I just received some photos of Australian journalist Michael Bachelard’s visit to Aceh Timur and his side trip to see the women’s cocoa farming association in Simpang Jernih subdistrict. Although Michael was primarily in Aceh to speak to candidates and ex combatants about the upcoming elections and how they would affect the province, he and his assistant Runi made time to talk with the women and visit their farms.
The cocoa trees are flowering now, despite a miserable drought which has finally let up—a bit.
They are quite beautiful!
Besides learning how the new “magic potion” hormone-based fertilizer provided by JMD had reduced potential damage from the recent drought by about 40%, Michael and Runi were able to talk to the village leader and ex-combatants in the community, for a true man-on-the-street (and in-the remote-jungle) perspective on how the government is doing regarding the provision of services for its rural population.
Meanwhile, the women have added seven new members to their group. These are all from the village of Pante Kera, whose fields were completely destroyed by the 2006 flood and who will be starting from absolute scratch with seedlings, shade trees and organic fertilizer. They’re eager to jump in, especially in the construction and establishment of the planned seedling nursery, which will be growing about 10,000 trees in Pante Kera alone, to reach the optimum cocoa-tree-per-hectare ratio and provide for replacements of old and tired trees (which usually stop producing after 15 years).
Another new development in cocoa-land is the petition by the first man to join the group. The women, assisted by Robert, have been working on clear and detailed bylaws and rules that insure that if and when there are many men farmers in the Association, it will always have a woman at the programmatic and fiscal helm. JMD’s objective was always to help the entire subdistrict improve its economic status. If they can assist the women develop a successful and inclusive association that provides a growing economic base to the entire region, and if the members of this association all work in agreement and cooperation, and it is known as being woman-managed, I think we will have created an important and precedent-setting model. The palm oil cronies and the morality police will have no alternative but to acquiesce, and move over.