The YUS Conservation Area includes three distinct regions, named for the main rivers and languages spoken – Yopno, Uruwa, and Som. It was four years ago that we began to work with the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program (TKCP) in developing a sustainable coffee program as part of their mission to improve the livelihoods of those who have pledged their land for conservation. The pilot project began in Uruwa, which had the most coffee and also were furthest along in terms of management and processing know how. Having just completed our fourth harvest with the farmers of Uruwa, we have turned our focus to Yopno.
After a delayed flight and a considerable amount of waiting, I arrived at the Teptep airstrip with Benjamin, Daniel, and six coffee pulpers. After a brief snack we hiked to the village of Nian, where the workshops were to take place. More than 70 farmers had gathered from the surrounding villages to take part in the training. As livelihoods coordinator for TKCP, Benjamin has a wealth of knowledge and experience teaching about quality coffee production. Joining him was Daniel of the Coffee Industry Corporation (CIC), and Namu, a Yopno community leader, one of the first to pledge land for conservation.
Over the course of four days we covered the topics of garden management, pruning, harvesting, cherry selection, pulping, washing, fermentation, and drying. On the final day we tasted YUS coffee (from Uruwa) together and spoke with anticipation of the day that the quality of Yopno coffee would be included. We are setting a goal for the harvest of 2015 for the first export from Yopno to Caffe Vita. First, the farmers must finish pruning and cleaning their gardens, organize into groups to set up their pulpers and construct solar driers, and construct a storage warehouse near the airstrip.
We spent the following few days visiting villages throughout the region, meeting with farmers and checking out their coffee gardens. As Caffe Vita’s buyer I am filled with anticipation and excitement for the people of Yopno and their coffee. Having witnessed the positive impact in the Uruwa region, we are looking forward to replicating the same success in Yopno. Additionally, from a quality standpoint, the farmers of Yopno have the potential to produce some truly exquisite coffee that will be among the highest grown in the world. Our GPS read out elevations of 2000-2400 meters above sea level at all of the farms we visited. With massive swings in temperature between day and night, ridiculously fertile black soils, and old growth heirloom varieties of coffee, the sky is the limit.