Eljean Dagohoy started cultivating for a better future at the tender age of seven. At that very young age, she had already began assisting her family in farming, especially in growing coffee. By 12 years old, she started farming on her own in Pigtauranan, Pangantucan, Bukidnon.Eljean is one of the many coffee growers in Bukidnon, a province where its hinterlands are abundant with sought-after sweet coffee. Yet despite the popularity of coffee, Eljean and her family still had to persist to continue their livelihood.They had no trainings and no seminars then to ensure the quality of their coffee produce. They had to endure the increasing prices of inputs and bear the difficulty of traversing a less comfortable road just to bring their products to the market. While these seemed challenging to handle, Eljean did not dampen her spirits especially since she was reminded by her father that her efforts in coffee farming will eventually pay for her education.Almost 10 years later, Eljean is now balancing farming with her college studies. And over the course of time, the appreciation for coffee has also improved. Coffee farmers were now given proper recognitions. And one of the initiatives that give them value is the Philippine Coffee Quality Competition (PCQC).The Philippine Coffee Quality Competition (PCQC) is an annual event that seeks to identify the best specialty coffees in the Philippines to motivate producers to improve their coffee quality and to improve market access as these coffees are made known to specialty buyers through the competition results and subsequent auction with support from government, private sector and donor funded projects.It is co-organized by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Agriculture (DA), Barista and Coffee Academy of Asia, Inc. (BACAA), and the Agricultural Cooperative Development International and Volunteers in Overseas Cooperative Assistance (ACDI/VOCA).Through the competition, local coffee farmers are given the recognition for their quality coffee, leading them to be introduced to the international market and giving them the opportunity to increase their product price.
During the 2022 PCQC held in Waterfront Insular Garden Pavilion, Davao City last 18 March 2022, six local Bukidnon coffee growers were recognized for their quality coffee. This included Eljean who placed 4th under the Robusta coffee entry. It was a big improvement from her 12th place in the previous year’s PCQC. Not only that but she was also a recipient of the Youth in Coffee award.
“Kung atong talikdan asa ta gikan, ato talikdan ang pagpanguma, ikaulaw nato na farmer ta, kinsa ang musunod? (If we turn our backs to where we came from, if we turn our backs to farming, if we get embarrassed because we are farmers, who will continue the work?)” Eljean shared when asked why the youth should be empowered in venturing into farming. “Youth are the future. Dapat ato huna-hunaon na ang pagpanguma maoy nagpakaon sa usa ka nation. Sila ang food providers sa atong nation. Mao dako sila og responsibility in building the nation (Youth are the future. We should think that farming feeds a nation. They [farmers] are the food providers of our nation. That’s why they have a big responsibility in building the nation.)”
Eljean believes how important it is for coffee farmers to see their worth and for the buying public to appreciate the efforts of local producers.
“Atong tagaan og importansya atong kaugalingon as mag-uuma. Dili nato ibaba atong kaugalingon (We should give importance to ourselves as farmers. We should not look down on ourselves).” Eljean said. “Kay kung motivated ta, inspired ta sa atong kaugalingon nga mutrabaho ta, mahatag nato atong best. Makaproduce ta og quality products na competitive globally (If we are motivated, if we are inspired with what we are doing, then we can give our best. We can produce quality products that are competitive globally.)”
“Atong tangkilion kung unsa man atong produktong local .(We should patronize our local products).” ♦