Papuan Organic Cocoa Stories from Berap Village

goodmorningpapua.com – Its name is Kampung Berap, located in Nimbokrang District, two hours by car from Jayapura City, Papua. For a long time, one of the mainstay crops of this village has been cocoa or chocolate. They grow organically.

For residents of Jayapura, this village is better known as Kali Biru. Kali Biru is the name of the river that flows in the village area. Upstream in the Lykano hills which are still covered in green forests, clear water forms a bluish-green river flow. This place is always crowded on the weekends. The attraction of Berap village is not only in Blue River. Here, there is an organic chocolate farm that residents continue to maintain.

Chocolate was first introduced in this region by the Dutch Government. In the 1960s, when Papua was still under Dutch control, the Berap and surrounding areas were known as Genyem. Genyem is the capital of Onderafdeling Nimboran. Onderafdeling Nimboran was under Afdeling Hollandia which is now known as Jayapura. Cocoa planting is one of the village economic programs. Chocolate cultivation continues to this day. They breed cocoa with seeds from locally grown fruit, and are nurtured for without fertilizers and pesticides.

They survive in this way amidst the government’s incessant promotion of shoot grafting techniques. The shoot grafting technique uses local plants as rootstocks which are connected with superior seeds as scions. This method is to increase production. In addition to bringing in superior seeds, the government also helps farmers with fertilizers. Yet, farmers in Berap are more confident in their own experience. Japheth’s couple Joshua and Elisabeth Tarkuo also share the same opinion. Although it takes longer to bear fruit, the age of organic chocolate production by planting seeds, as stated by them,  is longer.

Cocoa plants that have grown for decades and are still producing make them believe that organic farming is better. Soil conditions are fertile enough to produce good brown fruit. If they use fertilizer for them, it will only create a new dependency. There are about 165 households in this village. They belong to five clans, namely Kasse, Buwe, Tarkuo, Yoshua, Manggo. Each clan controls customary land with boundaries that have been known for generations. Each household planted on the clan land.

With Jafet and their daughter, Imelda, they saw their cocoa garden on the edge of the village. In this three-hectare garden, chocolate does not grow alone, there are various plants. There are bananas, wax vegetables, areca nut, durian, taro to corn. Some bear fruit, some are just planted. Due to the intercropping system, the spacing can be four to seven meters. Other plants serve as protection from the sun’s heat, especially during the early stages of growth.

For him, the best cocoa seeds come from the fruit that grows on the stem. Ripe fruit peels are opened, closed again and placed on the ground or wood to rot and sprout. It will take about five days for this process. When it has germinated, put the seeds into the prepared planting hole.

In the belief of the local community, the star fruit tree trunk is specifically for making holes to plant cocoa. This type of tree was chosen because of the way it bears fruit like chocolate. When making holes, they hope that the chocolate will be as thick as forest starfruit. It takes two to three years to bear fruit. Sunlight and sufficient water content in the soil and humus around the tree, is sufficient to produce good fruit. Tricks that Yafet usually uses include not injuring the brown roots during cleaning and not pruning the tree when the flowers are ready to grow.

Chocolate bears fruit all season long. Almost every month residents can harvest cocoa with varying results depending on the number of trees. In the yard of the house, residents seemed to be drying cocoa beans. Even though it looks dry, Miriam Manggo still hangs the cocoa beans in the sun. The less water content, the better the price. Miriam tells the story, there are about 20 cocoa trees that are bearing fruit. These trees are about nine years old. When it is not the main harvest season, the fruit is few. However, he said, every month can always be harvested.

Chocolate buyers come to the village, they are from Kakao Kita. Kakao Kita, a business unit of the Village Community Development Foundation (YPMD). YPMD was founded in 1984, this institution was first led by George Junus Aditjondro. Their two main programs with the community are strengthening the economy and clean water infrastructure. This institution regularly publishes research and magazines under the name Kabar from the Village (KdK).

Until now, under the leadership of Decky Rumaropen, YPMD continues to work on strengthening the community’s economy in Papua. Under the banner of Kakao Kita, YPMD is developing the organic chocolate trade. When they arrived at Berap Village, the Kakao Kita team went straight to Yafet Joshua’s house. The house has been designated as a weighing station in Berap Village. One by one the people gathered. They brought chocolate with them. The amount varies, all in the form of dry seeds. After most of the residents had gathered, the weighing began. Our Cocoa Team first measured the water content. A handful of cocoa beans is taken and put into the measuring instrument.

The moisture content was recorded, the sample was returned to its container, and then weighed. The farmer’s name, moisture content, cocoa bean weight, and date of purchase were recorded on a piece of paper duct tape, then taped to the cocoa bean container.

After all the cocoa beans are weighed, then the payment is made. Dried chocolate with moisture content above 5% was purchased for Rp. 29,000 per kilogram. The water content of 5%, 4%, and 3%, respectively, is Rp. 30,000, Rp. 31,000, and Rp. 32,000 per kilogram. The less water content, the higher the price.

One by one the farmers received the money. Some of the proceeds from their sales are savings. Farmers are free to determine the amount of savings. Kakao Kita and the farmers in collaboration with BPR Phidectama Abepura make the saving program a part of this chocolate trade. The Kakao Kita team then transported the cocoa beans to their warehouse in Kehiran, Sentani.

Chocolate consumers in Jayapura are increasing with the existence of Café Kakao Kita in 2018. At this café, Jayapura residents can enjoy various processed chocolates. Then other distributors also marketed, among others, Sumber Makmur, KFC Galeal, Figure of Kue Harum Sari, and Kafe Kombi.

Now, Papuan chocolate is increasingly recognized in the international world after participating in various competitions. Recently, the Korean market is also interested in Papuan chocolate. In the midst of the huge market interest in organic chocolate from Papua, challenges arise such as the decreasing number of young people interested in agriculture, to the problem of climate change which makes the harvest season uncertain.

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