Andi Asri is a cocoa doctor in Awo Village, south Sulawesi, Indonesia. The first time I met Andi was in Dec 2012 at the first “Best Cocoa Village Center Competition” in CDC Tarengge. Compared with other cocoa doctors, who were quite nervous talking to the audience, Andi’s interactive and relaxed way of presenting his CVC impressed all of us.
As we were preparing for a video interview about successful CVCs, Andi’s name came to my mind automatically. Once again, Andi surprised us: he not only shared his knowledge and experience in running a successful CVC, but also touched us with his passion and dedication to helping other cocoa farmers.
Andi joined the Mars sustainable cocoa program in 2010. It all started from a visit to the Mars CDC in Tarengge, and he was impressed by what he saw at the demonstration farm. For instance, pruning was a completely new concept to Andi at that time, because he used to believe the more leaves the tree has, the more yield it will give. Seeing the significant difference between the rehabilitated trees and control group, Andi realized that there’s huge potential for not only his cocoa farms, but for his neighbors in his village. Andi immediately registered for the Mars CVC program.
The course at the CDC was not easy, consisting of intensive lecture, discussion and practice. The morning class started at 8am and evening class at 7pm. Sometimes, because everyone would get so involved, the evening class would last to 2am.
The training took about one month. In April 2010, Andi passed the final exam and became a “Cocoa Doctor.” Mars continuously supports all cocoa doctors, providing free seedlings of the best cocoa clones, materials to build his cocoa nursery, and ongoing support on difficult cases. Andi just couldn’t wait any longer to start his own village cocoa center and share what he learned at the CDC.
“I was touched and convinced by the demo farm, so the first thing I wanted to do when I came back home was to change mine into a demo farm, “ Andi said at the interview, “so that I will be able to convince more people, to tell them that change is possible.” Andi made it. After one year of hard work, the yield of his farm increased from 400kg/Ha to 1.8 ton/Ha! When asked if he was happy about the yield, to our surprise, Andi shook his head, “I was expecting 2 ton/ Ha. The newly grafted trees need some more time. Come to visit me next year and I promise that you will see my farm at 2 ton/ Ha.”
Andi’s farm became the hit in his village. Neighbors came and visited his farm and were inspired by the potential of cocoa. Followed by the “Wow” effect, villagers asked Andi to teach them how to rehabilitate their farms.
“I knew how happy I was when I saw progress in my farm, because that’s the most important thing to the farmer.” Andi said, “I want others to see progress, and I enjoy helping them — and in return they also pay for my service!” Besides the technical package, Andi learned the business package at the CDC, which also helped him a lot in running his CVC. Andi started introducing side grafting to villagers, bringing in better planting materials through selling seeding and offering grafting service. As the villagers’ needs increased, Andi built his first cocoa nursery.
Andi is very happy about his business, “In 2012, my annual income was about 9000 USD, and 79% was from selling seedling.” His customers were also happy about the results, because on average, they increased their yield from 200 Kg/Ha to 800 Kg/Ha, and they expect to see more increases in the future.
Andi has some good plans for using the money. He renovated his father-in-law’s house and reinvested in his business. Right now, with the help from CDC, Andi is expanding his business to fertilizer and agricultural tools, to fulfill his customers’ needs.
I brought some chocolate for Andi when we finished the interview. “Chocolate made in US!” Andi gave us a big smile in the camera. As he shared the chocolate with his family and friends, Andi continued, “and you know what, they are using cocoa beans from my farm!”