Sulu entrepreneur pushes coffee in fight against insurgency

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 13 Oct) – Social entrepreneur Princess Kumala S. Elardo has found a peaceful means to combat insurgency in her home province of Sulu by being an advocate for coffee development to empower the people and encourage them to give up arms.

Speaking on the second day of the two-day National Coffee Summit Thursday at the SMX Convention Center here, Princess Kumala S. Elardo, a trustee of the International Women’s Coffee Alliance, said that the roots of insurgency are far deeper that a mere “political and military” solution will not address them.

From earning nothing at all in 2008, Elardo said a coffee farmer can now earn as much as P150,000 a year.

“The need is for economic and commercial development. That is what will provide business, livelihood and jobs to the local communities… A large segment of the population is either currently unemployed, underemployed, or engaged in combat preparation,” she said.

Seeing the dire need for economic upliftment, Elardo, who is also chair of the People’s Alliance for Progress Multi-Purpose Cooperative (PAPMPC), said recruiting new members to join with her in the cooperative was not hard at all.

She said that she encouraged even former combatants of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) to join in the coffee business.

“I have to show that not everyone in Sulu is Abu Sayyaf. I am a Muslim but I am not a kidnapper. I believe that the solution is not just military and political, but it has to be economic,” she said.

In her presentation, Elardo said that her cooperative’s membership has reached 2,221 with beneficiaries totaling 13,326 since 2010. The cooperative, Elardo said, started only in a makeshift office at Sitio Saatan, Kandayok, Panamao, Sulu, an area where access to water was hard.

“In their desire to improve their living condition, the few families decided to pool together part of their meager income and build their own water system. The project became a success, with all households now with running water in their homes,” she said.

Elardo said Sulu has an ideal climatic condition, fertile soil, availability of large tracts of land, and availability of human resource, making it ideal for a coffee business. She said there are around 1,000 hectares of idle lands in Sulu, of which 300 has. was planted to coffee.

“Coffee is everywhere in Sulu,” she noted.

She has trained farmers in the proper methods of producing premium quality beans, from harvesting red cherries, to washing, to fermenting, to drying and to roasting.

It is necessary to pick the cherries at the peak of ripeness, she said, adding that the washing method allows them to sort out quality beans from the bad ones. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)