I’d love to tell you we had some grand master plan for starting here. Although, if I (Kim) could pick my favorite cuisine, Indonesian food is near the top! And now, of course, I’ve fallen in love with the people too.
The reality is I had been looking for a way to learn the “ground realities of cocoa farmers” for about six months before a door opened – in Indonesia. I’m extremely grateful to Yusuf Saleh and Thomas Jasman of BT Cocoa Care for welcoming a strange American woman to shadow their efforts for over a month. My time with them coincided with Indonesia’s Cocoa Sustainability Partnership’s (CSP) efforts to develop a roadmap to sustainably double cocoa production by 2020. So, it was a wonderful opportunity to see not only the farmer realities, but also spend an additional two months learning the industry realities at a national and Asia-regional level. Through the series of meetings and working groups (special thanks to my now friend, Rini Indrayanti, CSP’s Executive Director for allowing me to participate), I met many new friends and had the opportunity to see first-hand the amazing work being done in farming communities by several CSP stakeholders including VECO Indonesia, Swisscontact, ACDI/VOCA (no longer active in Indonesia), Rainforest Alliance and Mars, Inc.
Upon my return home, there were two pictures ingrained in my mind over these first few months. One was a picture of Ruse – the first female cocoa farmer I ever met. She showed me the most abundant tree ready for harvest!
The second was baby cocoa trees intercropped with corn. The vulnerability of the trees and the reality of the community needing immediate productivity from the land really struck me. This photo remained my computer’s screen saver for the next year. Little did I know that one year later it would be this very group that welcomed me back to try some cocoa product “experiments.”