After major setbacks from three typhoons in late 2002, the project progressed well, especially during the latter part of 2003. The plantation now has 300 coffee trees (Kona, Red and Yellow hybrids).
Additional trees, Indian Mulberry, or noni (Morinda citrifolia), and Beauty Leaf/Alexandria Laurel, or da’ok (Callophylum inophyllum), have been prepared and established as value-added intercrop and windbreak species. All trees are being fertilized with complete fertilizer on a regular schedule, and all pests and diseases are being monitored and appropriate actions taken. The major problems thus far (aside from typhoons) have been deer, slugs, snails and various leaf-eating beetles. Slug and snail bait are being used and integrated control measures are in place for other pests and diseases.
Before World War II, during the Japanese occupation of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, both cocoa and coffee were grown on Rota and exported to Japan. Remnants of earlier plantations grow in the wild limestone forests of the islands. The main objective of this project is to revitalize a coffee industry in the CNMI by demonstrating the feasibility of coffee production and targeting the already established niche markets in Japan.
Another project objective is to illustrate appropriate agro-forestry practices using indigenous tree species of economic importance to the region. Indian Mulberry, known locally as noni, and Beauty Leaf/Alexandria Laurel, known as da’ok, are adapted to local conditions and have economic value, especially for medicinal and pharmaceutical products.
The project team cleared and planted 2 hectares and established a nursery with more than 500 coffee plants before Typhoon Pongsona swept across the island in December 2002. After the typhoon, enough plants remained for replanting the coffee, and drought-resistant varieties were ordered from Hawaii.
All three tree species have been established since mid 2003. But because they require at least two to five years of growth before the first harvest, no production results are available. However, even though the trees have yet to produce, several Japanese businessmen have expressed considerable interest for both the coffee and noni, visiting project coordinator Beato Calvo several times over the past 16 months.
As the project really began in mid 2003 because of setbacks from three typhoons, no significant impacts on agriculture on Rota have been realized. However, the benefits of utilizing indigenous tree species as intercrops and windbreaks has captured significant interest, especially when the potential added income is mentioned. Several farmers are using these trees as intercrops and windbreaks not only in coffee and cocoa but also for citrus and other perennial crops.
REACTIONS FROM PRODUCERS
So far, farmers’ reactions have been very positive, especially when they consider the new crop and niche market opportunities and agricultural diversification that will result from this project.
FUTURE RECOMMENDATIONS OR NEW HYPOTHESES
As a result of the project and the workshops conducted under its auspices, several recommendations have made, including:
• Seek funds to provide more intensive hands-on training for key CNMI extension staff
• Conduct a pest and disease survey on coffee for Rota
• Implement a coffee field management and improvement project with key growers and stakeholders
• Conduct a variety trial on Saipan and Rota and develop sound recommendations for Rota and CNMI’s environmental conditions
In addition to Information about the project being spread by word of mouth, the project team facilitated a one-day workshop on May 23, 2002, “Coffee Production and IPM Practices” Guest speaker Scott Nelson, associate specialist (plant pathology) from the University of Hawaii at Manoa Cooperative Extension Service, made several PowerPoint presentations on coffee production, management and integrated pest management practices in Hawaii. Extension materials were handed out and several farmers were visited during afternoon field trips.
As a result of the workshop, and in addition to the recommendations above, it was suggested that a Professional Development Program of “training of trainers” be investigated for key CNMI extension staff. As a result, a Western SARE PDP grant request was submitted in March 2003. The grant was approved and four CNMI participants were slated to attend intensive five-day training in Kona, Hawaii, in mid April of 2004.