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Simon, a 58 year old farmer, lives in a small village community in Papua New Guinea's Baiyer Valley. He describes the people of his village as poor but happy. "We don't have electricity or running water. We live day to day, but we are able to meet our necessities in life," he tells us.
A married man with two young children, Simon is grateful for the work of the Baptist Church in his village. He speaks of the tribal fighting which afflicted his community from 1997 – 2011, and credits the Church for helping restore peace in the region. "The Baptist Church helped in a big way, through church leaders conducting negotiations, mediations, and resolving conflicts. If it was not for the Baptist Church, the fighting would still be here. The Church plays some major roles in the community here – liaising for peace, and establishing health and education facilities."
As a farmer, Simon grows most of his own food – sweet potatoes, bananas, and greens – and spends long days cultivating his coffee crop which provides an income for his family. "We depend entirely on coffee here," he explains. "We would be financially broke if there was no coffee."
It can be difficult for coffee farmers to make a living, particularly for farmers in Simon's community as they live in such a far-flung area. "I carry my coffee to the nearest roadside buyers," says Simon. The prices they offer us are not fair. We are underpaid."
Once again, Simon expresses his appreciation for the Baptist Church as he tells us how they are helping farmers in his area through BU Kofi, a company established by the Baptist Union of PNG in partnership with Banzaid. "BU Kofi has already helped me with transporting my coffee, which cuts some of my costs so I end up getting a little bit more. They provide free transport to trading locations and get fair prices for us. They have improved the prices us growers get."
"This coffee project will improve the living standards of people in the Baiyer area. I know that whatever the revenue that BU Kofi makes through this project will go back to benefiting the people here. The revenue from this project will come back to us in terms of direct services into the communities."
Thanks to an improved livelihood, made possible because of the coffee project, Simon has plans to purchase a generator so he can have electricity in his home. He can also afford to buy a water catchment tank, meaning he can provide running water for his family. "I want my children to live a life that is much better than my life," Simon tells us.
All this is made possible because of the support of the New Zealand Aid Programme, and the generosity of New Zealand Baptists. Simon is grateful. "Thanks to the people of New Zealand" he says. "We appreciate their efforts and investment to this part of our country."