Coffee farmers on Mt. Apo’s foothills produce internationally-acclaimed coffee

Marivic Dubria, a fervent coffee farmer, is leading her fellow community members in the production of award-winning coffee at the base of Mount Apo. The exceptional quality of the coffee produced here is now acknowledged internationally.

What was once a sleepy village has become a popular destination for coffee enthusiasts, including adventurers and explorers, due to the coffee industry.

This is how coffee brought prosperity not only to Dubria, but also to the entire Balutakay barangay.

The mountains of Bansalan, in the province of Davao del Sur, are ideal for the cultivation of premium Arabica coffee. Here, coffee plantations are located between 1300 and 1700 metres above sea level. (Daniel Maches)
A coffee plantation brings prosperity to a remote village.

Purok Pluto in Sitio Balutakay, Barangay Managa, Bansalan is one of the most isolated communities in Davao del Sur, situated on the slopes of Mount Apo. Although it is commonly known as one of the access points to said mountain, it is coffee that has contributed to the region’s economic growth. Balutakay’s coffee industry has flourished despite what some would consider a harsh environment.

Before coffee beans are roasted or sold as raw materials, they are dehulled. Regarding coffee sorting, Ms. Marivic strictly adheres to international standards to ensure premium quality. (Daniel Maches) According to Dubria, the local farmers previously relied on temperate vegetables such as cabbage, spring onion, beans, and lettuce. A significant portion of the rainforests have been eliminated as a result, leading to soil erosion and degradation. The widespread use of chemical inputs such as pesticides led to an increase in acidity, which rendered the soil unproductive.

Despite initial successes in vegetable production, numerous farmers continued to struggle financially due to unpaved roads and lack of market access. However, when coffee was introduced to the region, conditions improved for the farmers and their families.

Twenty farmers organised the Balutakay Coffee Farmers Association (BACOFA) in May 2013 with assistance from the government and private organisations. In 2017, the association had approximately 200 members. Currently, there are 108 members of the Balutakay Coffee Farmers Agriculture Cooperative, which was renamed.

Dubria, who now serves as the cooperative’s president, explained that their only known market previously consisted of local merchants and specialists. She also mentioned that, since many coffee farmers were novices, they employed a number of improper techniques, which negatively impacted the quality of the coffee they produced.

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