Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Tanggamus Farmers Turns to Agroforestry

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  • TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - For Suratman, weekends are not the time to rest. The 51-year-old from the Sinar Jawa village, Lampung, prefers to spend his weekends with his colleagues, all heads of farmers groups in the Tanggamus Regency. On a Saturday at the end of July, the farmers attended coffee quality standardization training organized by the Konsorsium Kotaagung Utara (North Kotaagung ConsortiumKorut), a local organization.

    At the event, Korut’s team told the farmers that an exporter had offered to send Tanggamus farmers’ coffee to Russia. Suratman found the offer enticing. He claims to be undaunted, although his farmers' group must first improve the quality of their Robusta coffee before they can export. "This is simply a great hope for us, [so that we can] advance," said the head of the Sidodadi Farmers Group.

    Suratman feels that the farmers’ eagerness to market their coffee is not yet proportionate to the consistency of their product’s quality, for example, in the use of fertilizer as well as the insecticide. Until today, his farmer's group has never used any kind of fertilizer to nourish the soil and encourage plant growth. Besides not having the fund, the regional government has not given any type of assistance to the farmers, including fertilizer.

    Meanwhile, the farmers' group with 738 members cannot yet produce organic fertilizer. But, said Suratman, the opportunity to export has given his group the motivation to improve. In August, his colleagues began learning how to produce organic fertilizer as well as fermentation techniques meant to enhance the flavor of their coffee, sold under the label "Sonokeling." "We’ve asked Korut’s help to train us to do this," he said.

    But Suratman and his colleagues’ homework does not only concern quality, but also quantity. They must think of ways to improve their coffee yield because the exporter is requesting 18 tons every two months. Suratman feels that the demand is not easy to meet because in the last two years, the yield of his farmers' group has plummeted due to changes in the climate.

    Before, the farmers were able to produce 1,500 tons annually, but now they can only produce 50 tons from the total 2,306 hectares of land owned by Sidodadi farmers, with Suratman himself owning 2.5 hectares. Meanwhile, ground coffee is sold to middlemen at Rp21,000-23,000 per kilogram.

    Even so, Suratman feels fortunate because Sidodadi relies on more than just coffee. On the same land, the farmers are also developing agroforestry, growing pepper, cacao, durian, nutmeg and candlenut, among others. "With agroforestry, we’re creating alternative earnings so that we don’t only rely on coffee."

    According to Fajar Sumantri, Korut program coordinator, Sidodadi is among the more successful groups of the 30 farmers groups in Tanggamus assisted by the organization. In 2017, the group won the Wana Lestari Award given by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry because the group was considered to have succeeded in altering perceptions of forest utilization, from "exploitation" to "preservation." "They now show concern for conservation efforts," said Fajar.

    Read more inspiring Outreach stories in Tempo English Weekly Magazine