Bright waves of orange and black broke the green landscape on this sunny day in Tani Madiri Village. I had arrived just in time for the ceremony and celebration called “Commitment for the Future,” and had a front row seat. Eight teens – four gals and four guys – were performing at traditional harvest dance as the community was opening its first cocoa nursery, in hopes of rehabilitating their aging cocoa plants.
Tani Madiri, Sulawesi, Indonesia. It’s been well researched that agriculture can constitute an important pathway out of poverty for the rural poor, and Indonesia is no exception. Still, 70% of the world’s poor live in rural areas, and in the past 20 years in Indonesia, there has been a steady decline in agricultural employment. However, on my recent trip to Indonesia, farmers like Haji Lagu told me that “what cocoa I plant now is for the next generation, not for me.”
I spent two weeks travelling in Central Sulawesi in November, and was most impressed by the intergenerational nature of the cocoa sustainability programs that Mars supports. At Tani Mandiri, the entire village was present for the inauguration of a new nursery. The community had named their new cocoa nursery ”C4F / Commitment for the Future.”
At Tani Madiri the village was looking forward to a future in cocoa farming, a future in which attention to higher producing cocoa plants, practicing greater care in farming, the reduction of harmful pesticides, and accessing markets via certification could mean increased yields, knowledge, income, and better livelihoods.
The ribbon cutting ceremony to inaugurate the new cocoa nursery at Tani Madiri Village in Central Sulawesi.
Mars has supported the C4F project at Tani Madiri with minimal materials (a plastic tarp for the roof of the nursery and bags to hold the seedlings). The farmers supplied the nails, wood, and physical effort to build the greenhouse. The result? The first plant nursery in the village, and a 75% reduction in the cost of high-yielding clonal seedlings for farmers.
I found this story to be true in many of the communities that we visited. In more cases than not, Mars provided some start-up capital, a loan, or simple materials. And according to farmers, more importantly we provided the knowledge, technical expertise, and accompaniment over time so that farmers could learn best practices in cocoa grafting, planting, fertilizing, and controlling pests and disease. By increasing their yields and the quality of their cocoa, farmers have been able to secure buyers and to sell their certified cocoa at 50% higher prices.
Haji Lagu was so enthusiastic about the future in farming that he has sent his son to study agronomy in the capital city of Makassar, and his son is looking forward to returning to the village to run his family’s cocoa farm.
Although Haji’s story is just one, it is am important reminder about the willpower of farmers to change their future. In Tani Madiri, with small investments in community agronomy trainings, villagers have been motivated to plant better quality cocoa, invest in their farms, create rural employment, bring education to their children, and envisage a brighter future for their families.