Friday, July 4, 2014

31 cocoa farmers and growing!

As of the first of the month, Aceh Timur’s cocoa association has grown to 31 members in 2 villages.  To reach the project’s 2016 goal, only 3 more farmers need to join.  I predict that the hard work and good results these women are getting will bring many more than 3 farmers in from the two villages to join this intrepid bunch. 

 spraying to keep the flowers on the tree and keep the bugs off

The cocoa is flowering now, and so the women are doing two things; spraying the flowers, which has really helped those little guys stay on the trees longer, and building cocoa seedling nurseries to replace old and unproductive trees and to increase the number of trees per hectare (about 2.4 acres) to its optimum 800.  There are two nurseries going up in Pante Kera and one in Simpang Jernih, which had a nursery but let it go in about 2010.  I’m not going to lie and say I was happy about that.  Part of this newest phase of assistance is a lot of group discussion about whether the women want to continue this business after JMD—and all other assistanc—leaves.  If they don’t, then that’s their choice, but as they say in farming, you reap what you sow.  Anyway, the farmers in Simpang Jernih had a change of heart and are madly scrambling to construct this nursery with their own materials—JMD is not paying for anything.  We’ve promised to help them with the purchase of seedlings if they reconstruct the nursery—and they are responding like longshoremen.
putting up the poles that the netting will rest on

If you look closely you'll see that Marta is not looking too thrilled.  When asked what was wrong, she said, "This is my happy face!"  So consider this the way Simpang Jernih women smile. :)

Taking a rest in Pante Kera

Pante Kera across the river has never had any shortage of incentive.  Possibly because this little community has never received any type of assistance at all from any organization or government entity.  These days, however, the unified organization has attracted the attention of the ministry of forestry, which has dropped off several type of seeds for the farmers in both villages, and JMD has worked with them to plant some of the seeds in between the cocoa trees.

Intercropping in Simpang Jernih cocoa field

The women are loving this.  For one, the cocoa trees give a little shade to the crop seeds.  Also, there are fewer weeds.  Each plant provides nutrients to the other, especially after a harvest.  And since the farmers are spending more time in the field now—and they have a reason to, since their gardens are in the fields and not close to their houses—the monkeys have taken a hike.  So there are many more cocoa pods that make to the next stage of development.

This is such a labor-intensive business, though—and one that does not produce immediate results.  So hard for the farmers to devote so much time to something that does not give them a much-needed immediate return.  I do home this next harvest is something to crow about.

In the meantime, make way for 6,500 little seedlings in 3 nurseries on the border of the vast, fragile, and disappearing rainforest these women call their home.

There is is, right out the back door; the Leuser Ecosystem sweeps up into the hills

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