Coffee in Sulawesi, Indonesia
The demand for quality coffee is growing worldwide, but coffee production is at risk. Rising heat, extreme weather and pests mean that this high-altitude bean-based crop is running out of cool mountainsides on which it can flourish. As a result, coffee farmers are struggling to survive.
Indonesia is the world’s third biggest coffee producer, but its yield is relatively low. Sulawesi is one of the largest islands in Indonesia and in the world. Rikolto works in the regions of Toraja and Enrekang in South Sulawesi. Since colonial times, Arabica coffee has been the region’s main commodity, peaking in the 1970s when the Japanese company Toarco created the “Key Coffee” brand with beans produced in Toraja. The new variety became famous worldwide. However, in recent years its reputation has been undermined because of its irregular quality.
The main farmers’ organisation in North Toraja and Tana Toraja is Perhimpunan Petani Kopi Toraja (PPKT), founded in 2011. PPKT has 1,354 members (1,032 men and 322 women) but only a minority pay membership fees. Toarco Jaya is still the main buyer in the region, and it was only when Toarco had to conform to a quota that other exporters entered the market. Since 2013 PPKT has been working with Sulatco (Kapal Api Group) which owns 190 ha. of coffee plantations.
The main farmers’ organisation in Enrekang is Benteng Alla, which was created in 2001. Benteng Alla has 2,217 members (only 67 of them are female) and sells coffee to a variety of local and international exporters. With an average plantation of 900 trees per farm, coffee is the farmers’ main source of income. Most grow other side-crops, but they still need to purchase rice which is the daily staple food of their diets. This results in months of food shortages between harvests.
- The farmers suffer months of food shortages because of their dependency on imported rice and low incomes.
- Productivity is low due to ageing plantations, a lack of Good Agricultural Practices and pests.
- The quality is uneven due to unregulated post-harvest processing techniques and a lack of internal regulation.
- The reputation of Sulawesi coffee has been tarnished. An improvement in quality would guarantee more demand and better prices.
- Collective sales still account for only a small part of trade, so farmers need to rely on middlemen who offer them low prices.
- The farmers’ organisations are too weak to influence the coffee stakeholders.
- The downward trend in coffee prices due to low quality and productivity prompts many farmers to neglect their coffee plots.
- To fight the food shortage periods, we introduce agroforestry techniques: multi-cropping methods, introducing goats to the coffee fields to act as natural fertilizer and weed control, etc. This approach improves productivity and secures the farmers’ food supply.
- To increase revenues, we are pushing for the creation and commercialization of organic fertilizer with the coffee waste and manure produced by the goats so that farmers can sell the surplus.
- To improve productivity, we promote the replacement of old trees with new ones and support Farmer Field Schools where new cultivation techniques are passed on from farmer to farmer.
- To improve quality, we help the associations to create and supervise Internal Quality Controls such as the maintenance of internal communication and documentation systems.
- To strengthen the business skills of the farmers’ associations we organize courses in management and entrepreneurship.
- We work to deepen the relationships between organisations and exporters so they develop an inclusive business relationship without the need for middlemen.
- We encourage the farmers’ organisations to become members of Asosiasi Kopi Speciality Indonesia (AKSI) in order to expand their network.
- We facilitate multi-stakeholder meetings between the producers, the private companies and key coffee stakeholders (government, other NGOs, churches etc.), using the designation of Toraja as a Protected Geographical area (MPIG) as a launch pad.
- We will re-brand Toraja and Enrekang coffees to restore them to their position in the 1970s.
A Road to Increase Toraja Coffee Quality and Quantity
Since the involvement of Rikolto in the coffee chain of South Sulawesi province, there is a proof of increasing crop productivity in the region. Through training on how to farm well since 2009, farmers in Toraja and Enrekang could increase the productivity of green coffee beans from 300 kilograms per hectare to 500 kilograms per hectare.
"Our next target for one hectare of land planted with more than 1,000 trees can produce up to a ton of green coffee beans," said Henderikus AM Gego, Rikolto Coffee Manager.
The training run by Rikolto focuses on the principle of sustainable agriculture. For example, coffee farmers are encouraged to develop the business without damaging the environment.
Rehabilitation by cutting down old trees aged 30-40 years, avoiding expansion by clearing new land in forest areas, and using organic fertilizer are some of the important ways of farming under sustainable principles.
Furthermore, the farmers are also trained to adopt affordable and clean technology for farming and to use a more advanced accounting system. This way, the farmers could easily produce high-quality coffee beans in accordance with export standards. In the long run, it will strengthen the bargaining position of farmers to receive a better price for their coffee products.
"In the past, the farmers used to mix green beans with red so the quality of the coffee is bad, but now they know if they want to produce high-quality coffee they have to pick the red seeds and on the same day we have to peel the skins, “said Henderikus.
Progress on Coffee Production by Cooperatives
During its latest visit in September 2017, Graham Robertson coordinator of TRDS (Toraja Rural Development Society), one of Rikolto's main donors for the coffee program in Toraja, expressed his satisfaction on the achievement of PPKT cooperative.
There is a lot of progress regarding the work of PPKT cooperative that has been supported by TRDS since 2011. For instance, there is an increased number of assisted groups and members of PPKT cooperative, increased quality and quantity of Arabica coffee Toraja, increased volume of sales of Toraja Arabica coffee specialty, improvement in financial system through Zahir accounting system, as well as increased knowledge and skills of farmers in terms of coffee cultivation, harvesting and post-harvest processing of coffee.
On the other hand, Bentang Alla cooperative in Enrekang regencies of South Sulawesi province has been able to develop its export-quality Arabica coffee and deal with some exporters such as PT.MEGA PUTRA, CAMPOS, BTS, MTC Dl.
At the moment, the cooperative is focusing on the development of sustainable agriculture-based coffee chains through farmer training, farmer apprenticeships and coffee farming schools both from cultivation, post-harvest and strengthening farmer organizations for joint marketing, including the idea of adopting integrative farming at the farm level such as the integration of coffee crops with livestock, coffee with vanilla, coffee with cloves.
Toraja coffee specialty has been renown worldwide as one of the best quality coffees in the world. Thus, uplifting and maintaining the quality and the quantity of the coffee production by empowering the local farmers’ cooperatives is a work that Rikolto keeps supporting.
In 2018, at least, 4,030 farmers from these two cooperatives have received benefits due to our support:
- 2,297 farmers of Benteng Alla Cooperative (1,608 male farmers and 689 female farmers)
- 1,733 farmers of PPKT/Toraja Coffee Farmers' Cooperative (1,294 male farmers and 439 female farmers)
- PPKT has drawn up an inclusive written agreement with Sulatco, the second biggest exporter in the region. The deal includes daily information about the market and premium prices.
- Benteng Alla has signed an inclusive contract with Bintang Tunggal Sejati (BTS).
- Both organisations have developed an internal information system that allows them to monitor the volume, taste and quality of their crops.
What do we expect in the long-term?
- The increase in the production and quality of the crop and the new strength of the farming organisations should make the coffee crop attractive to other farmers.
- The results of this project should inspire coffee processing companies to make their sourcing policies more inclusive.
- The global coffee trade will be secured thanks to a more sustainable form of production that will be capable of overcoming the challenges of the climate change and ensuring a fair price for farmers.