Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Of cocoa pods, pests (of all kinds) and a look back at our coffee farmers

Everyone’s trundling back to work after the Eid holidays.  These days always fall during a really important time in the life of the cocoa pod—they’re getting big and prone to stealing by monkeys and squirrels, and also good targets for other bugs.  But the days are especially hot, and the farmers had been fasting, so it was a real chore to get out there in those fields and smack monkeys all day.    

Also, it’s time to plant more seedlings in the new nurseries.  One of the things that lots of large NGOs do not count on or plan for is how a project actually interacts with the daily routines and customs of the people who are going to have to implement it and live with it.  Sustainability is a bugger.

Speaking of which, we’re back on the sustainability trail this month, with a new project in the works to collect data and evaluate how the Direct Support to Farmers (DSF) coffee project is doing three years after the project ended.  We discovered that the lead agency, IOM, had not done any follow-up with the 1,200 coffee farmers involved in the project.  Since JMD was the agency responsible for training the farmers, and working with the 50 peer educator farmers who in turn trained 20 farmers each, we wanted to know if the tools and skills we’d given them were still being used.

The entire IM project was, of course, much larger.  God forbid the tsunami reconstruction money fund anything small and manageable.  So there was a marketing component and a value chain component and a coffee cupping competition component and a bunch of commodity-and-cooperative-related parts in which we were not involved.

So JMD decided that with its own funds it would conduct a month-long evaluation of the coffee farmers, starting with the cooperatives they belonged to, to their (paid) peer trainers, to the materials they were supplied with, to their family farms.  JMD has developed a position description for what will have to be an amazingly talented individual, to traipse around the highlands of central Aceh/Takengon ingratiating himself with the farming community and asking them if they still use drying rack to dry their beans, and how’s that new paved access path working out? 

We want to do this because, well, we want to know, but also because we are about to create a document asserting that the majority of the post-tsunami Multi-Donor Fund went to projects that had no intention of ever being sustainable, and frankly did not care to be. “Emergency” was the battle cry.  The mouse-squeak “Future” was never heard above the roar of the international NGOs as they raced for the funds.

In other news (and I only mention this because I am just holding my breath until October when Jokowi officially takes over and we can see the lay of the land in terms of Aceh’s environmental and social future):

As you know, wealthy sore loser Prabowo filed a suit in the Constitutional Court on July 25th saying voting irregularities cost him the election. An interesting AP photo accompanied this announcement, showing “Prabowo supporters” protesting the election: 4 women dressed to the nines, pearls and silver jewelry, sunglasses and full makeup, and only one in a sort-of headscarf.  As Aretha Franklin would say, “Who’s zooming who?”
The court began deliberations on the 6th—last Wednesday.

“We feel very, very hurt by irregular, dishonest and unjust practices that have been shown by the election organizers," Subianto told the court. [This is the same court that grew a conscience after Prabowo started threatening to use his leverage and lean on his cronies there to sway the decision his way.  Ouch!  That must have stung.]

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