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Keeping the coffee industry alive in Kalinga

KALINGA, April 18, 2022 – Kalinga coffee growers from Pasil, Pinukpuk, and Tabuk City underwent training on coffee rejuvenation in the hope of revitalizing the coffee industry in the province through the Department of Agriculture – Special Area for Agricultural Development (DA-SAAD) Program’s Coffee Rejuvenation Training in tandem with the Municipal Local Government Unit (MLGU).

Coffee rejuvenation is among the universally-known best practices to enhance coffee production. This involves the cutting of vertical branches and stems of old trees to stimulate the sprouting of new branches. The technique allows coffee trees to bear berries in a year compared to planting a new seedling taking about 3-4 years to mature and start flowering. Also, rejuvenated coffee trees yield higher since more branches and robust growth is attained by having well-developed and established root systems.

Two easy steps of rejuvenation for old coffee trees demonstrated by Pinukpuk Municipal Agriculturist Eunice Belloza were:

  1. A sharp bolo or chainsaw is used to cut the main stem in a slant position at least 75% of the diameter 2 feet away from the ground, and
  2. The cut or wound area of the tree is covered with latex paint.

With continuous monitoring and technical assistance, the program helps the farmers through rejuvenation technology adaptation to revitalize at least 80% or approximately 27 hectares planted with about 10,800 century-old coffee trees in the SAAD-covered areas in the province.

Antuza Refalda, manager of Kalinga Brew, a local coffee brand, said that there is a need to rejuvenate old coffee trees in Kalinga mainly due to the decline in production. Municipal Agriculturist (MA) of Pinukpuk, Eunice Belloza encouraged farmers by sharing her vision of a promising enterprise in the coffee industry citing that a sure income follows when farmers treat agriculture as a business.

Ms. Belloza said in the upper barangays of the province, where most coffee plantations are located, farmers purchase coffee powder for household consumption from the province’s central market in Tabuk instead of marketing their coffee products in the city.

“This only shows that the production of coffee plantations in the mountainous areas declines even with the suitability of the crop with the province’s climate,” she added, expressing hopes that coffee beans will be marketed from the upper communities of the province to Tabuk City instead of the other way around.

Coffee is an important part of Kalingas’ culture and Cordillerans as a whole. Aside from being a staple beverage in Kalinga homes. It is a symbol of hospitality when visiting a household or a place. It is served on slow lazy afternoons and any occasion.

Most coffee growers in Kalinga produce their seedlings by selecting good seeds from their production for transplanting, while some growers transplant seedlings from fallen ripe beans.

The value chain analysis of coffee in the Cordillera by the DA’s Philippine Rural Development Project (DA-PRDP) acknowledges coffee to be the world’s second most valuable market commodity after petroleum and is the adopted regional commodity in the highlands. CAR has four major varieties of coffee cultivated in different provinces; Arabica coffee which grows well in the highland areas of Benguet, Mountain Province, and Ifugao, Robusta, Excelsa, and Liberica coffee which grows in the hotter or lowland areas in the region, like some parts of Kalinga and Mountain Province.

The harvest season is January to April for Robusta coffee, November to June for Arabica, and February for Excelsa. Kalinga coffee farmers mainly cultivate Robusta and Arabica varieties.

Coffee berries production in the Philippines decreased by 25.08% from 96,433MT in 2009 to 72,341MT in 2015.

The reason for the decline is the conversion of agro-forest plantations to cash crops like rice and corn that provide farmers faster and better income, the lack of accessible roads from the mountains to the market, and the decreased productivity of coffee trees due to old age, and poor farming practices.

This significant decline fueled the desire of coffee farmers to adapt farm technologies and consider rejuvenating projects to revive coffee production in the province. In addition, the DA-PRDP allotted funds for the construction of Farm to Market Roads to help revitalize the coffee industry of the province by providing accessible transportation means and opening opportunities for business establishments and traders, especially to farmers living in rural communities.

Ms. Belloza said that the training is a free learning opportunity from the government that targets the increase of harvest and income for farmers. She said that “the farmers’ cooperative and initiative to learn and apply the knowledge they have gained is a sure bridge to success in the coffee industry.”

Project Implementation

In an effort by the DA-SAAD CAR and the MLGUs, 450 farmers were trained in Coffee Rejuvenation, Harvesting, and Post-handling Technique from October to November 2021 to increase the yield of century-old trees.

The Program allotted a Php 730,000 budget for the coffee rejuvenation training which was participated by eight Farmers’ Cooperative and Associations (FCAs) namely Guina-and Pasil Farmers Association of Pasil; Nambucayan Matagoan FA, Banat Banagan Pakao Credit Cooperative, and SAAD Farmers Development Organization of Tabuk City; Asibanglang Farmers Development Organization, Ba-ay Farmers SAAD Organization, and Limos SAAD FA of Pinukpuk with 450 total number of farmer participants.

The training also aims to educate the group on the proper way of harvesting the berries instead of the stripping method. This is because the stripping method is customary to the farmers who want to save time but results in damage to the coffee trees and the inclusion of unripe, over-ripe, and reject beans that can affect the quality and taste of the final product.

Rejuvenating materials and equipment like mini chainsaws, pruning shears, paints, and paintbrushes were provided to partner FCAs with a total fund of Php 730,000.00.

Problems Encountered and Solutions Made

However, the farmers’ apprehension in adopting modern technologies in coffee cultivation was a challenge. Technology adaptation can be tough, that is why the improvement of different commodity production in agriculture has been slowed down.

Despite these challenges, regular monitoring and technical assistance through field visits to farms that adopt contemporary coffee rejuvenation methods are carried out to gather reality-based evidence of the effectiveness of the project. This is aimed at encouraging more farmers to participate in the project.

In Asibanglan, Pinukpuk, John B. Gorospe, a youth leader and the chairperson of Asibanglan Farmers Development Organization teams up with the DA-SAAD CAR and other partner agencies in asserting that the rejuvenation of coffee trees is a proven way of revitalizing the yield of coffee beans. Having been exposed to a wider understanding of the importance of technology transfer in agriculture, he willingly took initiative in convincing the organization he handles by opening his coffee plantation for demonstration.

He also encouraged the association members by citing an earning coffee farm he has visited in the province where the trees already yield after a year of engaging in the technology of rejuvenation. With high hopes and close coordination with partner agencies and the organizations that underwent the training, the coffee industry in the province is seen to prosper in the following years.

Moving forward, the DA-SAAD Program envisions a more sustainable and improved production of high-quality coffee, not just in Kalinga but in the whole of Cordillera. ###

Writer: Mowanah Marie C. Jovellanos, Community Development Officer I-Kalinga.

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Special Area for Agricultural Development (SAAD) Program Online ISSN: 2718-9791
Published by the SAAD National Program Management Office Editorial Board

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