On December 19 & 20, Noel Janetski, travelled to Soppeng to personally distribute and plant 2,000 cocoa trees that he has given to friends & family for the 2013 holidays. The following is Noel's account of the experience. Seriously great stuff!
While it wasn’t my idea to plant cocoa trees dressed as Santa Claus, it was great fun to don such classic robes to plant a number of trees together with a group of cocoa farmers from the southern part of Soppeng. Umar, Nurdin and Amri relished being Santa’s helpers and asked to keep the hats, which gave me a reason not to wear the suit again as I continued my planting spree to the central and northern parts of Soppeng.
With great support from the Cocoa Care team, I was able to visit and plant cocoa trees on 16 of the 23 farms which received new top grafted clones as part of my “Seasons Greeting” package to replace trees which had died over the years. I was also treated with traditional snacks, local lunch favorites and fresh fruit at a number of the farmers homes where I met and chatted with the farming families and had my photo taken a thousand times with the various grandparents and kids.
It was wonderful to meet and plant trees together with some of the husband and wife teams who run these small cocoa farms and even more rewarding to see what they have been able to accomplish in such a short period of time with a little helping hand from Cocoa Care.
I had met and visited Salama’s farm about six months ago when he joked about the mess he was making of his cocoa farming venture due to lack of basic cocoa farming knowledge. I remember his broad toothy smile even then, as he joked about his annual productivity of only 500kg/ha. This time, I met him and Rustini in a very different looking farm with well pruned, and heavily fruiting trees even though it was the low crop period. I learnt that they have so far harvested 400kg/ha in the past five months and are looking forward to a very good main crop period in April –June hoping to finish the year with double what they had achieved the year before. They had just finished the pruning and were preparing for fertilizer application necessary for main crop production.
I was also delighted to see what Sukardi had accomplished in his farm and applauded him vigorously as he stood, with a huge grin, alongside one of his heavily laden trees. Sukardi explained that he and Nur Amini had almost given up on cocoa and had even bought some cows getting ready to move into the livestock business. They heard about Cocoa Care and decided to give cocoa one more chance. Lucky that they did! With their belief in cocoa now fully restored, they have sold the cows and are implementing their learning on another family cocoa farm. Sukardi and Nur Amini have harvested 650 kg/ha in the first 5 months of the harvest year and are looking forward to a very productive main crop with a target of 1500 kg/ha for the 2013/14 harvest. I hope they get 2 ton !!
It was a great experience to plant a tree with Sukardi’s next door neighbors, Kaswadi and Nurdiana, who had seen Sukardi and Nur Amini’s success and wanted to follow their great example, and I was delighted to meet the very enthusiastic group led by Sudirman, in the Cabenge area of northern Soppeng. Changing hats with Muh Edi, joking with Aris and Yuliani, sharing a mango with Barata, and discussing likely future cocoa market trends with Haji Hade and Tenri.
It was a long drive over two days. It was hot even when not in the Santa Suit and it was a bit sweaty and dirty…. but it was great fun and really worth it.
Best wishes to all of my family, friends and cocoa associates around the world, and a prosperous 2014 and beyond to the cocoa farming families upon which our industry and our chocolate habits rely.