An Update from Papua-New Guinea

Sometimes you just don't know whatever happened as a result of your efforts, especially in the far flung areas of the world we work in, with terrible communications, time differences and language difficulties.

Sometimes, however, you do. I have been getting a string of emails lately from the farmers in Papua-New Guinea that describe the amazing progress they have made based on our initial work in November of last year. As you may remember, I was in the Highlands of Papua-New Guinea to try and help farmers organize into legally recognized cooperatives, then file for recognition by the Fair Trade (FLO) Registry and hopefully increase their income by up to three times. We went from village to village, tribe to tribe, often discussing these things late into the night by a fire. Although I had the time of my life, I knew that it would be an uphill struggle, as these farmers are so accustomed to being ripped off by outsiders that I didn't know if I was truly being heard.

Guess I was! According to Iggy Palma, the head of Tribal Aromas (the organizing group), the farmers of Digne and Henganofi, the two areas we visited, have formed coops and gotten legal registration. They have applied for FLO certification and their application was accepted. The FLO inspector will visit in July. Also, Iggy and I visited the Asian Development Bank in the capital and talked with the PNG Director about the need to create microloan programs for the farmers. Iggy reports that there is such a program now, and seventy farmers have received loans for the first time in their lives, with a new office to open in the coffee region. I emailed the ADB head and he confirmed that they had gone ahead after our meeting and created the program.

I am absolutely blown away with the ability of Iggy and the farmers to take the ball and run with it so quickly. It goes to show how far a little help can go - and what a big difference a small company can make in peoples lives!

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