The picturesque image of a Filipino breakfast is the smell of sautéed garlic followed by the sound of ulam (or the viand) being seared, a waft of fresh pan de sal from the nearby bakery, and the warmth of fresh coffee at hand. For Datu Jimmy M. Taupan, the treasurer of the enterprise and farmer,coffee serves as a comfort for a day of harvest. Coffee being the primary harvest has driven his community to concentrate on coffee bean production.
Datu Jimmy is part of the organization KIDAREPAI or Kitubod Datu Sapalao Reservation Program for Arumanen Incorporated, a people’s organization registered to the Securities and Exchange Commission that holds the certificate of Ancenstral Domaint Title (CADT) for the Arumanen Ne Menuvu of Carmen, North Cotabato. Part of KIDAREPAI’s objective is for Indigenous People (IP) leaders to employ an effective strategy in implementing good governance while remaining resolute in their IP cultures and traditions. The emphasis on strengthening their culture and ancestral domain is spurred from the population of the area where two-thirds or 4,117 out of 6,445 are IPs.
North Cotabato has always been productive in coffee bean processing and this drove the community to pursue it. However, despite being an agricultural land, unsustainable farming and food production practices are still common problems in the community.
For Datu Jimmy’s case, he has been a coffee farmer and producer for ten years. The ten years were not as lucrative because of the lack of knowledge in sustaining quality production and penetrating a bigger and saturated market. The community made an initiative in 2014 to enroll their Coffee Bean Processing Enterprise in the Indigenous Peoples Leadership and Enterprise Development (IP LED) program of the Pamulaan Center for Indigenous People’s Education. The two-year training program sent Mr. Rizalito Benito, an IP coffee farmer himself, to train KIDAREPAI farmers on the proper planting, harvesting, and rejuvenating coffee beans. The members of the enterprise also underwent training for quality control in post-harvesting like sorting, pulping, hulling and drying where they learned what beans would produce better coffee. Prior to the trainings from the IP LED program, they would not be meticulous in picking the coffee beans—mixing both raw and ripe beans in coffee production—not knowing that it would affect the final product.
The Pamulaan and the European Union gave the Coffee Bean Processing Enterprise the capital to begin operating in 2015, a year after trainings began, the enterprise was fully functioning from coffee bean picking to accounting. The members of the enterprise were also trained to properly record and account transactions. Datu Jimmy, being the treasurer, found this of big help since he had no prior experience in bookkeeping. He was personally challenged by his role as the treasurer because he was only an elementary graduate. Through continuous exposure to the tasks and his daily dealings, he was able to perform the tasks expected of him.
Concrete improvements were very evident after the trainings from the IP LED program. As a result of better quality coffee beans and financial management, the income of the enterprise increased by 20%. This extended to the people in the community where the members of the enterprise were capacitated in matters related to their business. Family members also became knowledgeable in processing techniques and methods while the community became a supportive and constant market for the product. What began as a training for specific individuals resulted to a community working together to sustain their home-grown enterprise.
Datu Jimmy’s concrete plan for the enterprise is tied to his wishes for the community. Increasing production would move towards a bigger enterprise and more employment opportunities for the community.
One plan for the enterprise is to grow the number of coffee being planted while employing appropriate care as instructed by the IP LED program. This would avoid problems faced by the enterprise before like crops growing taller than expected which delayed and made harvesting and red picking difficult.
Datu Jimmy says that coffee is an integral part of the indigenous lifestyle. Even before selling coffee, coffee was a staple that was enjoyed in the comfort of the home with family members, gatherings with friends, and offered to guests as a sign of hospitality. “It’s impossible for each home to not have coffee, at the very least.”
From Datu Jimmy’s sentiment, it is not surprising that the total coffee consumption in the Philippines has increased from 710,000 bags in 1990 to 3,000,000 bags in 2016. That’s why the Coffee Bean Processing Enterprise is more than income generation for the KIDAREPAI—it is inheriting a culture protected by their ancestors to be taught and passed, through them and the coffee they painstakingly make, to their children.
KIDAREPAI stands for Kitubod Datu Sapalao Reservation Program for Arumanen Incorporated, a people’s organization registered to the Securities and Exchange Commission on June 1998. It envisions to develop the Arumanen Ne Menuvu community in terms of livelihood, health, education, and ancestral domain management in a way that is relevant and respectful of IP cultures and traditions.