This is the year for taking the bull by the horns—or at least the cocoa leaves, in Aceh Timur, so I’m helping JMD apply for several grants to expand the women’s cocoa farming association. The aim when we first started assisting women farmers in 2009 was to give this under-served and under-appreciated district some much-needed assistance to being it back to something resembling its former glory in terms of a strong cocoa farming contingent. A force big and strong enough to make the provincial and national government see that carbon-neutral farming is so much more beneficial and productive than the ever-expanding and all-too-frequent illegal practices of the palm oil industry. Of course, palm oil will never go away. The Bupati of Aceh Timur, with whom we do not exchange Christmas cards, has a large investment in palm oil in the region, so he’s not going to bend over backwards to support the “competition.” But the idea that cocoa is competition is laughable.
Or is it?
Is there really the beginning of a nervous undercurrent running through Big Palm these days, what with the anti-palm oil campaigns, the increasing global awareness of the continued destruction of the protected forest in Aceh, the movement (however minimal) of President Jokowi towards a more populist administration that pays attention to things like conservation and climate change? If that’s the case, obscenely wealthy corporate heads and shareholders need a slap in the puss. They can move over and make room for another commodity—and one that helps the majority of the population in both the long and short terms, and saves the planet at the same time. The billions of dollars that palm oil as a global commodity rakes in every year will never diminish enough to warrant anyone’s selling of their third home or keeping last year’s Mercedes. And yet on the ground, in the thick of it, the little guy is seen as a threat. These hard working residents on the forest’s edge are people for whom an enormous windfall from cocoa means that a child can go to school for a year.
But they’re also the people with whom the majority of Acehnese citizens—and the rest of us—can identify. And I’d like to do whatever I can to make sure their numbers increase exponentially, across the district.
So we’re putting in proposals to do just that—from small 10-farmer expansions with the foundation ACWW (Associated Country Women of the World) to a 5-year, 400-farmer initiative using those would-be beneficiaries of the AAA/Keumang project for EDFF that never materialized, and I hope the Norwegian government’s NORAD program thinks it’s as great an idea as I do. Also in the mix is another project to expand the association but this time with an emphasis on integrated pest management (IPM) through the Conservation, Food and Health Foundation (CFH).
Wouldn’t it be great if we got all of them? It would mean that at last, after ten years of the international community funding, well, itself, to do projects in Aceh, it finally realizes that if you find a local agency to address a local issue, you improve your chances of success exponentially.
I’d love to tell ‘em to do it for the tigers
But really, who’s cuter than your fellow human being?