Creating an enabling environment for West Sulawesi's millennial cocoa farmers

Creating an enabling environment for West Sulawesi's millennial cocoa farmers

in News
Syarifuddin Taba
Syarifuddin Taba
Cocoa Field Officer for Sulawesi
+62811 3853 278
"I saw young people in my village drop out of schools and leave for the city in a hope for finding jobs. Yet they returned to the village after few years because they found city life difficult."
Ramli (23) Training participant

The initiative to empower school dropouts and millennials with job skills in cocoa farming has a potential to solve some of the challenges the cocoa sector, especially in West Sulawesi, is facing. The first challenge is low productivity. West Sulawesi as one of the biggest cocoa-producing provinces in Indonesia has been experiencing declining cocoa yields due to ageing farmers, decaying trees, pests and diseases. The decline in production has forced Indonesia –once the world’s third largest cocoa beans producer- to depend on imported cocoa beans.

The second challenge is poverty. Approximately, 80 per cent of West Sulawesi’s 1.1 million populations get their earnings from cocoa. The decrease in production in the long run can deepen rural poverty leading to decreased life quality, low school participation rates, and poor nutrition. Polewali Mandar has the highest school dropout rates –around 30 per cent- amongst other districts in the province. Ensuring young people’s participation in the cocoa value chain is imperative in a bid to address any of the foregoing.

Millennials building the village

“We want to see more millennial farmers in this cocoa business, especially those obtaining a university degree. We are happy to collaborate with and mentor them so they can have the capacity to develop their own business or run their parents’ cocoa business.”
Hassani Sani Leader of Amanah Cocoa Farmers' Cooperative

Ramli’s ideas to engage more young people in cocoa farming found a fertile ground when Amanah Cocoa Farmers’ Cooperative, Rikolto’s partner, was also on a mission to lure millennials into cocoa businesses. So, since January 2019, Rikolto, Amanah Cooperative and Village-Owned Enterprise (BUMDes) Inaya have collaborated to train and mentor 140 millennials in 6 villages in Polewali Mandar District. The main theme of this capacity-building package is Millennials Building the Village (Milenial Bangun Desa) aiming to encourage millennials to be part of the village transformation. Millennials participating in the training are university students, organic farming enthusiasts, and also school dropouts.

But how can millennials be persuaded to return to cocoa farms when they see farming as an out-dated job? Cocoa farming indeed takes a lot of work. But with good practices and better farm management, cocoa farms can serve as a sustainable source of income for rural communities. The key to engage millennials is to create an enabling environment for them to have a meaningful participation in cocoa value chains.

  • Bar to bean approach

We use a “bar to bean” approach, instead of a bean to bar approach. This means that we introduce millennials to cocoa-based end products initially, because they are more familiar with chocolate rather than with cocoa trees. By observing various cocoa derivative products, millennials learn about cocoa processing business opportunities. As we get their attention, we gradually introduce them to cocoa farming practices.

  • Create an environment that nurtures creativity

Millennials in Indonesia travel more than any other age groups. Anything about travelling and tourism excite them. To help them learn and understand about cocoa farms, one of the training sessions given was about designing agro-tourism model in the farms. Through this session, participants tossed ideas around to find the most creative and feasible idea.

  • Connect and collaborate

Collaboration is at the heart of millennials’ work style yet it is important to demonstrate them a productive and inspiring collaboration. Hence, we connect the participants with other cocoa chain actors, such as universities, financial institution, Village-Owned Enterprise (BUMDes) and cooperative. They can really see the benefit of connecting with these actors to help them learn more especially about market and financial access.

Building a partnership model between millennials, cooperative and BUMDes

I learnt about cleft grafting and side-cleft grafting techniques, and also how to harvest cocoa. What inspires me the most is to find out various economic opportunities from cocoa farms, for example how we can make compost from cocoa pod’s skin
Ilham (26) Training participant

To ensure millennials inclusion in the cocoa value chain, a partnership model that brings together millennials, cooperative and BUMDes is required. For the past six months, Rikolto has connected these three actors so they can build a sustainable collaboration where:

  1. Millennials have more opportunities to put their cocoa farming and business skills into practice. Through the training, some of them have produced compost and livestock feed from cocoa waste;

  2. Amanah Cooperative coaches and mentors millennials so they are prepared to enter a farming business. The cooperative so far has included millennials to be part of its on-farm and off-farm activities.

  3. BUMDes Inaya is committed to buying compost and livestock feed produced by millennials, hence incentivising millennials to stay in the cocoa business.

Future plans to strengthen this partnership will include: encouraging cooperative to reach to more millennials, advising local government agencies on millennials inclusion in value chain, and integrating cocoa farming with cattle production.

“Cooperative, in this matter Amanah, plays a significant role in motivating millennials to return to cocoa farms and equipping them with cocoa sector-specific skills. Rikolto’s experience in West Sulawesi shows that cocoa cooperative can set an example of how to manage cocoa farms profesionally and sustainably for the benefit of farmers, rural communities and local government. This will further convince millennials to gradually involve in cocoa value chains.”

Syarifuddin Taba Cocoa Sector Field Officer for West Sulawesi

Millennials Inclusion Strategies

Referring to Rikolto's Millennials Inclusion Strategies, the training in West Sulawesi corresponds to our strategies number 1, 2, 4 and 6. Detailed strategies can be found below.

Read more about our strategies in infusing a new vigour to the ageing agriculture sector here and find out another millennials inclusion model we are working on in Ende, East Nusa Tenggara through the Youth Entrepreneurship Lab.