A way out…

A little known community in the windy Aiyura Valley of Eastern Highlands Province has turned to coffee in their bid to turn youths from drugs and homebrew related activities in the area.

Aserangka Village located in the vicinity of Coffee Industry Corporation’s (CIC) research base at Aiyura has lately formed a coffee cooperative with the involvement of some youths.

The group, known as Aserangka Coffee Cooperative Society, was formed only last year and has registered with Investment Promotion Authority.

Group chairman Pastor Ben Wane said their aim is to return the youths to the coffee gardens to have a meaningful life.

“Our aim is to create opportunities for our disadvantaged youths,” he said briefly in Tok Pisin.

Members of the cooperative have started rehabilitating their gardens and processing parchment coffee dried on raised beds with the professional guidance of CIC Aiyura extension officer Joe Binabe.

“I spend my after hours in this community and kind of know everyone here. I see youths indulging in drugs, homebrew and fighting each other with bush knives.

“Cherry stealing is an ongoing law and order concern in this community, including from CIC plantation,” he said.

“I decided to offer some help and like everything else, this is a start. We will encourage more youths to join as we move forward.”

Aserangka Village is located next to the coffee research and extension station, NARI (National Agriculture and Research Institute, Fisheries and the SIL (Summer Institute of Linguistic) airstrip. The community has a population of just over 1,000 and their cooperative group’s current membership is 36.

Last year they sold 11 green bean bags at K9.10 per kg from their improved gardens and earned close to K5,000.

This year they expect to sell over 30 green bean bags. The group is also preparing to take part in CIC’s 2018 National Coffee Cupping Competition to be held in September.

Manager of CIC’s Productive Partnerships in Agriculture Project Potaisa Hombunaka heard of this small but significant initiative and decided to see firsthand on Friday, 20 July, what the growers have been doing.

“The stand out story here is this group is slowly influencing the youths not to engage in illegal activities including cherry stealing in the village and also from the CIC plantation.

“However further down cherry stealing is still thriving,” said Hombunaka.

The coffee manager said to talk to CIC Aiyura administration to step in to assist the local landowners with proper tools and materials, inclusive of coffee pulpers as a community service project.

“I believe we can create and maintain good public relations with the community and youths will be meaningfully engaged in coffee production and marketing,” said Hombunaka.

The CIC-PPAP manager praised extension officer Binabe, who went out of his own way to organise and help this group of simple growers with proper training and advice.

Hombunaka was a former CIC scientist and manager at Aiyura research and extension division for 23-and-a-half years and takes the valley as his second home. He knows the community very well, including the people of the nearby Obura-Wonenara District.

The absence of proper tools and materials like hand pulping machines is depriving the growers’ eagerness to produce quality coffee and also their efforts to engage youths in a meaningful life.

Nevertheless, Binabe said they remain positive in their mission and will remove 30t per kg from their coming coffee sales to purchase three hand pulpers until all growers have one each.

(Project Manager Potaisa Hombunaka, 3rd from right, and extension officer Joe Binabe, 2nd from right, checking the growers’ coffee gardens at Aserangka Village in the Aiyura Valley)

Press release