Youth group helps cocoa farmers in Indonesia

Starting with cocoa collection, the group improves life in many communities.

By Aditya Surya for Khabar Southeast Asia in Salatiga, Central Java

February 11, 2013
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In parts of Java where some youth have been drawn into militancy, many young people are working to help local farmers develop their potential in one of Indonesia's major agricultural commodities: cocoa.

  • Women in Salatiga, Central Java, peel cocoa seeds on January 29th. They will use them to make food products to sell in local markets. The Youth Cocoa Collector Association is helping farmers and entrepreneurs in the region improve their livelihoods. [Okky D.Feliantiar/Khabar].

    Women in Salatiga, Central Java, peel cocoa seeds on January 29th. They will use them to make food products to sell in local markets. The Youth Cocoa Collector Association is helping farmers and entrepreneurs in the region improve their livelihoods. [Okky D.Feliantiar/Khabar].

  • Sumiran checks his cocoa plants in Dagangan sub-district of Madiun, East Java, on January 20th. Indonesia is the world's third largest cocoa exporter and most cocoa plantations are owned by small farmers. [Yenny Herawati/Khabar].

    Sumiran checks his cocoa plants in Dagangan sub-district of Madiun, East Java, on January 20th. Indonesia is the world's third largest cocoa exporter and most cocoa plantations are owned by small farmers. [Yenny Herawati/Khabar].

Many Indonesians may not know that after Ivory Coast and Ghana, their country is the third largest cocoa exporter in the world.

What's more, 92.7% of Indonesia's cocoa plantations are owned by members of local communities, with a farmer typically owning one hectare, according to the Indonesian Department of Agriculture.

In Central and East Java, those small farmers are finding partners in the Youth Cocoa Collector Association (Perkumpulan Pemuda Pengumpul Kakao/PPPK).

A fair price

Slamet Syah, 60, a cocoa farmer with a plantation of approximately two hectares in Salatiga, says PPPK always comes during harvest season.

"They give me a fair price. In December 2012, they bought cocoa seed for Rp 23,000 ($2.40)/kg," he told Khabar Southeast Asia.

Sugiarto, 28, a member of PPPK, said the association buys from local farmers in Salatiga, Yogyakarta, Malang, and Madiun.

"After collection, we make local food products such as chocolate bars and chocolate powder, and we sell it in various local markets," he said.

"We use the money to help our youth in Salatiga, to create more jobs, and help our farmers. Now we have nearly 400 youth members in Salatiga, 290 in Madiun, 35 in Malang, and 25 in Yogyakarta. We are all active producing."

Empowering women

Ninik Sugiarti, an activist in Salatiga, said that during the two years she has observed PPPK's activity, it has empowered many local women entrepreneurs as well as farmers.

"I applaud PPPK's idea to help locals in several cities in Central and East Java. There are really good in creating markets and encouraging people's entrepreneurial ability," she said.

"By collecting cocoa seed, they already help our cocoa farmers to market their product. Then, they open opportunities for women to make local food including cakes, pastries, and cocoa powder or bars. They later sell the product to local markets."

Asked how much such entrepreneurs can produce, Ninik said it depends on their ability and creativity.

"I would say an average member can easily get Rp.1.5 million ($ 155) per month. But there are also many families using this as an opportunity."

National goals, local efforts

Indonesia has recently launched an effort to increase and improve quality of its cocoa production nationwide, under the leadership of Agriculture Minister Suswono. East Kalimantan, North Sulawesi, Maluku, and Papua are the largest cocoa farming regions in Indonesia. Java has a small percentage.

Cocoa is a commodity with great potential for Indonesia, according to Supriyadi, a professor at Gadjah Mada University (UGM) in Yogyakarta.

"Cocoa has a good economic value in the state and overseas, and therefore, more research needs to be done on improving the production methods to create high quality chocolate," he said. "This is a good opportunity to improve our economy."

The PKKK is enabling people to access those opportunities at the local level. It has even set up a credit union, according to Andreas Daci, a participant active in Salatiga and Madiun.

"In case we have a new member and they do not have any money to invest in their new business, they can be part of the credit union. The foundation in the credit union is to help the member by borrowing money without any interest," he said.

Andreas said once the member is successful, that person is also responsible for helping others.

"We are trying to develop a good system of brotherhood in our community. Cocoa we have; cocoa we know; and cocoa we hope will lead to our success," he said.

Yenny Herawati in Madiun, East Java contributed to this article.

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