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Our long love affair with New Guinea started many many years ago when we first tried this coffee.
With its intense honey characteristic, not only was it intriguing on the palate, so was the story of the people who grew it. Back then the only way to get this coffee out of the area, was by helicopter. This was a Special Release coffee in the late 90’s…and was very expensive.
Remote, isolated and terribly hard to access, the area of Goroke is where the indigenous growers tend their native forest. They are entirely reliant on this crop of wild grown coffee, for their cash livelihood.
The coffee growing in this Southern Highland area, is rigorously protected by the producers who value and guard their organic status. Growing under the dense indigenous rainforest, growers combat the soil leaching, water retention and nitrogen leaching by the introduction of a nitrogen fixing leguminous ground creeper.
In order to determine Organic Certified boundaries within the family plots deep within the forest, the Coop funded GPS hand held navigation systems for the Organic Auditors to use with appropriate coordinates. The producers are also constantly trained in all aspects of Organic production. This happens both orally and with cartoon booklets, since there is no written language…and they are tested for their knowledge.
In spite of this, some years back, a grower decided to abuse the status and introduced artificial fertiliser for his own trees. His area was withdrawn from certification for 7 years, he lost his organic bonus payments and he was not allowed to use the Coop trucks to carry his beans the 90km to Goroke.
So remote and rudimentary is the coffee growing in this area, that many of the producers have until recently, pulped their cherry between 2 stones or in their mouth. Fairtrade Premiums have invested in 2,200 small hand pulpers, given to farmers, to assist with raising the pulping standards.
Okapa is a village on the high plateau of the mountain over which 100,000 people live as garden farmers who maintain their tribal rights. We are fortunate to have access to this very unique coffee..
This tribal group of producers, represents the first reliable source of ethical trade to this isolated region, growing their coffee within the canopy of indigenous forest.
The journey now, involves arduous and dangerous work along a mud bog road that is approx. 90 km to Goroke, and can take sometimes up to 16 hours. The heavily laden vehicles often get bogged, so that the sacks of parchment are unloaded, the vehicles pushed or dragged through the mud bog, then reloaded with the golden harvest. On occasion, groups of face painted and feathered warriors, come out of the bush to raid the bounty, armed with bows and arrows, only to be repelled by the one policeman riding gunshot on the convoy. All this for our luscious brown stuff in a white cup!
The growers of Okapa have used Fairtrade and Organic profits from the sale of their coffee and the fair trade premium to:
- Maintain roads to increase access in and around the region
- Supply hospitals with mattresses and medicines
- Support local primary schools
- Run community regeneration programs
- Build schools and houses
- Purchase a portable sawmill
- Invest in 2,200 hand coffee pulpers provided to producers
The impact of a reliable and accessible road cannot be understated. It has created business opportunities, increased the abilities to sell coffee and provided the access needed to increase health and education in the region.
INSERT INTRO BLURB FOR OKAPA CONNECTION - [http://www.engagemedia.org/Members/pipstarr/videos/the-okapa-connection.mov/view]