Story Mandy Glass. Photos Mathias Glass (MSG), Mandy Glass (MG) and Tony and Lynn Fry (TLF)

People’s Lives totally depend on Coffee

Vincent Kaniemba, a local from Simbai, has the vision to secure the future of Simbai’s many coffee farmers and to improve their income. A few years ago, the trained accountant with a degree from the Divine Word University at Madang, stumbled upon a newspaper advertisement: The PNG Government, in association with the World Bank, was seeking Papua New Guinean investors to professionally develop local coffee and cocoa production. Vincent partnered with the region’s Anglican Church, came up with a concept and won a bid. Today, he is the Project Coordinator for five agricultural corporations in the Highlands.

The multi-purpose building next to the parking bay is visual evidence that things are moving forward at Simbai. Near the bottom end of the airstrip, a coffee processing plant is being built.

Vincent is aware that besides the investment into the local infrastructure, he also needs to invest in the farmers, to enrich and encourage them. With the help of the World Bank grant, the farmers were given tools like spades, bush knives and secateurs, pulping machines and sacks, but also consistent training to upgrade their coffee farming skills.

“During coffee season, we see hundreds of people carrying these heavy coffee bags on their shoulders past our house down to the airstrip,“ says Tony Fry, who with his wife, Reverend Lynn, teaches at the Anglican Vocational School in Simbai. “One of the main coffee plantations is at Kaironk, a 4½ hour hike from the airstrip! Coffee is the only form of continuous cash income for the people here.“ 

“People’s lives here at Simbai totally depend on coffee picking and the local coffee industry totally relies on the airstrip,“ reinforces Vincent. “During coffee season, the farmers camp in their coffee gardens and help each other to pick the cherries.“

By hand, or with manually operated pulping machines, the farmers remove the red and juicy cherry skin and pulp from the seed or bean which is then sun dried. The bean is then flown out from Simbai as coffee parchment quality, which is dried but unhulled coffee beans, packed in sacks of 50 kg each.

Coffee buyers like Ray Bruk, also a local from Simbai, and who owns a trade store there, frequently charters MAF aircraft to take trade store goods into Simbai and coffee out of Simbai to sell it to the coffee roasting and packing facilities in Mt Hagen. He pointed out that he totally relies on MAF’s air service: “Sapos MAF i no stap na servim mipela mi no klia. Tasol MAF is stap na servim mipela ol tarangu manmeri long ples na wokim servis bilong mipela ol tarangu lain long ples. Mipela tok tenkyu long MAF helpim mipela insait long ol remote areas. Tenkyu long MAF kapani i save helpim ol trangu manmeri long ples.“ (“If MAF wasn’t there to serve us I don’t know what. But MAF is there and assists us underprivileged people providing service to us village people. Thank you MAF for helping us in the remote areas. Thank you to MAF for the continuous service for us under resourced village people.“)

Coffee buyer Ray Bruk (MG)

Vincent sees the potential for more development and wants to expand the local manufacturing process. His vision is to see export-ready products flown out of the village: high-quality, organically grown Arabica coffee from Simbai, roasted and ready for the customer. He calls it ‘Tree to cup policy’ and is looking for oversea markets and export partners.

Therefore, the next step for the project is to see green beans leaving Simbai instead of only parchment quality. Parchment coffee price is currently K4.50 to K6.00 (a Kina is about 30 cents US) but the freight cost of K2.80 per kilogram reduces the margin to the grower. The further processing to „green bean“ stage will increase the price to K8 to K12 per kilogram.  The new processing unit will also enable byproducts such as aromatic soaps to be produced

Thanks to Reverend Lynn and Tony Fry and their support to the Kaironk Coffee Cooperative, Simbai grown and processed coffee is already available. On the 24th of July 2018, Lynn posted on Social Media: “We are pretty happy with this. We have been helping the Kaironk Coffee Cooperative with these coffee bags and labels. No fertiliser or pesticides, hand picked and hand roasted over the open fire. Proper sustainability. Coming for sale in Mt Hagen very soon.“

The package reads, “Produced in Kaironk, Madang Province, PNG. Made from Highlands Arabica beans grown without chemicals or fertiliser and hulled and roasted by hand by the Kaironk Coffee Cooperative.

The Kaironk coffee will be sold at the Sweet Spot Coffee Shop and Restaurant at central Mt Hagen. 

The Donkey Trail

A few people run guesthouses for tourists and so create some income. But this industry is far from flourishing and providing a stable income for the people. Currently, the extended Wengi family of Simbai and the two communities of Alvan and Kaironk are hard on the go to establish the Simbai-Dusin Donkey Trail, a walking and cultural experience in the mountains between Simbai and Dusin.

The Donkey Trail can be walked in 4 days, but a  7 days itinerary with a rest day at each guest house, giving the opportunity to enjoy Simbai hospitality. Each of the guest houses has designed a programme of activities to learn about and experience the life and culture of the Kalam tribe. 

And with it comes the hope of generating a sustainable income. It is a joint collaboration between the three communities, each providing accommodation but joining together to promote the Donkey Trail, hopefully for the benefit of all. Each community will be providing different activities.

The inspiration for the trail comes from some local family history, in 1967, Michael Courage, a missionary working in Simbai, had the vision of bringing donkeys to help the Kalam tribe. Unfortunately, those donkeys who managed to survive the long journey from Lae via Madang to Simbai, never bred. Today, only the story of this unique initiative remains. Recently, the idea was born to establish a hiking treck in memory of Michael Courage, linking the homes of the two men who helped him on his journey. The two are remembered by their nicknames Banana and Donkey. Steven Wengi, Donkey’s son, did never see a real donkey. He is the owner of the Wengi Guest House, situated on a small ridge overlooking Simbai, a 45-minute walk from the airstrip. 

The start of the Donkey Trail at Simbai: Wengi’s guesthouse (building on the right) next to the host’s haus kuk (kitchen) and a haus win overlooking the Simabi valley (MG)

The English guided trek takes the hiker to Songvak Resthut, a guest house in the small settlement of Alvan, a steep climb out of Simbai along a bush track, doable in about 3 hours. 

Walking another 2 to 3 hours along the old donkey track, crossing rivers and gullies, the next stop is at the Kaironk village. Beautiful, unspoiled mountains with coffee gardens hiding under the canopies of the forest are waiting for the keen adventurer. This is a unique experience of the life and routines of the Kalam people and their sustainable lifestyle in this remote part of Papua New Guinea. At the different guest houses, the Kalam people will present the interested tourist their traditional life skills like cooking in bamboo, bark and gourds, carving arrowheads, killing sticks and shields, making bamboo flutes, a vine swing or rope from natural fibres. The Kalam people are also well known for their traditional dress with huge and impressive looking beetle headpieces. All this will make the Donkey trail an unforgettable memory.

Kalam tribal life (TLF)

 

Both, the local coffee processing plant as well as the Donkey Treck, definitely are projects that show great local ambition and will strengthen the coffee farmers and Kalam people in the vicinity of Simbai. But both projects totally rely on the airstrip – having produce and people flown in and out the community. We wish that both will become stories of great success and sustainability!

 

Bartholome, the Anglican Church’s Treasurer, displaying a glimpse of the traditional dress when welcoming the three MAF visitors (MG)

Story by Mandy Glass. Photos Michael Duncalfe (MD), Mathias Glass (MSG), Mandy Glass (MG) and Tony and Lynn Fry (TLF)

 

Simbai is a village only accessible by air. Our MAF aircraft frequently provide flights for cargo and passengers, serving an estimated population of more than 25,000 people through this one airstrip. Recently, three of our MAF staff spent a couple of nights with the Simbai based British Anglican Missionaries Reverend Lynn and Tony Fry at Simbai to “investigate“ the dependence of the community on its airstrip.

In this 3 part series called “Simbai – Initiatives for a Better Future“, part 1 explores the utilisation of a portable sawmill flown in by MAF earlier this year and takes you to two new facilities on the Anglican church ground at Simbai.

In Part 2 you’ll meet a few locals who through their airstrip dependant initiatives and businesses are keen to improve the cash income of the village and to promote the high quality of Simbai grown organic Arabica coffee and the rich culture of the people living in this mountainous area.

In Part 3, more of Simbai’s infrastructure gets explored and MAF PNG’s IT Officer Michael Gena shares some personal reflections about his encounters with some of Simbai’s people and the observations of Simbai’s infrastructure.

 

 

Loads and loads of building materials

 

In the first six months of 2018, lots of MAF flights departed Mt Hagen for Simbai. For the Twin Otter it is about a good 20-minute flight, for a Cessna Caravan it takes about the same time and for a GA8 Airvan five minutes longer. Besides passengers travelling between Simbai and Mt Hagen on service flights, many of the MAF aircraft departed Mt Hagen with food and household items for local business owners, but also an extraordinary amount of building materials such as cement bags, steel posts, corrugated iron and nails.

At the end of January, the Twin Otter carried a somewhat eclectic mix of wheelbarrows, tarpaulins, containers, chainsaws, sawmill, gas bottles and various other bits and pieces, a total of 1,573 kg.

This charter flight for the Anglican Church, taking materials and supplies to help rural farmers in the area, was piloted by Captain Michael Duncalfe and First Officer Ryan Cole. “The cargo included a Lucas mobile sawmill, which has a 6 metre beam that the saw runs on. Even for the Otter this can only just fit in,“ stated Michael.

31st of January 2018: Loading the Twin Otter for Simbai (MG)

 

Unloading the many bits and pieces of the building materials at Simbai (MD)

 

Between March and May, right next to the parking bay at Simbai, a new multipurpose building grew out of the ground in just a few weeks. Caravan pilot Mathias Glass, who frequently flew to Simbai during that period, was quite impressed with the fast progress of the new building. Each time he landed, he saw many busy people, either digging the holes for the posts, mixing the cement and planting the posts, building the wooden skeleton of the building. Eventually, the outside walls and roofing iron sheets were put on, the covered entrance taking shape and its concrete stairs. Later, the work progressed on the inside.

The new building contains storage space for coffee bags, an office each for the coffee corporation and the local MAF agent, and a room that can be used and rented for training or other functions.

The return flights from Simbai to Mt Hagen often fill up with coffee bags, each containing about 50 kg of peeled and dried coffee cherries. People carry them as far as four hours just to get them to the airstrip.

Mathias’ wife, Mandy, in her role as Communications Officer, hearing about the new building and seeing some footage of the building progress, wanted to know more about the village development in Simbai and the dependence of the village upon MAF and its airstrip. Therefore, she approached the Anglican missionaries Reverend Lynn and Tony Fry who were happy to welcome the two to stay with them.

Michael Gena, MAF PNG’s IT Officer was welcome to also come along for a weekend in June. The three of us received a warm welcome by the Anglican church community with some flower necklaces, songs and a welcome dinner.

 

 

 

A new Coffee Shop and a new Anglican Church Building

 

Lynn & Tony work under the Anglican Church and have had a heart for the people of Simbai since they moved there in 2016. Both teach at the local vocational school, which has about 70 part and full-time students. Tony is an agricultural trainer and for example, is introducing composting soil to improve the fertility of the local soil. Lynn teaches basic computer skills, tourism and hospitality.

Reverend Lynn and Tony Fry (MG)

 

To put skills into practice Lynn sourced funding to get the first ever Simbai Coffee Shop off the ground. Besides serving freshly brewed Simbai coffee, cake and biscuits, some basic meals like soups and curries made it also on the menu. Despite growing coffee in the hills around Simbai station, everyone so far only knew instant coffee but never got to try their locally grown coffee. This changed with the opening of the Barnabas Coffee Shop. “People really enjoy it,“ said Lynn. “And our girls have really grown in their self-confidence, approaching and serving male customers with a firm and friendly demeanour.“ Unfortunately, the coffee shop is a 10 minutes walk from the airstrip. Otherwise, our pilots could have a decent break every time they fly to Simbai and indulge in a freshly brewed cup of coffee right where the beans are organically grown and processed…

A bit further up the hill from the coffee shop, another construction site was in full swing: the new Anglican church building, for which Tony is the project manager. Earlier in the year, Tony was seen walking around the church district, identifying which trees are to be felled for the roof trusses and main posts. Then, the sawmill with all its components, which MAF delivered at the beginning of the year, had to be carried to the different locations where the trees were. “Eighteen 6 metre hardwood logs had to be dragged down the mountain by a group of about 12-15 men with one running behind trying to guide it. Very dangerous but all pumping testosterone!“ said Lynn.

Then, again with a combination of muscle power and ropes, the individual elements were erected under local construction manager Nicodemas Mas, who is the Ward Councillor and the school’s governor. The inauguration of the new church building is scheduled to be in October.

Simbai being only accessible via air, means the airstrip is essential for the day to day life of Lynn and Tony but also for the new church being built. Tony explains: “When we returned to Simbai in January 2017, the airstrip had been closed. There was no school (no teachers) and nothing in the local stores. It was a hard time for us, looking for enough food and trying to stay healthy. Thanks to some hard work from the community, the airstrip was opened again, the stores are full and we have been able to get all the building materials for the new church flown in. Local businesses are thriving. MAF has been a great friend to us and we are very grateful!“

 

Simbai – General Informations

Simbai is located in the central highlands of Papua New Guinea, its airstrip lays at 1800 m altitude. Beside some hiking tracks, the airstrip is the major way in and out of Simbai. The community gets served by MAF and other third level airlines either from Mt Hagen or Madang.

As one of four major communities in the Middle Ramu District, Simbai is part of the Madang Province. The people belong to the Kalam tribe, one of the largest language groups of Papua New Guinea.

It is estimated that about 25,000 adults live in the administrative area of Simbai and subsequently the catchment area of the airstrip.

Graduates from 18 primary schools (up to Grade 8) can continue their education in Grades 9 and 10 at its high school. In 2017, 5 out of 56 students from the local primary school made the leap to high school. Of the 200 tenth graders, only 18 students have passed the exam.

Approximately 3000 families are coffee farmers. Coffee is the only economic basis of life, the new coffee factory an investment into the future.

Imagine trying to use this crutch on wet cement or wet tiles – the rubber tip guard has worn through with use and the exposed metal slips easily on such surfaces.

This is a very dangerous situation for a woman that has had to lean on a crutch to walk since she was 3 years old and struck with Polio.

You can find Matilda at the MAF PNG Base in the Programmer’s office, but if she is not there, it means she has walked down the road to the Head Quarters building.  Using a crutch to walk does not slow this amazing woman down.

On Thursday morning, Todd noticed that her crutch was needing repair and asked her about it.  She said that she had tried to find new rubber end pieces and no one in Mount Hagen or Kagamuga carried them.  Returning to his office, Todd got on the phone to see if he could catch Volkher Jacobsen who was coming up from the Cairns office that day, but he was already at the airport.  The office told him that Nigel Gorry was headed to Goroka and just happened to still be in the office – just 90 minutes away from his flight time.  Nigel was then asked if he could possibly stop at a medical supply store on the way to the airport.  Nigel was instantly “on it” and shortly sent a message that he had them in hand!  A call was then made to the folks in Goroka asking them to get the rubber end pieces to the MAF Base so that they to go on the next plane back to Hagen.  But God had different plans!  In the airport Nigel spotted Volkher and handed the parts off.

After arrival in Mt. Hagen on the 4:20pm flight, Todd and Volkher were exiting the terminal when they saw Matilda walking down the street toward home.  Imagine her suprise when they called her over and replaced the end piece with a new one right along the road and gave her an extra one for when this one wore out.  God is so good – He loves us so very much to help with this kind of miracle of provision!

Todd came home exclaiming – “only God!!!”  “DHL and FedEx can’t even get aircraft parts here that fast!”
*** Matilda struggles with having had polio as a small child.  Both she and her brother contracted this debilitating disease.   She is very concerned about the current polio outbreak in the country.  Please take the steps necessary to make sure that you and your children, family and friends, receive the polio vaccination.

 

 

Mama Bird P2-MFT

 

MAF PNG recently received this letter of appreciation, signed by Vitus and Helen Genai:

“MAF – SHARING GOD’S LOVE

It has been an emotional moment that Wednesday afternoon 13th June 2018. Most of our children under the age of 12 have never seen the Mama Bird P2 MFT before.

As the big bird glide gracefully to land of our strip at Noru to resume flights again, we stood alongside of the strip, laughter, smiles, shouts and dance of joy be seen and felt everywhere! Some stood silent with tears rolling down their cheeks.

One old man shouted (“Now Mama ba karim sol na sop ikam“) “now mother will bring soap and salt“

After reception and talks, the mama bird took off again into the skies, we watch the big bird until it flew out of sight. A sight and experience never to be forgotten.

MAF – truly cares and sharing God’s Love. MAF FLYING FOR LIFE at its bests!

Thank you“

 

The Need for MAF to come back to Noru

In June this year, Telefomin based Twin Otter Captain Richie Axon spent a few weeks at Goroka helping to crew the Twin Otter there. He reports:

“A couple weeks before we went to Goroka to help out, our Flight Operations Manager, Brad Venter, told me that Adventist Aviation Services had landed at Noru and told him that it was in good condition. Brad had received requests for MAF to reopen it for our operations. In the past, Noru was known to be very draggy when wet. The community had not been very good at looking after their airstrip. Our Route and Aerodrome Guide states that we cannot operate there if there has been significant rain within the last three days. The week before we went to Goroka was very rainy and wet in that area so it obviously wasn’t going to work then. We and the people of Noru would have to wait.“

“The weather cleared by the middle of our second week in Goroka,“ continues Richie.  “We were able to plan a flight there. We would only have on a light load and would not plan to take a full load out to give us some extra margin for the unknown. My first impression was how good the condition the airstrip looked, as we flew over. The rugged limestone karst ridges on either side make a very picturesque valley. After a careful inspection of the surface, I was satisfied that it was safe for operations and the landing went uneventfully.“

 

Glenys Watson, First Officer on this flight, continues: “As we circled over the airstrip to inspect it, we could see plenty of people were out waiting to see what would happen. From the air, it looked good. The grass was cut short, and the wind was light. We made an approach to land. As we came into land, people lined the side of the airstrip, and all were clapping and cheering. We stopped and shutdown at the top of the airstrip where the majority of the community had gathered. We were met by men with bows and arrows dancing around the plane. As we climbed out, again the community clapped and cheered and hung flowers around our necks. The joy was obvious!“

“We spent about 30 minutes walking the airstrip,“ Richie adds, “inspecting the surface and drains on either side, accompanied by a crowd the whole way. Overall, the airstrip was in good condition and I pointed out to the community what areas needed continued effort. Because of the very high rainfall and temperate climate,
the grass grows very fast. The biggest work for most communities with airstrips is to keep the drainage ditches at the sides clean and to keep the grass cut short.“

Glenys continues: “Back at the parking bay, the community sat down while two of the leaders gave speeches thanking us for coming and landing. Over the twelve years the airstrip has been closed, many of the community had left their coffee trees untended as there was no way apart from an arduous walk uphill to the next airstrip to get their coffee out. Now they will be inspired to again look after their coffee gardens. Richie spoke in reply, telling them God had not forgotten them, reminding them of the importance of keeping their airstrip in good condition, and shared with the people the vision and purpose of MAF; that we are here to show God’s love and see isolated people transformed physically and spiritually.“

 

“We were able to load four bags of coffee and some peanuts to take back to Goroka, including a bag of coffee for MAF in appreciation of our coming and reopening the airstrip to MAF’s operations. Over the next couple of weeks, we returned again twice, carrying in store goods, and out loads of coffee and peanuts and the second time a plane full of teachers to attend a teacher convention.“

Richie closes: “It was a blessing to be involved in reconnecting Noru by air.“