Papua New Guinea – Maga Plantation
The Maga Coffee Plantation was formed by the Moke Clan, one of 4 clans living in the village of Ke’efu village within Okapa district of Papua New Guinea’s Eastern Highlands Province. An estimated population of around 500 people make up this village which nestles at at an altitude of 1,770 metres above sea level.
The clan has named their coffee holdings ‘Maga’ after a local mountain. This mountain has cultural value to the Moke people, as it was a sacred place for Moke warriors during tribal warfare. Today the mountain still has a significant presence in everyday life. It is rich in biodiversity and has a rich soil. The area is still used for hunting and food gardens are scattered around its foothills.
When asked about future prospects, the Maga coffee farmers firmly believe in a better to-morrow for their children, and are keen on passing on their cultural values and their respect for the ecosystem as it is the main provider for their livelihoods. Coffee is expected to remain prominent in the smallholder farming systems in this area. It is the main cash crop for all farmers, although some surplus food crops provide for extra income when sold on local markets.
On average each farmer participating in the group has three small coffee gardens with a total 1,200 trees per farmer. Arusha and Typica are the most dominant varieties. These are grown under ideal shade cover of 30 to 40% provided by the Casuarina, a favourite choice of shade tree. Coffee plots are scattered on the mountain slopes and through the valley bordered by the Maga river. Each individual is responsible for his/her own production, but the extended family all pitches in together for cultivation and harvesting, marrying together their production when it comes time for making the final sale.
The rich loamy clay soil together with favourable climatically conditions provides for some best coffee cherries in the Province.
Coffee is selectively hand-picked and delivered to individuals’ wet mills on the same day, where it is to be floated and then pulped. After pulping, the coffee is fermented for several days and then washed using clean water. Parchment is delivered to dry on raised drying beds – where they are again sorted – for a maximum period of 5 days. During cloudy and cool days, the time drying extends to about 7 days. Some coffee is also dried using the traditional method on tarpaulin sails on the ground.
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 plots within the Maga plantation may even have demarcated conservation areas within them. Natural water sources are also preserved within the local community. 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.
Sustainable Management Services (SMS), which is affiliated with our exporting partner for this coffee, has taken up the challenge of providing extension services to coffee producers throughout Papua New Guinea’s major growing regions and does great work in supporting the efforts of Maga Plantation’s farmers. These services are necessarily adapted to the realities of life in the country. For example, there’s no centralised farmer training centre (as SMS runs in some countries), as distances, lack of transportation, fines and the cost of accommodation once there make travel to such a location unworkable. Instead the extension workers spend days or weeks at a time in the coffee-producer communities and hold ‘coffee nights’ where growers gather to share experiences and learn best practices from SMS extension workers. This private sector initiative is steadily improving yields and driving up quality and value for thousands of small producers. It also means a cleaner and more consistent cup for specialty buyers who are now looking at this origin as a new store of much untapped potential.