Sulu Princess Uses Coffee As An Instrument Of Peace
Agriculture|April 2019
Sulu Princess Uses Coffee As An Instrument Of Peace

WOMEN are natural peacemakers.

Yvette Tan

In the case of Sulu Royal Coffee, the peacemaking is literal.

Princess Kumala “Lalah” Shug Elardo, of the Royal House of the Sultanate of Sulu, was born in Panamao, a remote, high conflict area in Sulu. She grew up in Zamboanga, but found herself back in the village where she was born in 2007 when she had to accompany her daughter who worked as the municipal medical officer in the area. “She volunteered to go there because no doctors would like to go there,” Princess Lalah says. “I was challenged because even I have not been there for so long.”

During her stay, Princess Lalah, a former social worker, noticed that a lot of the people were jobless. “I saw the women carrying pails of water, the men are carrying guns,” she recounts. “I thought of doing something. There must be something better.”

Coffee production caught her attention because she would see people laying down coffee beans on the dirt road so that they could intentionally be run over by vehicles so it could be depulped. “They don’t have the machines, and it seems they don’t have any know-how on coffee. That’s when I thought about coffee.”

IT ALL STARTED WITH WATER

The first project that brought the community together was the construction of a system that would bring water to the village from a mountain source four kilometers away. “(Since) it’s going down, maybe we can do it through gravity, because I have seen some places in Luzon who uses that technology.”

Not everyone was on board at first. “They said nobody would come, because this is a conflict area. I told (them) no one would really dare come here if they don’t have anything to do here. We should do something.”

They estimated that the project would be done in 90 days. They finished in 21. “When some of them saw the chance of having water, everybody participated,” Princess Lalah shares. “They realized that group efforts can really produce results.”

PICKING THE BEST BEANS

Princess Lalah tried to harness this newfound spirit of unity. “I see people here doing nothing, so I thought, why not spend our time on producing coffee instead?”

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April 2019