Inside the Chocolate Bar

Having difficult moment of living throughout years of conflict, violence and deadly tsunami, numerous farmers then refer their intention in farming.
cocoa-seed

Let's check the cocoa seed.

NURSIAH (42) was impatient to greening her new farmland with cocoa seeds. The mother of two sons has cleaned the farmland from the bushes amidst unfriendly heat that afternoon. For about half a hectare of her land hampered across Arun Patah village in Panga sub district, Aceh Jaya district.

“I’ve been waiting for the seeds. Staff of Caritas Czech Republic said they will give them to us when the field school program ended,” Nursiah said, happily.

Having difficult moment of living throughout years of conflict, violence and deadly disaster, Nursiah then refer her intention in farming. Her first husband has divorced her during conflicting era in Aceh in 2000. She was accused as an Inong Balee, a GAM military wing for women. Inong Balee means widow.

When tsunami swallowed western coast of Aceh end 2004 and vanished thousands of houses, Nursiah’s house in Arun Patah village was swept away. She was in Medan when the deadly natural disaster happened. Her sons Dedi Syahputra and Imam Syahputra, meanwhile, studied in a pesantren (religious boarding school) in Bireuen district.

International humanitarian response and aid have lightened up her family’s living burden. However, as a single parent she has to work while embracing her sons’ educational costs. She managed to work as a labor in rubber farms and tapped the sap out of rubber trees. She could earn approximately IDR 20 to 25 thousands (around US$ 2.5) per day. It depends on the amount of the rubber sap that she could tap.

When she received aid from government for the orphans, she used it to buy 2.5 hectare of land on the hillfoot near her village. She turned some 1.5 hectares of her land into rubber plantation. She worked together with her mother to cultivate rubber seedlings. Yet, she was not satisfied as the rest of her land has nothing but bushes. She tried to find any information to cultivate the land in her village.

“I heard in the beginning, there would be distribution of cocoa seeds. Then I went to head of village to confirm and ask for his permission to join the cocoa farmers group to get the cocoa seeds”.

Caritas Czech Republic would provide the seeds. The community in the village, as the beneficiaries, however, needed to fulfill some requirements. Among other thing, they should own land to be cultivated. They also need to find 10 more new members so they could develop a new group.

It was not easy to invite other neighbors to join the group to farm, but Nursiah made it. There were two women and seven men joined her group. They even elect her to become the manager of the group. They all then attended serial sessions of field school training supported by Caritas.

“WE introduce sustainable agriculture,” said Sapta Mohammad Cakra, coordinator of research and development Archipelago Alternative Agriculture Foundation (PANSU). PANSU, a North Sumatra-based non governmental organization, consists of farmers that focused on promoting organic farming since 1990s. Indeed, introduction of Green Revolution technology in the 1970s has helped increasing yields, but at a high cost. The high yielding seeds were also dependent on expensive chemical fertilizer that poisoned the soil and water sources, affected land productivity and harmed farmers’ health.

Throughout field school program, PANSU opposed chemical pesticide and fertilizer. At the same time, the organization staffs assisting and introducing organic farming to farmers across districts in North Sumatra province. Right after 2004 tsunami devastated farmland in Simeulue and Nias islands, PANSU initiated assistance to local farmers, particularly in cocoa and rubber crops. The aims were to re-develop sustainable farming and to improve local farmer benefit.

In early 2008 with Caritas Czech Republic support, PANSU assisted local farmers in tsunami-affected area like Aceh Jaya district such Krueng Sabe sub district, Panga, Setia Bakti, and Jaya sub district to improve sustainable farming. Most of the population had lost their houses and farmland as well as their job.

International aid organizations came in to pour aid and to help. But on the other hand, such assistance had changed beneficiaries’ views. Instead of generating initiatives, beneficiaries become dependent on aid while the international aid organizations sooner or later would leave the area.

“Villagers here (in Aceh Jaya) have become dependent. Everything needs to be prepared and helped. We want their soil of farm well cultivated that most of them can be cleaned from any chemical input. Well, our plan is to reduce villager’s dependence. Thus, seeds will be given to those who really need and enthusiastic in farming,” Sapta explained.

Sapta continued that seeds would be given right after the beneficiaries have had sufficient knowledge on how to cultivate and nurse them, including to promote and improve the yields. If not, thousand of seeds will be worthless. As common consequences, this would increase poverty.

“The objective of field school is: when the farmers had sufficient knowledge of sustainable farming, they could develop and manage the farmland by themselves,” Sapta added.

PANSU has been running the assistance and field school program for almost six months. Around eleven trainers of PANSU team, who are successful farmers, carried out assistance program to the farmer clusters across five sub districts in Aceh Jaya.

NURSIAH and her colleagues in the group are part of the PANSU ‘field students’. She never missed the sessions held in a farmland at Alue Piet village, Panga sub district. The school maintained fixed schedule every Friday, from 9 to 5 p.m. She learned to cultivate cocoa crops such as grafting methods. She was also trained to produce compost and natural concoction to stimulate fruits. In field school, finally she knew how to handle the cocoa pod borer – an enemy to cocoa farmer – using natural ingredients.

“We also learn by practising in the field. I brought a note book in every school session. So I could repeat reading my note when I forget,” Nursiah said.

Cocoa is one of the global food market commodities. According to the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO), cocoa rates hiking trend in international market. In 2007, the rates reach up to US$ 2,000 per ton. In June 2008, the rates hiked more than 50% into about US$ 3,000 per ton. The main cocoa consumers are Netherlands, USA, Ivory Coast and European countries.

In Indonesia, cocoa is one of export commodities that contribute to national income after rubber and palm oil. Indonesia is in the ‘big of three’ of world cocoa producers. The national rate recently is about IDR 12,000 (US$ 1.2) per kilogram.

“As long as the yields are international commodity and organic farming, the rate tends to increase. We need to maintain the production sector,” Sapta said.

PANSU has already settled down cocoa desiccation factory. As an addition of how serious they are, PANSU had also developed marketing network to the consumers related to cocoa yields from farmers and cooperatives. If the cocoa production sector is running well as good as the marketing, it will also benefit the farmers. Nursiah and her fellow farmers were also encouraged by this. She could not bear to wait any longer to cultivate and nurse the cocoa seed in her land.

“If I already have the seeds, I will nurse them well. I will benefit the yields to pay my sons education. So, they could be assisted in finding job,” was Nursiah wish. *** END

*) This report had published at http://www.caritas-europa.org/code/EN/abou.asp?Page=914

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