Tuesday, 31 October 2017

New guidebook for cocoa farmers

An exciting new book, published by ACIAR and targeted at helping smallholder cocoa farmers in Indonesia, was launched at the Indonesian International Cocoa Symposium, held in Jakarta from 18th to 20th October 2017. The book, entitled Pengelolaan Tanaman Terpadu pada Kakao: Panduan bagi Petani (Integrated Crop Management of Cocoa: Guidebook for Farmers), was written by Agus Purwantara and Arief Iswanto, two of Indonesia's leading cocoa experts. Agus and Arief, who were present at the launch, have been stalwart collaborators in a succession of ACIAR Cocoa Projects in Indonesia since 2001. 

At the launch of the cocoa handbook, delighted authors Agus Purwantara (right) and Arief Iswanto (left), are flanked by researchers from the ACIAR cocoa project, David Guest and Peter McMahon, respectively.

Indonesia’s production of cocoa, starting from next-to-nothing in 1980, boomed over the following two decades, making the country the world’s third-largest producer of this commodity. The increase came mainly from new plantings in Sulawesi. However, production peaked in 2006 and has subsequently declined due to reduced soil fertility, over-shaded plantations and a build-up of pests and diseases. The publication of this guidebook comes at an opportune time, as the government of Indonesia seeks to encourage a comprehensive revival of the country’s cocoa industry. 
Mr.Teten Masduki, Presidential Chief of Staff of Indonesia, holds a copy of the cocoa handbook, personally delivered to the President’s office by author Arief Iswanto.
The book, which is beautifully illustrated with the authors’ own photographs, summarises in Bahasa Indonesia current knowledge of all aspects of cocoa production – from planting the seedlings and grafting them, through crop management, pest and disease control, harvesting, and processing to the dry bean stage. The book emphasizes the value of maintaining smaller trees so that all parts of the tree are easily accessible: healthy pods are harvested as soon as they are ripe, while diseased pods are  removed regularly and composted in situ, along with other waste products, in trenches dug between the rows of cocoa. This practice controls pests and diseases while maintaining soil fertility. True to its title, the book promotes the integration of cocoa production with the husbandry of ‘small ruminant’ livestock, especially goats, that can be fed on prunings from the cocoa and from leguminous shade trees such as Gliricidia. The need to feed the livestock provides a strong incentive for regular pruning in the plantation, while the sale of surplus animals for meat provides an extra source of income for smallholders.

The book has been well received in Indonesia and Arief has even delivered a copy directly to the President's office.

By Phil Keane, ACIAR Project Leader