It was a historic and significant occasion on Wednesday 21st September, 2016 when the youths of Barola community surrendered their guns and came forward with a change of heart and mind to turn to agriculture instead.
Barola in the Eastern Highlands province is a name anyone travelling up the Highlands highway would think twice before passing the area, especially at nights, as it is known for its numerous hold ups and carjacking activities over the recent years.
The fear of the area Barolla hill, as a notorious hideout for criminal activities, has left a bad impression in the mindsets of the government, law enforcers and the general public, resulting in less development in the area.
Eastern Highlands Governor Julie Soso who was the guest of honour at the launching of the Barola coffee cooperative spoke with admiration for the group’s courage to come forward and make a change in the community. Soso committed K100,000 to the cooperative group to assist with their coffee development projects and an additional K10,000 towards the launching.
“When you begin to change, change will come into your lives and community. I congratulate you all for your boldness and change of hearts to come forward and start a new chapter in your lives.”
In April 2015, the coffee industry corporation paid a visit to the area and after consultation with then gang leader Nime Miefa, awareness and more visits followed afterwards, which prompted the group to make a turn in their lives.
CIC Chief Scientist Tom Kukhang who has been with the community since day one said that the Government had tried a number of possible means to get this area to normal operations, however their many attempts was to no avail. He added that times have changed and today is the dawn of a new era. He praised the group leader Nime Miefa for showing leadership and guiding the young men in Barola to leave drugs and criminal activities to start something new for their livelihoods and community as a whole.
Also present at the launching was Eastern Highlands PPC Superintendent Alex N’Drasal who applauded the group, and announced that he will see to it that the highway patrol base for Highlands region will be set up at Barola. He added that this plan is currently underway and will ensure it eventuates.
“This is a new chapter for Barola and it starts today. Your lives will completely change because you have already begun with the change from within to cultivate coffee.” He said the name Barola painted a bad image for the province and today it is telling the country and the world it has changed.
Barola coffee cooperative leader Nime Miefa thanked all churches, CIC, village leaders and the police, who had participated in criminal youth rehabilitation programs to stamp out all illegal doings from Barola to Komperi valley. “Enough is enough, we must stop harboring criminals.” He said that the group was determined to make an honest living through planting coffee and reaping the benefits in the years to follow.
The recent launching saw the opening of a nursery capacity of 20,000 seedlings, a central wet mill and a resource centre.
The group currently has 50 members and with new members coming on board brings the total to 111 registered members under the cooperative.