SEATTLE—In the remote Yopno Uruwa Som (YUS) forests of Papua New Guinea’s Huon Peninsula, Woodland Park Zoo’s Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program (TKCP) and Seattle’s Caffe Vita are brewing up something unique with subsistence farmers—the first coffee you’ll ever have the chance to drink from this region.
More than a high quality, tasty drink, this coffee is on a mission: to create a better life for the Papua New Guinea landowners who have worked with the zoo and TKCP to pledge their own land to conservation.
Grown in shade without the use of pesticides, “PNG YUS” Farm Direct coffee is now available in limited edition, 12-oz. bags at all Seattle Caffe Vita locations, Woodland Park Zoo ZooStores and online at www.caffevita.com. This marks the first-ever coffee from the YUS region made commercially available in the U.S. purchased directly from the growers at a fair price.
“The YUS farmers have had so many challenges trying to sell their coffee in the past, but now they have reason for hope,” said Papua New Guinean Benjamin Sipa, TKCP Community Livelihoods Coordinator. “For the first time, these farmers have a real opportunity to earn the money they need to put their children through school and provide for their healthcare.”
Papua New Guinea is home to some of the most richly diverse forests in the world. In 2009, the indigenous clans of the Huon Peninsula joined TKCP in making history, pledging more than 180,000 acres of their own land to permanent protection under the Yopno Uruwa Som Conservation Area (YUS CA), Papua New Guinea’s first ever protected Conservation Area. The YUS CA protects critical forest habitat for endangered species endemic to Papua New Guinea, including TKCP’s flagship species, the endangered Matschie’s tree kangaroo.
Woodland Park Zoo has just completed a id="mce_marker" million fundraising effort, which will be matched in full by a generous grant from Conservation International’s Global Conservation Fund, creating a $2 million YUS Conservation Endowment to ensure sustainable funding to manage the protected area into the future.
In return for pledging their land and committing to conservation and long-term management of their resources, TKCP has worked to create alternative, ecofriendly economic opportunities for the YUS landowners. In partnership with Caffe Vita, TKCP is establishing coffee as the first-ever direct trade cash crop in the YUS region.
“The mountainous YUS region is so remote—with no roads leading in or out and only irregular, prohibitively costly airfreight—that we knew this effort could only be possible with the guidance of an expert partner who could help us establish an infrastructure for transporting the coffee as well as a real market for the product,” said Dr. Lisa Dabek, Woodland Park Zoo senior conservation scientist and director of the zoo’s Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program. “Caffe Vita stepped up not only to provide the structure and market support, but they even came with us to Papua New Guinea to meet the farmers, train them on coffee cultivation techniques and help them improve their product to the sensibilities of the gourmet Seattle coffee market.”
"The farmers of YUS have shown remarkable progress toward implementing the changes necessary to improve yields, and, more importantly, the quality of their coffee," said Daniel Shewmaker, Caffe Vita sustainable coffee buyer. "Our goal is the continual refinement of these farming and processing practices, with the reward being an improvement to their livelihoods, a strengthening of the Conservation Area, and a cup of coffee like no other."
The coffee available on shelves now is a blend made up of the best in beans from several YUS villages purchased from a total of 54 Papua New Guinea farmers. Mellow and honey-like, the coffee has flavors of toasted hazelnut, orange zest, guava and sugarcane.
“When you drink this coffee, you are taking a direct conservation action, supporting the farmers’ efforts to make a fair living while still protecting their land and the animals and people who depend on it from mining, logging and other environmentally destructive forest activities,” added Dr. Dabek.
With successful sales of the limited edition “PNG YUS” coffee available now, Caffe Vita and Woodland Park Zoo’s TKCP hope to expand the conservation coffee program to make the product available year-round.