"This kind of disaster last happened over thirty years ago," says CCA regional advisor Milo Casals. In January, South Sulawesi farmers were hit by a massive typhoon which wiped out 60% of their passion fruit trees.
Co-op farmers in this remote corner of Indonesia had been enjoying bumper yields for the past three years through a joint venture bewteen CCA and an Indonesian NGO called LP3M. Yields were up from two to four kilos per tree since introducing new farming techniques which include technical guidance in governing seed selection, organic fertilizing, watering, pruning, harvesting and handling the fruits and monitoring progress. By improving and standardizing farming practices the yields have been truly exceptional.
The project is also assisting the co-op to diversify and market their products,"Farmers traditionally sell fruit to traders but our project has taught them to produce both pulp from the fruit and juice from the pulp. The co-op facilitates direct sales to several processors who need increasing supplies for their juice exports to Jakarta and Bali" explains Milo.
With two thirds of their trees destroyed, co-op farmers are replanting with help from the provincial government. The government was so impressed with the support farmers received from the project it has sent agriculture technicians to the project to learn the systems and approach with a view to replicating this across the province. This is a great endorsement and recognition of the project's value. Larger yields combined with marketing through the co-op has enabled higher than average market prices which translates into revenue for farmers. While Milo says yields for this year's harvest will be significantly lower, farmers have learned a valuable lesson and are building reserves to at least cover the cost of planting materials.
"Replanting of uprooted trees has started but production is still not back to pre-calamity levels. Unfortunately, it often takes a setback of this magnitude to impart the importance of risk management and protection," he says. "Risk is difficult to teach because it is abstract and not easy to explain. We all tend to learn the hard way."
The new seedlings will bear fruit in about seven months.
Read the full story and see photos of the project here
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