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Quality Awareness Programmer in Garo Hillls of Meghalaya State
By A Special Correspondent

Quality always plays an important role in any product especially when it is related to a beverage like coffee. Quality is imperative to coffee as it determines flavour, aroma, taste for the consumer and more importantly price for a coffee grower. In the North Eastern states, coffee cultivation is still at its nascent stage and production of quality coffee is not accorded enough significance by the first generation of tribal growers.

The Coffee Board of India, every year, very earnestly undertakes different awareness programmes on quality improvement in the North Eastern coffee growing areas. When the Liaison Office in Tura was given the task of organizing such a series of quality awareness programmes last year, it was decided to devise a way to make the programmes more effective. Our working experience with the local tribal population in this region in the past had taught us that by nature they are ready to adopt any technology, if they are convinced of its economical benefit and also we realized that for the tribal farmers - “seeing is believing”. To make our mission a success we under took two steps - first, the farmers were motivated that adoption of quality improvement measures will fetch them better price and secondly we arranged to conduct the programmes only through practical demonstrations avoiding theory classes. Another dimension that was included in our transfer of technology programme was to expose the participants to coffee quality management through our quality expert.

Through these series, the Coffee Board had organized four programmes in four different villages. Participants were Tribal growers of Garo community who produce mainly Arabica coffee and another was from a fourth village where only Robusta coffee is grown. The growers mainly prepare cherry coffee, and since the last 2-3 years, a few of them have started preparing parchment coffee using the baby pulpers supplied by the Coffee Board. The growers of nearby villages pool the coffee jointly at Coffee Board Liaison Office, Tura, which is then transported to Guwahati for further processing and marketing.

The programme started in one of the grower’s open residential compound, as his coffee garden was in the vicinity and he had installed a baby Pulper and Aluminum trays which were available for drying coffee. Around 30-35 coffee farmers from nearby villages had attended with their family members. Even though these villagers produce coffee, coffee consumption still needs to be promoted in these areas.

During the programme, the Board highlighted the need for improvement of quality of the coffee produced by the villagers and a practical demonstration was held under the supervision of Coffee Quality Specialist. The demonstration started with picking of ripe fruits at right stage, sorting, then pulping and washing, then heaping and the process of drying in the right kind of drier viz. Aluminum tray, raised bamboo yards or concrete drying yards.  Nearby areas were visited by the Board’s officers and demonstrated the actual process of drying cherry coffee after proper sorting and advised  about drying to an extent, when the rattling sound is heard, at least after 15 to 20 days depending on the quantum of sunlight received per day in that area. The need of scientific method of bagging and storing of coffee was also mentioned to the farmers and were advised to follow before

The awareness programme was held at Romba Adingre Village, 33 km away from Tura, which has been pooling the highest quantity of Arabica coffee during last two years. Twenty one coffee growers participated in the programme from this region. A practical demonstration was made by roasting some Arabica coffee beans in a frying pan and coffee powder was prepared with a hand pounder.  When the smell of coffee started spreading, the excitement of the farmers was palpable and the children started to take in deep breaths to inhale the aroma of coffee. The freshly prepared coffee powder was brewed by a local method, by pouring hot water over the coffee powder kept in a container, which was covered for a few minutes till the decoction assumed its actual coffee colour and the aroma became intense. This was then distributed among the participants and the reaction of the villagers - with a bright smile on their faces - was worth seeing. They all commented – “Aiyuh—blungin thuah” wow--it is very tasty. The villagers never expected that a nice drink can be made out of coffee that they produce.

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