longer get a reliable price for their work.
The Baptist Union of Papua New Guinea (BUPNG) negotiated a settlement to the fighting, and then invited Banzaid to partner in rebuilding the economic infrastructure.
It was felt that a cooperative would still be subject to the tribal tensions, and so the decision was made to establish the project as a commercial trading company, owned by the national church body, the BUPNG, to try and keep it outside of the tribal issues. The aim is that the company will return any profits to the existing community development (health and education) projects of the Baptist Union of Papua New Guinea (BUPNG) in the project areas.
While ultimately the company will aim to rebuild processing facilities in the village area, in the meantime the company will purchase direct from the growers, and trade the coffee to the processing factories in the city. In doing this they will improve the market processes from the grower to the factory, enabling the grower to get a better price.
The company will also work with the growers to improve the quality of the coffee that they are selling, and to grade their beans, so that they can get best price for quality.
Alongside the trading activity, the company has set up a small farm and plant nursery. This will help the farmers introduce improved varieties of coffee, and will also research supplementary cash crops to diversify the sources of cash. Potential crops include rice, citrus and cardamoms.
The project will seek to link with other organisations both government and private sector involved with the coffee market in PNG. These will include the PNG Coffee Industry Corporation (CIC) and government agricultural extension services. In the long term they will seek Fair Trade and organic certifications.
Project funds have been used to:
· Set up the company, BU Kofi, as an agricultural business, aiming for commercial viability
· Establish a trading base in the Baiyer Valley target area, with weighing and storage facilities.
· Establish a plant nursery and farm facilities to provide seedlings and demonstrate best practice farm techniques for local farmers
· They provide a base for government agricultural advisory services
The company has been set up with basic operating infrastructure. However they have face significant obstacles, including the failure of promised PNG Government support, and election related violence around the 2017 PNG parliamentary elections.