Ibu Wonten and Pak Suripto are a smallholder coffee-farming couple that lives in Bendeng Tiga Village in the Gunung Raya highlands of OKU Selatan Regency, Indonesia. They managed to diversify and enhance the climate-resilience of their coffee farm. As a couple they turned around the ailing coffee production on their 2-ha farm. The approximately 3,000 coffee trees of varying ages produced so little coffee that the couple initially decided to grow vegetables instead of coffee. “At the time, we did not yet work effectively, and we could only focus on either the vegetables or the coffee, but not both.” Pak Suripto contends.
But that wasn’t all: Daily maximum temperatures in the southern part of the Indonesian Island of Sumatra have increased by about 1°C over the past 30 years. The amount of rainfall has decreased. Climate becomes hotter and drier. Un-predictable and more erratic rainfall are not only affecting coffee trees in the area but also increase diseases and make harvest difficult.
International Coffee Partners (ICP) launched together with The J. M. Smucker Company a project which includes activities to support local smallholder farmer families to become better equipped to deal with a hotter and maybe drier climate. The project, implemented by Hanns R. Neumann Stiftung (HRNS) actively supports and coaches farmers to experiment and trial with approaches and methods that are best adapted to their own farms.
In 2015, the farmer group that Pak Suripto was formally enrolled in and where Ibu Wonten actively takes part, joined the ICP project. Field officer Pak Padmo started training the members of the group on good agricultural practices associated with coffee husbandry, such as pruning, grafting, timely weeding, composting, the use of shade trees and inorganic fertilization among other things. The dynamic couple enthusiastically started experimenting with, and applying, more and more of the practices they had learned during the project trainings to their coffee trees. This quickly started to show positive results: in 2017, they harvested about 650 kg of green beans from their farm and in 2019, they have so far already harvested 1.6 t of green beans.
“Since we married, my life has changed.”
Both were widowed with a 9-year old daughter each when they got married in 2008. “Since we married, my life has changed”, Pak Suripto relates. “My former wife was a singer and not interested in farming, but this one” he adds, nodding affectionately at Ibu Wonten, “she is diligent and smart, and every year our income from the farm increases.”
They realized that working closely together in a coordinated manner, they could now manage both good coffee and good vegetable cultivation. Over the past four years, they have diversified and integrated their production incorporating a variety of different cash, subsistence and service crops. Last year, Pak Suripto dug a few small ponds across the farm that they now use to irrigate the vegetables during dry spells. They have stocked these ponds with small fish for household consumption, while the slurry from the bottom of these ponds provides good fertilizer for the vegetables.
Sitting cross-legged on a mat in their wooden house, Pak Suripto lightheartedly concedes to his wife.
“It happens naturally. We do everything t ogether. If I prohibited her to work, she would get angry, it would be a mess!”, Pak Suripto laughs.
Last year, the couple managed to pay for Pak Suripto’s father to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca, and this year, “Thank God, we have been able to pay off all of our debts and owe no more money anywhere” Pak Suripto elaborates. Instead, the couple have even started putting money into a savings scheme run by their local, project-established cooperative.
As now, with the warming climate and increasingly erratic rainfall, the couple still wants to test and pioneer new approaches to better climate-proof their farm. Much of the soil between crops is still not sufficiently covered to protect it from heavy rain or hot temperatures, for example. Hopefully all of this will allow them to continue productive and profitable farming long into the future. “I want my daughter to be a farmer. Being a farmer means she can be independent. But she should be a modern farmer, where she manages the farm, where she is the think tank about new innovative approaches, and where she can hire people for the labour”, Pak Suripto reflects.