More than Coffee: Working Towards Diversified Farming Systems

Written By:Jesko Johannsen
Date:13 May 2024
Theme:Social Situation
Coffee Farmers Indonesia

More than Coffee: Working Towards Diversified Farming Systems

In the fertile expanse of OKU Selatan, nestled within the lush landscapes of South Sumatra, Indonesia, coffee cultivation stands as the backbone of local agriculture. The partnership between The J.M. Smucker Company and Hanns R. Neumann Stiftung (HRNS) since 2016 has been instrumental in empowering local farmers. Roughly 16,000 families have benefited from this collaboration, gaining access to valuable knowledge and resources aimed at fostering sustainable agricultural practices that enhance productivity and safeguard the environment.

Initially, HRNS focused on improving coffee cultivation techniques. The program began with basic agronomic practices such as pruning and fertilization, crucial for determining yield quality. As farmers mastered these essential skills, HRNS introduced more advanced methodologies like cultivating cover crops to replace herbicides and establishing robust nursery setups for grafting superior coffee varieties onto resilient rootstock. Moreover, the formation of cooperatives empowered farmers, enabling them to negotiate better prices for their produce and access commercial loans, thereby strengthening the economic viability of coffee farming.

However, relying solely on coffee cultivation exposes farmers to market fluctuations and climate variability. To mitigate these risks, HRNS advocates for diversification as a cornerstone for sustainable production and income stability.

The fertile terrain of South Sumatra offers an ideal setting for cultivating a diverse array of crops alongside coffee. While some farmers have already embraced diversification, HRNS supports these efforts by imparting knowledge to optimize multi-crop yields. Black pepper, Javanese long pepper, avocados, and Areca nuts are among the favored crops, interplanted amidst coffee bushes. These crops not only diversify income streams but also promote biodiversity and soil vitality.

Nevertheless, diversification presents challenges. Each crop requires careful attention to its unique requirements, including shade management, watering, and pest control. HRNS provides tailored guidance, conducts farm visits, and fosters collaborative problem-solving to address these challenges.

Post-harvest care and market access are crucial aspects of diversified farming. HRNS collaborates with farmer groups and cooperatives to enhance knowledge on quality standards and marketing strategies. Infrastructure such as solar dryers benefits not only coffee but also other crops. By connecting with urban markets, cooperatives enable farmers to obtain higher returns on diversified produce.

The transition to diversified farming promises sustained vitality and productivity. Monthly incomes replace the reliance on annual coffee harvests, providing financial resilience. HRNS remains committed to supporting farmers in their pursuit of sustainable, diversified livelihoods.

Looking ahead, the project supported by The J.M. Smucker Company aims to establish nurseries with farmer cooperatives, propagating fruit tree seedlings. This will yield additional income streams, furthering the journey towards holistic agricultural sustainability.

In the verdant hills of South Sumatra, coffee cultivation embodies stewardship and resilience. Through the efforts of stakeholders like The J.M. Smuckers Company and HRNS, diversified farming systems enrich both livelihoods and landscapes.