Journey Into The Cocoa Farms
Written by Kate Janetski
It is always a remarkable feeling to journey into the cocoa farms of South Sulawesi, Indonesia and see the transformations in the cocoa farming families and their farms as they progress through the Cocoa Care programs.
In mid January 2014, myself along with Cocoa Carer Noel and two special guests and supporters of Cocoa Care, Thomas Oberthür and SK Leng from IPNI, travelled up to Soppeng in South Sulawesi to visit those farmers involved in the IPNI program.
The goal was to visit farms and document impacts that the IPNI program has had on cocoa farming, interview farmers, collect data on income distribution and to introduce farmers to the new TaroWorks data collection system (more on that later). Women completely dominated the income distribution sessions. Women in this part of the cocoa world traditionally manage the family money, so they know where it comes from and decide where it goes. These sessions provided further evidence that women play an extremely important role in the cocoa farming business and need to be supported. It was really great to see the women speaking openly and actively involved in the meetings.
We visited over 2 dozen farms and the scene was consistent, cocoa pods everywhere! Smiling cocoa farmers all told us the same thing "there were no cocoa pods at all on our trees at this time last year". January being the low season, few farmers have cocoa pods on their trees as the farms are typically not managed very well. However, armed with the right knowledge, tools, materials and support, they are clearly seeing how their efforts are going to pay off and that their production this year is going to be the best in a very long time.
It was a thrill to see that Farmer Tenri, who learnt a little bit about composting at training, decided to build his own "in farm" composting station and give it ago. We gave him a little helping hand with his composting effort by giving him some micro- organisms mix to aid the composting process and increase soil micro-biodiversity, a cover for the compost and some expert advise on how best to prepare his compost in the field.
Farmers told similar stories to that of Farmer Sukardi, explaining that they were ready to abandon cocoa farming altogether and move into other crops, as their cocoa was not providing enough income to support their families. Then they heard about Cocoa Care and decided to give cocoa one last chance. Farmers giving up on cocoa farming is a real threat to the future of chocolate, but this can be avoided if we help the farmers to better look after their farms to maintain healthier and more productive trees.
Cocoa Care was established to provide an opportunity for anybody and any company in the world to give cocoa farmers a helping hand out of their current difficult situation and onto a path toward sustainable cocoa farming. All of the Cocoa Care farmers have seen a very significant increase in production and a number of them are forecasting to more than double their productivity this year!
In just 6 months after joining the IPNI / Cocoa Care program the changes are dramatic. Farms are obviously more healthy and there are pods on the trees even in the low season. This clearly shows the farmers how their work has paid off and the smiles on the faces, and overall demeanor is a great reflection of their dedication to be successful cocoa farmers.
It is really something extraordinary to see these people become proud, confident and happy cocoa farmers excited about their future in cocoa farming.