First things first: Giving Tuesday is tomorrow! JMD is a part of Giving Tuesday, a daylong national event designed to help charities raise money online. “Thousands of the nation's charities are hoping you have a lot of money left over after the first big days of holiday shopping and have an urge to consider the needy,” reports the LA Times. “They are also hoping to make the second iteration of "Giving Tuesday" as big an event in philanthropy as Black Friday and Cyber Monday are for shopping. http://www.latimes.com/business/money/la-fi-mo-charities-giving-tuesday-20131202,0,7120468.story#ixzz2mLZPduAt
PLEASE visit JMD’s Facebook Page and link to Razoo (the
fundraising portal) to help our friends in Aceh support women cocoa farmers in
the area where no one (except forest creatures, bulldozers, and people with
guns) wants to go.
Speaking of which:
Catch this and paint it green, as my father used to say:
JMD staff attended the Aceh Cocoa Conference on November
19th-21st, which was a real blessing. I’m so glad they got to network with government
officials and people working with and supporting cocoa cultivation in the
province. Interestingly, the only other
NGO present was the sponsor of the event, SwissContact. Now, this agency has
done a lot of good work in the province in cocoa and coffee rehabilitation, and
are really the only large agency still focusing on Aceh. However, there comes a
time (actually, the time was about 5 years ago) when all international NGOs
should have been spending most of their time resurrecting and training local NGOs, and that just has not been
done. As a result, SwissContact
implements its own projects--using Acehnese staff, to be sure, but these staff
are not part of any provincial agency and so must find work elsewhere when the
project is finished, or wait for SwissContact to get another grant. They do not learn how to administratively and
fiscally maintain a NGO. They do not
become leaders or experts in local agencies because those agencies are long
gone. The most they can hope for is to
be hired by the government, which as far as I know is not falling all over
itself to provide more field representatives.
It’s my fervent hope that SwissContact takes the high
road and unlike its colleagues decides to support, encourage, fund and provide
capacity building for the assimilation of all sustainable livelihoods into local
Ah, but if wishing made it so . . .
Where was I?
The cocoa conference.
Some good things came out of it, namely that the governor
of Aceh seems to be on board with helping make Aceh the biggest cocoa producer
in Indonesia by 2020, and has granted official approval to a medium export/
import port in Lhokseumawe district (to the north), which will make it easier
for commodities in Ach to be traded and shipped globally.
Other than that, some nice pronouncements: a hope to
triple the cocoa production per hectare, an acknowledgement that the government
needs more ag extensionists with expertise in cocoa (ya think?), and a sort of
sound-bite plea for a large investor to create a corporate cocoa farm similar
to the palm oil plantations with which we are so familiar. Currently there are no companies growing
cocoa in Aceh—only smallholders. Since
this is such a fertile market, one can only wonder why. Oh, I remember—they all get chased off by palm oil and
mining concerns. Cocoa’s a tough
crop. Palm oil is easy. There is no company that wants to take enough
corporate responsibility to make the better product at less of a profit and a
whole lot less of an environmental impact.Someone else interesting was at the conference: USAID, in
the guise of its IFACS cocoa improvement initiative, a $500,000, 1,600
beneficiary improvement project to be implemented in Aceh Tenggara (to the
northwest) and the Gayo district. Most
of the province’s cocoa grows in Aceh Tenggara. It is also where the Leuser ecosystem is. It is also where SwissContact works. It would make sense that USAID would want to
back a relative winner in the economy-of-scale department. They are also interested in the reduction of
However, when JMD staff told me that the application
period was 9 days (plus weekends) I sensed ta ringer. Couldn’t prove it. But there’s IFACS. There’s SwissContact. No one else from any
NGO is at the conference, except JMD and they were only there because I found
out about this conference by going down the palm oil rabbit hole. Someone had to be thinking that they had a
contractor but had to advertise anyway. JMD asked me if I thought it was worth it for them to work night and day
on an application that was probably already awarded to the agency that not only
has local staff but staff in Jakarta and in its own HQ, with fiscal directors
and marketing executives and researchers and program planners and, well, while
I was in New York and in Jakarta and on the phone and emailing my head off for
the past 4 years about how USAID Jakarta should advocate to USAID DC to put
funding towards sustainable livelihoods in Aceh, especially cocoa, and have projects
run by local agencies, namely JMD, funny thing—they were listening. To half of
They just never told us about it.
Now, my suspicions could be entirely wrong.
So we wrote to the IFACS Chief of Party for the Aceh Project.
Dear Mr. Merrill:
Your Burlington office gave me this email address in order to ask you about the
recently (Nov 21) published RFQ for assistance to cocoa farmers in Aceh
province. [Building Bridges to the Future] provides administrative
support to Yayasan Jembatan Masa Depan (JMD), a nationally and provincially
registered NGO that has been working with women cocoa farmers in Aceh Timur
since 2009. The project is small but growing, and is quite successful.
This IFACS RFQ was brought to the staff's attention when they attended
the recent Aceh Cocoa conference on November 21.
Due to the extremely short turnaround time for this grant, I am assuming that you
already have a subcontractor in mind —would that be fair to say? The
preparation of such a proposal is a large undertaking, especially for a local
NGO. JMD is the only local sustainable livelihoods NGO
operating in the province. They have asked us to help navigate this RFQ
because it is the project that they have been advocating for
USAID (Jakarta ad Washington) to fund since 2008. We are all extremely
grateful for its implementation.
If there is already an agency in mind to which you would like to award the
contract, could you entertain the possibility of an adjunct pilot project in
Aceh Timur (which JMD has already developed, based on an extensive study
conducted this mast March), to demonstrate that cocoa improvement can and
should be done in this district as well? As you know, Aceh Timur has remained
"off limits" to most organizations due to perceived dangers
associated with competition with palm oil concerns. It is this very
factor, as well as the presence of a significant number of ex-combatants who
call Aceh Timur home, that makes the promotion of cocoa cultivation so
extremely important here, where a significant portion of the province's
orangutan, elephant and tiger population live. The rainforest in this area,
unfortunately, is poised to become a statistic with the proposed re-zoning of
JMD realizes that economy of scale and the proximity of the well-known Leuser
Ecosystem insures that Aceh Tenggara would be your ideal location for a project
of this scale. JMD has conducted many integrated livelihoods projects in Aceh
Tenggara since 2005. I was wondering, however, if as a small
part (or as a subcontract) of your $500,000 funding amount for your
outlined project could be reserved for an ancillary pilot project such as this
in Aceh Timur. It would serve 1,200 community members across four
villages and increase cocoa production and production farm size by 50%, at a
cost of less than $20,000 for one year (JMD had developed a 3-year model as
well). In this way, IFACS can make significant and extremely important
inroads into a district that desperately needs its smallholder farmers to feel
that organic cocoa production, as opposed to deforestation, can be a
major component of the economic and social health of the district.
As I mentioned, JMD is more than willing to prepare a proposal for services
included in the RFQ; but before they expended a significant amount of staff
time and energy I wanted to make certain that you had not already had some
discussions with a preferred contractor.
Thanks so much for your time and consideration; I look forward to hearing from you
And he was quick to respond:
Thank you very much for your correspondence and congratulations for the important
work you are supporting through Yayasan Jembatan Masa Depan. Per the published
RFQ released on November 21, 2013, Tetra Tech ARD is inviting organizations to
submit quotations to the USAID IFACS office in Jakarta by December 2, 2013, by
17:00 local time. The RFQ is for quotations and not full proposals. The RFQ was
announced publicly through various list serves widely used in Indonesia’s
conservation and development community, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. The RFQ was also announced at various public forums in Aceh. I can confirm that there
is strong interest in this award.
Please note that the USAID IFACS project is funded by USAID and is a partnership
between the US Government and the Government of Indonesia established to reduce
greenhouse gas emissions in Indonesia’s forest and land-use sectors. Since
2010, the USAID IFACS project has been working in eight landscapes across
Indonesia with the most significant peat land and high conservation value (HCV)
forest, and thus the most significant potential for reducing GHG emissions.
Landscapes are in northern Sumatra, west and central Kalimantan, and along the
northern and southern coasts of Papua. In northern Sumatra, USAID IFACS works
in two contiguous landscapes in southern Aceh, within the Leuser ecosystem. We
work in the focal districts of Aceh Selatan, Aceh Tenggara and Gayo Lues. While
we certainly recognize the significance of areas outside of the landscapes in
Aceh and across Indonesia, we are required to focus our limited resources to
within these current landscapes. As such, USAID IFACS is unable to provide
support for work in Aceh Timur.
Thank you very much for your request. I will keep my ear to the ground if I learn
about any opportunities to support cacao livelihoods development in Aceh Timur.
And so we sent a gracious reply.
Dear Mr Merrill:
Thanks so much for your prompt response. I believe JMD was questioning the short
lead time due to the relative complexity of the project model proposed as well
as the established staffing plan and attendant budget calculations.
However, we wish you all the best on the implementation of this project
and hope that it is extremely successful. Aceh Tenggara is certainly one
of the leaders in cocoa production in terms of land currently farmed and
infrastructure to process and ship it. JMD is in fact planning a field
trip for some of its beneficiary farmers to one of Aceh Tenggara's more
successful farms, as part of its current women's cocoa farming improvement
project funded by the Embassy of Finland. We are hoping, as I mentioned,
to strengthen the resolve of farmers in Aceh Timur, a district that as you know
has been neglected on many levels and for many reasons. We understand
that USAID's parameters rely in part on an economy of scale that JMD and Aceh
Timur cannot meet. We are hoping that this changes in the future, and I thank
you in advance for letting us know of any opportunities available to locally
based sustainable livelihoods agencies in the province.
As you know, I am not necessarily a fan of the gracious
reply. But I was outvoted. And I am fully prepared to seethe with a white fury if I
find out that SwissContact not only is the awardee but was the only agency applying. It is one thing to have to admit you’re a
tiny agency fighting for a tiny group of well-deserving but forgotten
people. It’s another thing to realize,
and then accept, that the fight is fixed from the start. I just don’t think I can accept that.