The rains in Aceh Timur are exceptionally heavy this year, but Boxing Day did not bring a tsunami, so it was business as usual for JMD’s tough-as-nails women cocoa farmers. The water calmed down enough for the association’s Pante Kera side of the river to get across to the Simpang Jernih village side to help with a very soggy, but still viable, seedling nursery. Some of the more knowledgeable women gave other farmers pointers on how to make sure mold and rot does not set in.
I love this photo because you can see how close these communities are to the rainforest—it is right in their back yard. Look at the wonderful clouds hanging in the mountains. Understanding the climate patterns and habitat specific to the rainforest is part of what is making farmers better able create a symbiotic relationship between their cocoa crop and the forest’s interior cycles.
It’s interesting, because prior to JMD’s project, Pante Kera had received no outside assistance from any NGO—ever. They gobbled up all the information they could get, and followed all the trainings and Robert’s assistance to the letter—with amazing results. Several are quite eager to become peer trainers—and we hope to get some funding in 2015 to expand the association to Batu Sumbang, an area adjacent to both communities and a bit to the north, where several farmers have already expressed interest in joining the group and re-learning these traditional and organic farming methods that were almost all wiped out by the 30-year conflict.
Speaking of the conflict—fabulous news. The women are now seeing such an improvement in their income from cocoa that many male family members have (wait for it) stopped doing any illegal logging in the forest, and instead spend their time assisting the women in the cocoa fields! Money talks, my friends, money talks.
Score: cocoa farmers 1, palm oil bandits 0.