The end of November was a big surprise for JMD’s women cocoa farmers in Aceh Timur. Well, the yearly heavy rain was not so much a surprise as the usual big, fat mess, which not only makes it nearly impossible to get anywhere, it does an awful number on tiny seedlings trying to grow in the nursery.
But the women persevered, replanting to replace seedlings lost to moisture and mold, and nearly 3,000 have survived. The goal is to have a constant supply of about 6,500 seedlings, to use as root stock for the superior cloned varieties to be grafted on.
High winds knocked down 8 of one of our star producers’ trees, but she is tough and committed and is standing guard over the fallen trees, which are heavy with cocoa pods, fending off monkeys who get any funny ideas.
But that was part of what was surprising to the farmers. At this time last year the harvest was all but finished, and the women weren’t even bothering to call the collector to come buy beans. This year, the trees are still flowering and bearing fruit! It is a rather interesting conundrum for the women. Now that they have been able to extend the growing season much longer through the new pruning and fertilizing methods they’ve learned, their workload has increased exponentially. The women are turning a corner and entering the world of serious business, where they must decide if they want to nurture and increase the success of this enterprise, or back away from it. We really can’t decide for them. I don’t have to live the relentlessly hard life of the struggling farmer who also has children to care for and other backbreaking chores. We think we “know” which path a group will take because it sure looks good . . . from here, and on paper. I can only hope that the cocoa farming association sticks it out long enough to see their productivity cycle increase to the point of each one of them saying, “Oh, so THIS is what you meant by economic self-sufficiency. Well, it’s about time. . . but I’ll take it!”
This is our star farmer Jamila, who is currently producing over the national average. She absolutely takes no prisoners. When she plants a shade tree, like this coconut to her right, and tells it to grow, by god it grows. And would any sensible monkey get in her way???