Cocoa cadre competition: the key is the key farmer

Cocoa cadre competition: the key is the key farmer

in News

By: Albertus Sani SogenCocoa Program Secretary and Coordinator, JANTAN, Maria Patrisia Wata BeribeCocoa Field Officer, VECO Indonesia, and Nikolaus SaloMCA Cocoa Project Coordinator, VECO Indonesia.

Old perspectives of farmers have to be reevaluated. Planting cocoa, candlenut, coconut and fruit trees such as avocado, rambutan, jackfruit and others on the same land (diversification) with no regards to cropping pattern and tolerance level of each plant is detrimental to the farmers. This is a jungle. Not a cocoa plantation. No wonder our cocoa production remains low,” said Diaz Alfi Agus Lukas from the Agency of Food Security and Agricultural Training (BKP2) of East Flores.

Finding the Key

The old man affectionately known as Un Diaz expressed his opinion on his way back from evaluating a cocoa orchard of a cadre in Ebak, Leraboleng Village, Titehena Sub-district on August 24, 2016, in conjunction with the Cocoa Cadre Competition in East Flores, held on August 20-31, 2016. Fueled by low and decreasing cocoa production in East Flores from 2009 to 2014, JANTAN—a farmers organisation partner of VECO Indonesia in East Flores—did not fall in despair. Instead, they have chosen to focus on building the capacity of the cadres or key farmers in Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) in order to provide better technical services to their members. The Cocoa Cadre Competition became a moment to consolidate and share various knowledge on applied GAPs as well as to shape the commitments of model farmers.

Un Diaz’s statement came out spontaneously because many cocoa plantations in the area were poorly maintained. “Even pruning and sanitation are inadequately done, let alone developing the technology for genetic improvements such as grafting and side-grafting. Rotten fruits can be seen hanging on many trees. What have we become? Don’t we want to make money?” he said challenging Sil Kelen, Yan Makin and Bartol Koten, the three key farmers who accompanied the Judges Team walking down the Ebak Hills towards Leraboleng Village. Besides Un Diaz, the Judges Team consisted of Frans W. Simboh, S.Pi., also from BKP2, Kaliktus Gege Larantukan, S.Hut. from the Forestry and Plantation Office of East Flores, and Albertus S. Sogen, A.Md., a Core Trainer from JANTAN.

If Un Diaz sounded critical, Frans or also known as Frengky—a Manadonese from North Sulawesi who has lived in East Flores for 35 years—had a more positive tone. He appreciated the GAPs that had been applied and considered them as strengths. He argued, “Making changes, especially changing the way farmers think, needs time. We must be sure that changes can be done. The key is the actual work, not just talks. The good practices that young Yohanes Pati Makin has adopted must continue and be shared with other farmers.

Kaliktus, the youngest member of the Judges Team, finally broke his silence. Usually for him, silence is golden. But if silence could turn to gold, then perhaps words could turn to diamonds. As a representative of an office directly involved in forestry and plantations, the young and handsome Kal took the middle path. “As a forester, I like conservation-based agricultural practices like this. This is a forest of candlenut and cocoa,” he explained while pointing to cocoa plantations on the left and right of the trail. “But as a farmer myself, I feel sorry for the farmers. What would they get from plantations that are in such condition? I think JANTAN must continue to develop and strengthen the key farmers so they can function properly.” As they were entering the village at the end of the steep downhill trail, Un Diaz, the oldest member of the Judges Team with slightly shaky legs chimed in, “The key is the key farmer.” Frengky, Kal and Sil instantly nodded, smiling in agreement.

The Door to Future Opportunities

The Cocoa Cadre Competition was conducted in two parts: plantation evaluation on August 20-27, followed by written test and skills test on August 30. All aspects were thoroughly assessed including pruning, fertilising, harvesting, sanitation, and genetic technology such as grafting and side-grafting to produce superior clones, as well as the courage to cut the main tree once the grafting was successful. The quality of the cocoa beans was also tested.

Results of the competition were announced on August 31. Assessment results from the Judges Team had determined Petrus Pedo Corebima from Hokeng Jaya Village as the Best Cadre, receiving a prize of IDR 1,750,000. In second place was Yohanes Pati Makin from Leraboleng Village, winning IDR 1,500,000. In third place was Yohanes Evensius Djano from Klatanlo Village, taking home IDR 1,000,000. Additionally, Helena Lingir Hikon from Boru Village won the Favorite Cadre prize of IDR 1,000,000. The winners planned to use their cash prizes to buy goats in the effort to implement sustainable cocoa concept by integrating goat farming with cocoa farming.

The Head of Wulanggitang Sub-district who attended the awarding ceremony said, “This is a positive activity and the government fully supports it because it motivates the cadres of key farmers to improve their knowledge, skills, and their roles in the development of cocoa industry.

Frans W. Simboh, a member of the Judges Team, delivered a similar message, “Key farmers must become examples to other farmers. If a key farmer’s plantation is transformed into a beautiful cocoa garden, then other farmers will automatically be interested to find out how to make their gardens just as beautiful. The cadres should really become the keys to open awareness doors of other farmers and foster change. The competition was hoped to motivate the cadres to improve themselves. BKP2 will select and recruit key farmers from JANTAN to be independent trainers.

Nikolaus Salo from VECO Indonesia also expressed his appreciation to all judges who had set aside their time and commitment to be directly involved in each assessment process. He also applauded all participants for the incredible courage to show their potentials as solid key farmers who will develop and hopefully give birth to many new cadres in the future.

Helena Lingir Hikon, the Favorite Cadre and the only female in the competition, was very proud because Leni—her familiar nickname—never expected to win. So when she was announced as a winner, she was shocked and happy at the same time. She claims that the achievement has challenged her to be an even better cadre.

The key is the key farmer. Expectantly this key will be able to open many “doors” of opportunities for a better future of cocoa industry in East Flores.