Evolution of the initiative
The last two years, VECO Indonesia played an important facilitation role in making the cocoa farmers of the Flores Timur and Ende districts more organized and business minded, by transforming small farmer groups (25 to 50 members) into large farmer organizations with around 500 to 2,000 members. These farmer organizations need additional capacity building and organizational strengthening.In the beginning of 2011, VECO Indonesia agreed to focus on the increase of cocoa production, the increase of capacities of the farmer organizations as business organization and the facilitation of the contacts between farmers and private actors with relation to the marketing of cocoa. The previous years, VECO also facilitated the cooperation with PT Mars for the implementation of cocoa farmer field schools (FFS) and worked with them to train farmers to sort fruit and seeds properly by organizing study visits to PT Mars’ factory in Makassar. There is still space for improvements of VECO Indonesia towards their marketing management and quality control training for village collection point team leaders, which would make it easier for SIKAP and JANTAN to reach the quality goals set by PT Mars.
The farmers of JANTAN and SIKAP participated in cocoa Farmer Field Schools (FFS) organised by VECO Indonesia and PT Mars, in cooperation with Swiss Contact. They conducted 5 series of FFS in 2010 and 1 in 2011. In 2011 they also organised a training for preparation of a business plan. PT Mars partially paid JANTAN and SIKAP to let their farmers participate in the FFS and they also sent cocoa experts to the field schools to lecture. This field school covered harvesting, post-harvest management, fermentation, drying and quality control of cocoa seeds, and collective marketing.
Actions to create good marketing conditions for the farmers
In 2009, PT Mars opened a buying/fermentation station in Central Flores, as a pilot program. The aim was to buy wet beans of the farmers and to ferment it by themselves, to be sure of the quality of the fermented beans. This pilot program was quite successful since farmers sold large qualities of wet cocoa beans, but farmers could not deliver the total amount requested and the station was considered as not cost effective.
To improve the quality of the farmers’ cocoa, PT Mars offers premium prices for good quality. The target for PT Mars for the year 2010 was to purchase 60 tons of wet cocoa from JANTAN. Sales criteria for quality have not been met due to insufficient quality control at the villages’ cocoa collection point level and the work systems in JANTAN and SIKAP.
JANTAN and SIKAP organized the purchase of wet cocoa beans from farmers, funds for buying were provided by PT MARS. However, in 2011, PT Mars has changed its policy of buying wet cocoa directly from farmer organisations towards buying dry cocoa through local traders. PT Mars has indicated that they are willing to buy directly from FO’s (Including JANTAN and SIKAP) when they are able to provide them with dried/fermented cocoa beans of a good quality. A minimum shipment of 8-10 MT dried Cocoa beans is needed and the shipment has to be organized by the FO’s.
After changing the purchase policy, PT MARS is continuously present in Flores with 2 staff members based on the island. They will implement a system for local Traceability of Cocoa beans, they will check whether the price setting for purchasing cocoa beans from the farmers through weighing, moisture content, mould and waste de-termination is transparent and honest, provide JANTAN and SIKAP with technical assistance/training, and they will facilitate the Internal Auditing process of Cocoa beans bought from business partners.
Through the multi stakeholder involvement that is the basis of this project, guidelines in several areas have been formulated or applied. The national sustainability criteria encourage future cocoa production that rehabilitates agricultural lands and forms part of a strategy to preserve remnant forests and develop habitat corridors. Farmers have to obey to criteria that minimize the use of agrochemicals as insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and chemical fertilizers.
Both at the FFS and trainings as well at the CSP-forum, the farmers learn that biodiversity on their farms is necessary and need to be preserved. The multicultural systems that are applied by the farmers consist mostly of intercropping cocoa with seasonal and long-term plants, such as corn, and annuals such as coconut. The only negative effect is that the cocoa yields per hectare are lower. At the trainings of PT Mars, farmers also learn how they can get a safer farming environment with respect to exposure risks to pesticides and other risks.