The Highland Organic Agriculture Cooperative (HOAC) is the oldest of its kind in the Pacific. Registered in 2003 and certified in 2005, it has brought together nearly 3,000 producers and farmers in partnership with Coffee Connection Ltd. which is the cooperative’s principal exporter.
It is based in the remote Okapa region of the Eastern Highlands, where around 70% of the population depends directly on subsistence farming. Like most of the Highland areas of Papua New Guinea, the infrastructure is decidedly poor; with a real need to develop roads, health centres and schools to help the communities and villages in the area. With no other major industries in the area, unemployment is high, and even farming and trading cash crops is a challenge - with many farmers having to contend with rugged mountain terrain and a 10 hour trip to the nearest market town in Goroka.
However, the region is ideal for the growing of high quality coffee, with nearly 80% of Papua New Guinea’s coffee grown amongst these hills and valleys.
Amongst all this, the aims of the HOAC are simple: to improve the quality of coffee and production, to strengthen the region’s poor transport links and to bring clean drinking water and electricity to village communities.
The Fairtrade and Organic premiums have had a real effect on the members of the co-op and the communities they come from. Through the premiums, the cooperative has been able to invest in and expand rural schools, paying for more classrooms, desks and textbooks. They have funded & embarked on a project to build a clean running water infrastructure in the rural communities where HOAC farmers live - with the potential to impact families and communities far outside of the co-op’s initial reach.
‘Fairtrade allows us to see that through our own efforts development can come to our area. Fairtrade shows us that we can invest something back into our community to help our own people where it is needed.’
From an economic point of view, casual workers receive a guaranteed wage under the Fairtrade scheme, and the HOAC has worked closely with the local government to invest in road improvements in the region. And by investing in machinery for coffee pulping, spoilage and waste is down, whilst the quality and price of the coffee produced has only risen.
From the sales of our Grand Edition Papua New Guinea, we’re giving away 15% of all profits to Ivingoi, a small community centre approximately 70 kilometres from the major town of Goroka in the Eastern Highlands Province. There, the health centre is the only facility looking after the health of a population of approximately 20,000 people. As is often the case, Government funding is usually insufficient to allow the centre to operate at full capacity. Normally very ill people need to travel the long distance to a hospital facility in Goroka which can sometimes be difficult.
Directly, our donation will be put towards providing much-needed equipment, such as mattresses and pillows, along with new heavy-duty electrical wire to help with maintenance and supply of the generator.