I don’t know abut you, but I have tried to graft fruit trees before, and it is an art. I am not very good at it. But the women of Simpang Jernih and Pante Kera (and our new cocoa farmers from Batu Sumbang) are practically Grand Champions. 80% of the grafts they did on their old plantation trees survived.
Here’s what the grafts look like after 2 months:
This is one of he superior varieties purchased through the Local Community Fund grant (Yay Finland!) and you can see how it’s just sproinging into action, and hopefully will be producing fruit by next year. This means that this old tree can now start to be far more productive. The issue in Aceh Timur is not the lack of (former) cocoa farms but the age and condition of those trees that remain on them. A hybrid variety, grafted onto “rootstock” like in the photo below, can practically double the yield of an old tree. Add to that the weeding and fertilizing the farmers now complete regularly, and you have economic success just round the corner.
But it is really hard work, and every time of year brings its own challenges. Last season was the rain, now it’s the loose domestic animals. Pretty soon it will be my personal worst nemesis: monkeys. You don’t see a big return from cocoa, not for the first 18 months. Which is far too long for many families to have to wait to get enough money to eat. JMD can help, with the Ministry of Agriculture, by giving families crop seeds to interplant, so they will have some food for their families plus (maybe) a little cash from the surplus, but the cocoa is really where an improved standard of living comes in.
Now is the point in the project where we really have to keep the farmers motivated. It’s a big hump to get over. I hope that the women’s success with their grafted trees will convince them to keep the faith. “Sustainability,” after all, comes down not to a well-designed “logic model” but the motivation and commitment of the people who have to live here.