Walking to the heart of Unen Choit’s coffee growers

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Over the holiday season Unen Choit (UC) Cooperative Society navigated Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) mountainous landscape via land and sea to pioneer the rollout of Fairtrade’s Producer Library amongst their 925 farmer members. Fairtrade’s Producer Library is a compilation of training tools based on stories, which are told through illustrations and presented as games making the training widely accessible, particularly in communities with low literacy levels. 

“Through this rollout, Unen Choit Cooperative Society has set a foundation of self-reliance and internal drive in the heart of every farmer,” reported Molock Terry, Manager of Unen Choit, the newest Fairtrade certified organisation in the Pacific.

To engage UC’s next generation of Fairtrade farmers, a team of youth between the ages of 15 and 18 were selected to run the workshops for the Producer Library rollout, increasing their knowledge of the Fairtrade system, as well as their confidence. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), rural youth in PNG are migrating to urban centres due to the appeal of healthcare services, education and the idea of greater employment opportunities, however many remain unemployed. “In Papua New Guinea there are simply not enough jobs to go around in other sectors. But agriculture offers unmatched opportunities, so we should be trying to promote this among our youth,” states Gabriel Iso, Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand’s Liaison Officer in PNG.

In addition to workshops, the rollout included community mapping and the development of an environmental plan, incorporating environmental management strategies. The mapping exercise identified the location of solar charging stations, coffee gardens, schools, hospitals and conservation areas that could sustainably support local flora and fauna.    

The establishment of women’s groups are standard practice within many of PNG’s communities and within UC. During the Producer Library rollout the role of these women’s groups were brought to the forefront, ensuring both men and women’s voices were heard, particularly during UC’s annual General Assembly. Each community that UC visited had the opportunity to dissect and contribute to UC’s constitution, connecting the farmer membership which is spread over a vast area through a unified foundation and understanding.

Molock adds “Thank you Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand for providing heart to Unen Choit. We at Unen Choit aim to help every farmer who intends to help themselves to increase the quantity and quality of their product for a better future”.

The methodology of using stories, illustrations and games as training tools gives a voice to trainees (the farmers) by challenging them to share their interpretation of the given illustrated stories, and then using their own analysis, farmers arrive at the relevant concepts. As a result, they take ownership of their new knowledge, becoming storytellers, messengers, and trainers themselves (to find out more about the development of Fairtrade’s Producer Library, have a look here: http://fairtrade.org.nz/en-nz/news/news/archive/fairtrade-a-new-school-of-thought).