Saturday, March 5, 2016

JMD cotinues to grow, and help cocoa farmers in the province

Even though Building Bridges to the Future is no longer able to fund JMD’s projects, staff continues to let me know about their progress in Aceh, and over the past few months they have accomplished great things.  First, a grant from the International Foundation will allow the agency to do a cocoa farming project in Pante Bidari sub-district, Aceh Timur, which is about 60 miles to the west of Pante Kera and Simpang Jernih.  They’ve been doing a 4-month multi-village training initiative in Pante Bidari, teaching cocoa farmers (including many women farmers) about organic fertilization and pest management.  What’s amazing is that before the project, this area was completely opposed to any NGO coming into the area and doing any projects. (remember the $6.7 million project presumably conducted by AAA that had never been done? This was one of the areas they supposedly "helped." No wonder the community distrusted anyone who said they were going to do any training.)  JMD finally found one village that accepted assistance, and when the training started it was such a success that all the other surrounding villages realized that JMD was not an outsider to be suspicious of but a very, very good friend.  People practically fell all over themselves asking if they could join the training (of course JMD said yes!)
 Our intrepid trainer has stayed with JMD since 2011 and everyone loves him. Here's a scene you don't see every day in Aceh--men and women learning together.

So the camats (chiefs) of the village begged JMD to continue with other projects after this multi-training project ended, which it just did last week.  Robert went back to Seunebok Tuha and Pante Rambong village to distribute fertilizer to 80 farmers. What great timing: the International Fund money will be able to support 10 of those farmers—all women-- in Pante Bidari similar to the one JMD had run in Simpang Jernih and Pante Kera.
 Cocoa farmers (men and women) practice making organic fertilizer.  I could have done without the cigarette, but hey.--baby steps!!

And what of Simpang Jernih, that original group of cocoa farmers who asked for assistance in 2009?

JMD staff had managed to wean them off of any commercial fertilizer and pesticide, and they are now fertilizing and controlling pests with only materials found right in their villages, such as eggs, honey, ginger and bamboo shoots.  The transition from chemical fertilizer, which is far too expensive for most farmers, to organic fertilizer, has been gradual and painless. Besides saving money and insuring continued fertilization and pest control, the organic farming practiced by the women now insures that the surrounding forest vegetation and wildlife is also protected. 
 Wetting down the fertilizer before it's covered with black plastic to get it fermenting

I am so proud of this little agency, that did what much larger agencies have continually failed to do in Aceh: create a sustainable project that provides economic benefit to the community, a chance for women to improve their daily lives, and the incentive for younger generations to stay in the area and continue cocoa farming, which is slowly growing into a provincial commodity.