The farmers (and Robert) had a much-needed break during the Eid holidays that ended last week, but time and cocoa wait for no man (or woman) so Robert returned to Aceh Timur, where all was once again a flurry of activity, with big healthy seedlings being delivered from the nursery into the cocoa fields.
Our goal is for every farmer to have at east 400 cocoa trees per hectare of land, and most have between ½ and 2 hectares (about 1 -5 acres) which is actually quite a lot of cocoa, once the grafted branches start producing. One of these varieties can produce up to 40 kilos per tree per harvest! We aren’t going to get quite that much, but the clones that the women are now using will be a big improvement.
Also this week was the introduction of a tiny new gizmo—the Garmin GPS, which Robert will use to teach the farmers how to plot out their own farms. This is quite useful in terms of making sure exactly where boundaries are in terms of the rainforest/protected area, as well as plotting the location of all the trees and the dates of their planting, and other useful information that aids in record-keeping.
Obviously this is not a traditional farming activity! Most of the women keep all the information about the trees, the harvest, the amount of fertilizer/pesticide they use on each tree, etc. in their heads. JMD has tailored its trainings to suit the education/literacy levels of the farmers, so far with good results. But into every successful small business a little paperwork must fall, and we are hoping that the fledgling association can maintain some rather “modern” record-keeping in terms of GPS tracking, nursery inventory, and plantation mapping, because when they get bigger . . . they are going to be surprised at how useful written records can be!