Attaining peace through coffee

YOU may have already heard the coffee behind the conversion of some armed rebels into coffee players taking a significant role in economic development and gradually attaining peace in the town of Panamao in Sulu.

But a lot has yet to know the "Sulu Royal Coffee" and its farmer's organizations endless success and development story.

Started in 2008, operating in four municipalities devoted to civet and robusta coffee production, the People's Alliance for Progress Multipurpose Cooperative (PAPMC), an agrarian reform community based in Panamao producing the Sulu Royal Coffee is expanding its coffee-producing lands in three more towns this year.

"We are expanding our operations in Indanan, Kalingalan Caluang, and Luuk," Princess Kumalah "Lala" Sug-Elardo, chair of PAPMC and a descendant of Sulu's two royal houses, a full-blooded Putlih or princess of Sulu, said.

PAPMC, which has around 2,000 members with over 300 families actively involved in coffee production, started in four municipalities of Panamao, Patikul, Talipao, and Panglima Estino which can be translated to a total of 1,024 hectares of coffee plantation

Sug-Elardo said the coffee as cleverly named as Sulu Royal Coffee, "represents the royal heritage and speaks of the coffee's exotic taste and origins."

"In promoting and attaining peace, there is a need for economic development as this will provide opportunities, jobs, and income to the people. Peace and poverty reduction is achieved not through politics or military but through economic progress, I believe that is the effective way," she said, adding that they usually gather rebels and train them on how to do business.

Sug-Elardo narrated that the farmers' situation now is a mile better than when they started in 2008.

As she described, due to the progressive coffee industry, their community has now developed a better water and lightning system, peace and order has been slowly established and residents are educated in social enterprising and good agricultural practices.

"We started manual but now we have coffee production facilities such as dryer, grinder, huller, among other equipment. We already reached and even surpassed our target before that is to enable a family earned at least P10,000 per month," she said.

Coffee Royal Coffee, specializing in civet coffee production started only with 30 kilos in annual production. After seven years of improving the business, Sug-Elardo said they are expecting 600 kilograms of production in the next harvest.

"Our starting capital is only P20,000 but now our asset is already P10 million," she said, adding that their products already reached the countries of France, Korea, Canada, Australia, and US.

Sug-Elardo also said that the idea of coffee production emerged when she noticed that coffee beans were scattered on the ground, adding since coffee is in demand and there is an available sources in the area, why not tap the land's potential for coffee.

PAPMC took pride in their quality produced coffee, describing that coffee lovers were like civet cats that eats only the best coffee berries; coffee goers choose the coffee that is best, thus the cooperative's pursuit in producing only best coffee.

"Kahawa Kubing" or civet coffee of Sulu is handpicked from wild coffee trees of the lush mountains of Bud Sinumaan, Bagsak and Dahu. The beans are then processed Halal by farmers. Als "Kahawa Sug" is a specialty coffee, called organic washed robusta, floated in water container before depulped, then wahed, fermented vovernight, then rinsed and dried in elevated beds.

The farmers are taught to harvest only red ripe cherries when coffee is at its peak of ripeness.

PAPMC also produced cassava, coconut and fruits like mangosteen, durian, and lanzones, among others.

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