The Robusta coffee from Tagbina, Surigao del Sur was 50 years in the making. And if it took the farmers of Barangay Kahayagan that long to make it, the coffee must be very, very good!

In 1965, farmers started to grow coffee in a forest reserve area owned by Paper Industries Corporation of the Philippines (PICOP).  From then on, the coffee of Tagbina has created loyal customers. However, acceptance was slow due to lack of support.

Since their product has a big market in Caraga Region, 30 farmers created the Mabuhay-Kahayagan Coffee Growers Cooperative (MKCGC) in 2007 and contributed P1,000 each for their starting capital. Three years later, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) distributed an area covering 2,772 hectares for the coffee plantation.

But for these poor farmers, running the cooperative was not easy, most especially when coffee growing came to a halt brought about by the low buying price of fresh berries.

With continued guidance from DAR, the organization was encouraged to just plant more and utilize the land until Nestle became the organization’s valued buyer. Nestle provided the organization with quality coffee planting materials and trainings on planting and growing. On the other hand, the DAR developed the organization’s maturity with various capability-building trainings and continuing services on product development.

Under the common services facilities component of DAR’s Agrarian Reform Community Connectivity and Economic Support Services (ARCCESS) project, MKCGC received one unit flatbed drier and sprayer all worth P1.4 million. The dryer encouraged the farmers to expand their coffee farms to meet demand. The DAR also helped the cooperative by looking for partner-agencies to develop their coffee business. Aside from the DAR’s de-huller machine for the coffee beans, other agencies also poured in their support. The Department of Agriculture provided another de-huller machine, the Department of Social Welfare and Development gave P350,000 to help with their coffee production needs and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) gave one industrial coffee grinder and two industrial coffee roasters. The DOST also taught the farmers about the nutritional facts of coffee.

The business with Nestle is continuing; and the cooperative grew to 143 members with a working capital of more than P100,000.

But MKCGC could not just end as supplier to Nestle. With a special arrangement, Nestle allowed the use of 5%-10% of the farmers’ harvest to develop their own product. And with the business development services of DAR-ARCCESS, MKCGC was trained in roasting, grinding and packaging that gave birth to another business opportunity for the cooperative – the Tagbina Robusta Coffee.

While waiting for the approval of other proposed facilities from the ARCCESS’ common service facilities like roaster and grinder, MKCGC, in pursuit of bringing their product closer to the market, tapped outside services but continues to hope for the approval of the facilities.

DAR, in partnership with the local government unit of Tagbina, provided the MKCGC a village-level coffee processing center.

The Tagbina Robusta Coffee, which was recently launched in the market, will not only provide our coffee time with new aroma but also perks up the lives of the Tagbina coffee farmers. (Joie Ceballos, DAR-Caraga)