4 min read
She is transforming lives in farming communities through cacao.
How did you find yourself in the agriculture sector?
I grew up in Singapore, but as a child, I’d visit Indonesia and see kids my age begging at traffic lights. In this day and age, when we can put a man on the moon, why can’t we solve the issue of hunger?
My dad worked in the agriculture sector in Indonesia, and I became increasingly fascinated with agriculture and how something so rudimentary can be the answer to so many issues. He was, however, frustrated that Indonesia – given all its resources – still could not reach the level of success that other countries had. Initially, I felt that there was a production issue, and this was the lens with which I entered the sector.
As I delved deeper, however, I realised that production is often at a surplus. It became increasingly evident that agricultural income and food insecurity are critical systemic issues that need to be addressed across the value-chain. This is what we try to do at Krakakoa, working across the bean to bar value-chain to ensure sustainable and equitable outcomes for our farmers.
How are we addressing systemic issues in the agri-industry?
We strongly believe that identifying the right lead farmer – no matter where he or she is – is crucial in addressing these problems.
Pak Alex is our lead cacao farmer in Sulawesi. He lives in a very remote area, so to visit his farm, I would take a 4-hour drive on an unpaved path to get to a bridge, where someone will meet me with a bike. Phone signals on the road would be lost, so I would coordinate a time to meet beforehand, and even then wait a couple of hours before he arrives. After another hour-long bike ride, I would finally get to meet Pak Alex.
As a self-taught vegetable farmer, he has proven to be incredibly industrious and enterprising. He is able to receive Australian radio signals from his home in the mountains, and has taught himself to speak English fluently. In Krakakoa, we are conscientious in involving the farmers in the cacao-making process by holding and tasting the final product. So Pak Alex has also been experimenting with cacao fermentation cycles to make the chocolate taste better. So our farmers are very much involved in the product cycle.
Are you working on anything new now?
We have just launched the AgroForestry Management Unit (AFMU). The AFMU is a long-term one-stop shop for farmers to buy all sorts of inputs – from compost to seedlings -, visit a nursery and build skills at a training centre. There are always people onsite to answer farmers’ questions and a demonstration plot where we showcase an agroforestry model. Initially, we only trained farmers in organic cacao bean harvesting, but chose agroforestry because we recognise that it is better for biodiversity, risk-mitigation and management as farmers are no longer reliant on just one crop. I’m really excited that recently 12.7 million hectares of government land in Indonesia were committed to social forestry, which is perfect for agroforestry. If this is successful, we are going to replicate it.
What are your goals?
I want to produce food that is good for the environment, for the people who produce it, and for the people who consume it. We shouldn’t have to compromise on sustainability and equity to earn profits
But I know that this is not something that we can do alone no matter how big we grow. If we can showcase that “hey this idea works”, and inspire other people to adopt similar models, then that will be a success for me.
So what’s next?
On the business side of things, we want more people to understand what Krakakoa is and are trying to grow our brand awareness. We want to be a household name. We are starting to do blogs as well to show what we are doing behind the scenes, just to take people along the journey. In terms of increasing distribution and footprint, we are already in Europe and Japan, but we want to deepen our presence in international markets further. On the farmers’ side, we are looking forward to seeing how the AFMU develops!
Look through Krakakoa’s Deal Page and reach out if you wish to explore how you can collaborate to further their cause!