Pak Irwan is a cocoa farmer in Desa Oti, Sindue subdistrict, Donggala district with five acres of cocoa. Since the 1990s, cocoa has been his primary crop in addition to coconuts. He chose to develop his cocoa as it was considered to be a very profitable option with the prices for cocoa very high at the time. These high prices were a result of the economic crisis which over 1997‑1998 saw cocoa prices reach a peak of Rp. 20.000 ($3.61) per kg. As prices for cocoa increased, Irwan was not alone as many farmers in his area were highly motivated to expand cocoa areas.
Yet for Irwan, from late 1998 until 2002, production dramatically decreased as a result of the cocoa pod borer (CPB) pest. Irwan tried many methods to overcome the CPB problem including the use of pesticides. However, he discovered that these methods were ineffective and very expensive. He became desperate and almost decided to replace all of his cocoa with coconuts, however, he decided to wait and see if circumstances improved. His patience was rewarded with the news of the SUCCESS Alliance’s farmer field school (FFS) for combating the CPB pest was coming to his village. Irwan was happy to volunteer his land as the location for the school’s demonstration garden even though it was in poor condition resulting from rare pruning, harvesting and sanitation regimes as a result of the CPB infestation.
Since the FFS, Irwan has applied faithfully the methods that he learned to his farm and has found that not only were there improvements to the CPB infestation but also to the general physical wellbeing of his cocoa. After six months of implementing the FFS methods, he has reached a production of 1.2 tons per hectare, improving dramatically on his former yields of only harvesting 250 kg per hectare. Now FFS is used throughout all of his plots, and he is rejuvenating many of his older plants by applying the SUCCESS Alliance’s side-grafting method, using “best clones” from a high-producing farm in Sausu, Parigi Moutong district.
Her name is Mrs. Aminah, and she is a cocoa farmer in the village of Watatu, Banawa subdistrict, Donggala district. Despite her mature age, her daylight hours are mostly spent tending to her cocoa plants. Cultivating approximately 800 cocoa trees in her garden (1 ha), Aminah has managed to care for her family of two despite her husband’s death leaving her to provide for it on her own.
Even after the identification of the cocoa pod borer (CPB) in her cocoa farm, Aminah did not abandon her plants and continued to tend her cocoa. However, to better combat the pest and further develop her skills as a cocoa farmer, she became a participant in the Farmer Field School for CPB (FFS-CPB) conducted in April 2004 in her village. Her cocoa expertise increased as Aminah began to apply skills that she learned during FFS activities. She received further training when a local facilitator selected her group to take part in the Practical Farmer Training (PFT) in cocoa side-grafting.
When asked about her involvement in the FFS-CPB and PFT activities, she responded, “I like development and improvement, and I want to be successful. I believe that my cocoa garden will yield more and better pods using the techniques discussed in the training activities. As my cocoa plants are already old (more than 10 years old), I want a method that can rejuvenate them so they can be more productive and be easy to take care of. Side-grafting and FFS can help me to do that.”
Aminah’s goal is to rejuvenate all her cocoa plants through the use of the side-grafting method on a gradual basis.
One of the handicaps with which some cocoa farmers are faced is that the price of cocoa has been insufficient for individual farmers’ livelihoods recently. According to some farmers, low prices are because they have limited access to market information, improved technologies and financial capital. However, some buyers, collectors, exporters and factories attribute the real impediment to higher prices for smallholder cocoa farmers is poor cocoa bean quality.
To overcome poor cocoa bean quality and increase their lot prices, Bainaa village members who were attending a SUCCESS Alliance Farmer Field School for Cocoa Pod Borer (FFS-CPB) formed a farmer group called Bintang Keluarga. From the FFS’s beginning in April 2004, the 52 members developed working groups that rotated visits to each member’s farm to implement what had been discussed in the FFS. During the third month of the FFS, the group members decided to try marketing collectively their cocoa beans to traders in the district township of Parigi to see if they could bargain collectively for higher prices. Every farmer in the group brought dried cocoa beans that matched a standard of quality previously agreed upon by the group, and then the group board sold them as one large group sale of cocoa beans, instead of 52 individual ones.
Several of the group’s board members were in charge of investigating the price of dry cocoa beans offered by various traders to identify which trader would give the most profitable price to the farmers. The prices would be measured against the prices that the group members had received in the past through their individual sales.
On June 21, 2004, the group sold approximately 500 kg of dry cocoa beans, and then on June 29, 2004, they sold another 1,000 kg of dry cocoa beans to the same buyer, PT EFFEM, in Parigi. To date, the profitable collaboration between Bintang Keluarga and PT EFFEM continues. The farmer group adheres to certain quality measures that are important to PT EFFEM, including that the sum of cocoa beans per 100 grams must not exceed 110 beans, and the rubbish and moisture level must not exceed 2.5 percent and 8 percent respectively.
The cocoa farmers have seen significant advantages from marketing their cocoa as a group. When the farmers sold their cocoa beans individually, some buyers would lower their prices with little explanation and would not clarify their reasons behind determinations of waste and the weighing system. However, PT EFFEM has provided complete and transparent information to the farmers concerning the waste cut-off levels, weighing system and acceptable level of water-content, so the farmers are better able to tailor their product to PT EFFEM’s preferences and secure their sales. The farmers also benefited from the collective bargaining by profiting from the sale by between Rp 500 to Rp 1,000 per kg extra. They also saved money on transportation costs, which were shared by farmers based on how much cocoa the individual farmer sold.
Based on the experience of the group, Bintang Keluarga farmers have concluded that marketing cocoa beans together provides the participating farmers with increased access to price information and the farmers’ bargaining position is stronger. In addition to a price that favors farmers, their collaboration has helped to develop a higher quality of cocoa beans being raised in Sulawesi.