Origin Stories: Fairtrade Cooperatives in Papua New Guinea

12 August, 2021 3 min read

Niugini Okapa is one of the most popular coffees in our collection, and the oldest certified Fairtrade region in Papua New Guinea. Jasper Coffee has gone to great lengths just to savour the praline-like flavour of this single-origin, grown-organically by remote communities across the Eastern Highlands. We spoke with cofounder, Wells Trenfield, about how this Fairtrade partnership helped restore the relationship between remote tribes and their crops.


A flavour worth flying for

Australia’s coffee industry has a long-standing relationship with beans from Papua New Guinea. So when coffee broker Scott Bennett introduced Jasper Coffee toNiugini Okapa, a single-origin coffee grown in the Eastern Highlands, we knew we were onto something special. 

“Back then (‘97)  the roads were so bad, you couldn’t get a car up there. But the coffee was so special, it was one of the specialty coffees of the world...that Scott would have helicopters go in and fly it out for us. It had this really extraordinary characteristic, it was quite unique.” - Wells Trenfield, Cofounder of Jasper Coffee

Finding innovation in remote places

Jasper Coffee partnered with producers in Papua New Guinea for their exceptional coffee, innovative producers and dedication to organic farming methods. 

“They’re looking after the very land that gives them sustenance, it’s so precious for them. And we could learn a lot from them.” - Wells Trenfield,Cofounder of Jasper Coffee

In 2004,Okapa became Fairtrade and organic certified. The certifications resulted in better coffee while guaranteeing higher prices for their much sought-after single-origin. Finally, the diverse tribal groups within the Coop had a common purpose for collaboration. 

While the groups did not share a common language, they were able to innovate in order to meet organic compliance requirements. To communicate organic farming methods, the Coop created a comic comic, filled with helpful illustrations to ensure farmers were meeting the same standards throughout the region.

“I think the amazing achievement is how the tribal groups within the Eastern Highlands have been able to work together to find a reason to grow this coffee, it’s their only income.” - Wells Trenfield, Cofounder of Jasper Coffee

Restoring relationships with the land

Fairtrade farming helped tribal groups within the Coop come together to rebuild communities and restore cultural practices. 

“The Coop was looking at a particular village that had lost their sense of self...and used the village as a model to change the way they were doing things, to improve how they treated their elders, women, and each other. When the village achieved these improvements within a set timeline, the Coop rewarded them with two small mechanical coffee pulpers...a task they’d previously completed by manually chewing the coffee cherries.” - Wells Trenfield, Cofounder of Jasper Coffee

With additional machinery and consistently improved farming methods funded by Fairtrade premiums, coffee production boomed within the Coop. The community channelled their income to purchase a portable saw mill, build better roads, as well as new classrooms, water and irrigation supply to churches, hospitals, schools and surrounding villages. 

In Papua New Guinea, Okapa is like a river that connects, renews and rejuvenates communities within the Fairtrade Coop. Where every cent has been used towards restoring the relationship tribal groups have with their land, their crops and one another. 

Explore our blog for moreOrigin Stories about our Fairtrade Certified coffee fromEthiopia,Colombia andEast Timor. Keen to support the Coop in PNG? ShopNiugini Okapa.