How a Local Sustainability Program is Helping to Lift Indonesian Smallholder Cocoa Producers out of Poverty
IFA: Why did you decide to set up Cocoa Care and choose to base it in Sulawesi?
N. Janetski: Community Solutions International has been operating in Sulawesi since 2009 working with cocoa farming families as a part of our Cocoa Paper business, we make a range of stationery products from waste cocoa tree bark, so it was a natural extension to set up Cocoa Care there too.
Through our Cocoa Paper work, we recognized Cocoa Farming families were really struggling to lift themselves out of extremely difficult situations and we saw an opportunity to help. Cocoa Care was created to allow any individual, company or organization in any part of the work to engage with Indonesian cocoa farming families and provide assistance with tools, materials, training and support to help these families onto a path toward a sustainable economic future.
IFA: What are the main challenges for cocoa producers worldwide?
N. Janetski: Low productivity is the biggest issue as it drives the economics of cacao farming as a sustainable agribusiness. Increasing productivity requires better trained farmers managing more professional farming operations that employ land in the most efficient way, with high productivity clonal cacao varieties, and applying good agricultural practices including pruning, efficient soil and water management practices, and the effective control of pests and diseases. Cacao farmers should manage more diverse farms with other crops or livestock to reduce dependence on one commodity.
Technology is another factor that could support the kind of increases in productivity that will be required to underpin a truly sustainable cocoa production system. As competition for arable land increases with rising demand for food and climate change imposes new challenges, it will be increasingly important to grow more cacao in more efficient ways on less land.
IFA: Can you put Indonesian cocoa farming in a global context – how does it compare to other regions?
N. Janetski : Indonesia has a rich history of cacao farming being one of the first places that cacao was grown outside of its origin countries in South America but it largely died off due to disease and the main African growing countries took over the lead.
Today, the Ivory Coast is by far the biggest producer with around 1.6 million T annual production of dry cacao “beans”, Ghana is second with 800,000 T production and Indonesia is third with currently around 350,000 T production. The total world production is 4 Million T.
Indonesian production peaked at over 600,000 T in 2006 and has declined since then due to the cumulative effects of poor farm management, ageing trees, declining soil fertility and the impacts of pests and diseases.
IFA: How can NGOs and the inputs sector better support cocoa producers in Indonesia and internationally?
N. Janetski : Historically, some NGOs tend to focus on short-term training programs as the key to driving change. Responsible sector stakeholders with a long-term view of the need to establish a truly sustainable cacao farming system will help farmers to get the knowledge they need, invest in resolving key issues of planting material quality and soil management practices and work together with communities and government to provide an enabling environment for development. This may require short term contractual relationships with farmers or farmer groups to support a viable commercial interaction, but should be aimed at overcoming short-term investment needs rather than creating a closed supply chain system.
There is a clear need for further investment in technology, particularly as it relates to land use, productivity and efficiency in consideration of best management practices for the environment, particularly water impact, and society.
Read more about Cocoa Care’s work in partnership with IPNI in IFA’s latest Fertilizers & Agriculture newsletter here.
About Noel Janetski:
Noel Janetski has been involved with cocoa and chocolate for more than 30 years, in research and development and various business development and management roles. He has lived in Indonesia for the past 18 years. He was instrumental in the development of one of the largest ongoing cocoa sustainability activities in Indonesia and a key driver in the formation of the Indonesian Cocoa Sustainability Partnership.
About Cocoa Care:
Cocoa Care is a scalable sustainability program aimed at raising the living standards and productivity of cocoa farmers in Sulawesi, Indonesia. Funded by private and institutional sponsors, it helps poor farming families achieve economic sustainability by providing up-to-date farm management techniques and community support.