Maramag, Bukidnon -- A petite woman with nimble feet, that’s how some people see Lilibeth Puerto Galendez, 49, this empowered woman of the Rural Improvement Club (RIC) Kape Maramag, Inc. as she energetically guided a number of guests among coffee producers from other regions. It could be this trait that has endeared her among her peers in the only women’s organization that has set Kape Maramag above the rest among coffee producers in this region.
Being the coffee roaster and the second highest social of Kape Maramag women’s organization, Galendez knew by heart the beginnings of their organization, and the open secret of the ‘sweet’ quality of the coffee they produce. She was also privy to how, since 2012, their members have been reaping not only sure income from the bountiful harvests but likewise have some kind of assurance for their community to continue producing and gaining form the now known coffee branding Maramag.
“Ang sakto ra gyud nga hinog nga bunga sa kape ang anihon aron tam-is gyud ang kape ug dili masayang ang dili hinog,” (Only the red ripe beans are handpicked and processed that makes coee sweet, and by doing so, we are also avoiding wastage)," Galendez explains. This was just one of the methods that she had shared with fellow members of the federation through the years.
One of Galendez’ painstaking contributions to the development of Kape Maramag is her untiring advocacy among coee farmers, encouraging them to upgrade their approaches in coffee farming. In 2015, she related that the Department of Agriculture, in collaboration with Nestle Corporation, provided a budget for training of Coffee farmers in the Region. She was one of the lecturers/facilitators of the School on Air that was aired on a radio station. School on the Air “Bahandi”, an Agricultural Training Institute launched a capacity building on June 2015 involving 700 farmers in Maramag and Bukidnon areas that run up to three months. For 30 minutes, from 6:00 up to 6:30 in the morning three times a week, the farmers listened to radio station DXMU-FM with dial 88.9 for their day’s lesson.
Among the things taught on air in the 18 modules are technical know-how on Rejuvenation and Pruning processes that results to shorter coffee plant of up to three to four feet in height instead of three meters or more.
Herself engaged in diversied farming, Galendez shared that she also planted not only coffee but other plants and vegetables as well in between coffee “hills” or trees, which have sustained the family’s daily needs. Likewise, she raised hogs and other farm animals such as ducks and chicken that not only answers the day to day nutrition needs of her family but which she also sells when these are in abundance.
Flagship crop in Maramag
Few years back, the coffee industry in Maramag was almost dying after coffee farmers could not even sell their produce to local traders. Galendez related that they were ready to give up when their coffee farms were given a perk.
The Department of Agriculture-High Value Crops Development Program (DAHVCDP) in 2012, decided to establish a coee roasting facility in the municipality through the Rural Improvement Club (RIC) Federation of Maramag, the mother organization of Kape Maramag, as part of its initiative in reviving the coffee industry in the region.
The facility contained a coee roasting system, commercial grade coee grinder, foot sealer, cutter, weighing scale and foil for packaging, which was granted by the DA-HVCDP in collaboration with Kaanib Foundation. Initially, the Federation was composed of 1,050 members most of whom have been engaged into coee farming and production of other agricultural crops from the 20 barangays in the municipality.
Galendez and other ocers of the federation also went through a Training of Trainers on Coee Production initiated by the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) and even became one of the Philippine delegates to the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) Training Course on Intensive Cultivation Technique of Coffee held in Thu Dau Mot City, Binh Duong, Vietnam sometime in 2013. Thus, with the brand name “Kape Maramag”, the Federation started their business operations on coffee roasting, grinding and brewing in April 2012 with only a hundred kilograms of coffee beans, she said. By September 2013, the facility had already processed a total of 1,271.10 kilograms coffee beans.
With only a starting capital of P11,500, she said Kape Maramag had grossed a total of P297,039.90 in the same year. It was said that the coffee blends they were producing sold at P350 per kilogram, while its 250, 100, and 50-gram packs have been sold at P125, P55 and P27, respectively up until at present.
It has been said that local traders are paying higher for each kilo of coffee at P50 to 60, as against the price being offered by Kape Maramag. However, some local traders and multinationals like Nestle,only buy in bulk and not in small quantity to get a higher price. Thus, farmers who have smaller volumes to sell have since delivered their coffee beans to Kape Maramag especially during o season. To further encourage federation members to deliver high quality beans, Kape Maramag management offered an incentive program of P5 per kilo of high quality coffee beans delivered. Furthermore, its kiosk that is located at the municipal bus station which was funded by the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) continues to attract customers as cups of Robusta coffee are available at an affordable price.
Perennial problem on farm-to-market road
With its small vehicle that collects coffee farmers’ produce in uphill areas, Kape Maramag has been able to provide assistance with the assurance of transport facility farmers could ill afford, Galendez added. The lack of an affordable transport system that could deliver the green coee beans to local traders was one factor that had earlier discouraged coffee growers from pursuing their business.
In addition, the road network pose an age-old problem among coffee farmers as these are still not developed by the local government even at present. Dirt road that gets impassable and treacherous during rainy season continues to be a major stumbling block for small coffee producers in this region. Thus, even with all the technical and capacity building support afforded by the Department of Agriculture and other line agencies of government in the municipality, Kape Maramag is still facing tough times even as it has been forward-looking with more expansion of its coffee areas and business operations.
“We have potential buyers as some of our partners outside the country bring our coffee in California and Nevada,” said Ms. Imelda Mendoza, the president of the Federation. For this year though, Kape Maramag has secured nancial support from Peace and Equity Foundation (PEF) for “working capital, capacity building and product packaging improvement. Its track record of financial stability for the past three years from 2014 to 2016 and its growing assets which have reached over P2- million already owing to the increase in income that tripled over the years have assured PEF and partner communities of its potentials.
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