By: Albertus Sani Sogen—Cocoa Program Secretary and Coordinator, JANTAN, Maria Patrisia Wata Beribe—Cocoa Field Officer, VECO Indonesia, and Nikolaus Salo—MCA 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.