In the farmers’ eyes, a beautiful cocoa tree is the one with high yield. The lady in the picture who is happily harvesting her beautiful cocoa tree, her name is Astuty. With over 13-year experience of growing cacao, she carefully takes care of her cocoa farm of 2 hectors. But back to 3 years ago, those cocoa trees caused her sleepless nights.
3 years ago, Astuty’s farm was infested with CPB (Cocoa Pod Borer), which is a mosquito-sized moth, rotted the cocoa pods from inside out. CPB almost ruined her entire farm, leaving a yield of less than 50Kg. Facing the challenge of feeding her 6 children and sending them to school, the old lady was totally depressed.
She was thinking of cutting down all her trees and planting some other crops, when she heard the news that someone from SwissContact is hosting field schools in her village. “Let’s give it a last try,” Astuty attended one introduction meeting, “I want to see what they can do for my farm.”
Swisscontact is a development organization of the Swiss private sector that provides support to entrepreneurial individuals in developing countries. In 2010, a partnership between Mars and Swisscontact was setup, where Mars supports Swisscontact with the establishment of CDC/CVC and train the projects trainers, in the Province of Aceh, Indonesia. And based on years of experience in Indonesia, Mars also advises Swisscontact on the selection and propagation of superior clonal material and cost effective technology transfer systems such as Farmer Field Schools.
When recalled, Astuty said to join the field school for rehabilitation was probably the brightest decision her made. “All the villagers knew what CPB has done to my farm. If the school can teach me something to change my farm, then it must can change anyone else’s.”
Astuty attended the training course where she learned grafting, pruning, applying fertilizer, and other useful skills, which all aim at increasing her yield. She applied the skill and knowledge she learned into her farm, e.g. revitalized the ageing cocoa trees by applying side grafting, In contrast to most cocoa farmers’ common belief of having more leaves on the trees, frequent pruning provides an open canopy and less humidity for the cacao trees, which helps reduce CPB greatly. “Honestly speaking, I didn’t have much confidence for my farm at that time”, said Astuty, “none of us in my village has done anything like pruning before. I desperately wanted a rehabilitated farm, but I am not sure if I would success or not.”
Astuty’s farm quickly responded her hard work. She not only saved her farm, but also rehabilitated it into a better one. “before the infection, I used to achieve a yield of 60Kg per hector every week, but now the yield has increased to 90 -140 Kg per hector per week. “ The income from the farm supported her family daily expense, as well as paid 2 of her children’s education in university.
The rehabilitation of her farm impressed her neighbors from her village and villages nearby, they all asked Astuty for her
guidance. She is more than glad to share: each Friday is the scheduled training day to hold lectures, and on Saturday and Sundays she is on her way to visit their farms and offers onsite support.
On Dec 2012, Ibu Astuty was invited to represent other farmers in Aceh to speak in front of global cocoa stakeholders in the cocoa sustainability partnership general assembly meeting in Makassar. When asked about her children, Astuti answered with a smiled, “my oldest daughter has just graduated. She is young and beautiful and knows how to use computer. I guess there are some young boys good for her sitting here today,” the audience laughed. “what does she do?” someone from the audience asked. “She’s now working in a cocoa trading company, for her love of cocoa.” Said Astuty with her proud.
At the end of her speech, Ibu Astuti shared with us a song wrote by her self
Listen Here: Astuti’s Song of Cacao