The Talang Kemuning village in Kerinci, Jambi, Indonesia is like a meat ball in a bowl. The village is located in the middle of a “natural bowl” formed by the hills surrounding it. There are hills with names as Pematang Panjang, Bukit Sungai, Sungai Kering, Bukit, Pulau Lebar, ... They all stretch out like a circle around the village. This particular shape makes the hills look like a natural fortress. It contains a natural treasury where the farmers' income comes from: cinnamon trees.
Talang Kemuning Village is part of Bukit Kerman subdistrict, which belongs to Kerinci district, in the Jambi Province in Indonesia. It lies in a mountainous area, about 500 meters above sea level. Kerinci mountain, one of the most important landmarks in this province is more than 3.000 meters high. Kerinci Lake is around 4.200 hectares wide.
The distance between Talang Kemuning and Jambi City, capital of the Jambi Province is about 400 km and equals to 8 hours travelling by car. But, Kerinci is closer to Padang, capital of West Sumatera, which is about 250 km or 6 hours travelling by car.
Located in a cool area with average temperatures around 10°C, Kerinci is the center of cinnamon production in Indonesia, or even in the world. Its cinnamon production covers about two-thirds of the total volume of cinnamon produced worldwide.
In 2012, The Kerinci District Government counted a production of about 53.000 tonnes of cinnamon in the district. This production stretched out on 41.000 hectares of cinnamon forest.
Indeed, cinnamon fields in Kerinci look like forest rather than farming field. For generations, cinnamon trees have grown on the slope of the hill as it surrounds the village of Talang Kemuning. However, local farmers do not always apply proper management.
Last month, when I went to Kerinci and met the local farmers, they shared their stories about the cinnamon. This expensive commodity is not well developed. They just plant the cinnamon and then leave the plantation to go work outside of their villages as migrant workers in Malaysia or Singapore. After 10-15 years, they return to their village and harvest the cinnamon.
From each tree of cinnamon, farmers can harvest around 200-400 kg of wet cinnamon. Then, the cinnamon is dried in order to obtain a water percentage of 30%, until they are ready to sell to buyers. The price is about IDR 12.000 (1,05 USD) to IDR 14.000 (1,23 USD). One tree of cinnamon could be IDR 2,5 million (219 USD) worth. One farmer with around 1-4 hectares of land could get about 500 trees of cinnamons each hectare.
As an example, a local farmer sold his 4 hectares of cinnamon for IDR 350 million (30,668 USD). After the post harvesting process, they can sell it for IDR 700 million (65717 USD)! Local cinnamon production thus explains the comparative wealth of these farmers, compared to other provinces such as East Nusa Tengarra.
Despite this great potential, local farmers still face severe obstacles such as lack of bargaining posi-tion and post harvesting techniques.
To overcome these challenges, VECO Indonesia is supporting the farmer organisation Tani Sakti Alem Kerinci (TAKTIK) together with the local NGO Mitra Aksi. The aim is to improve farmer’s capacities in terms of organization, production, and post harvesting processes.
The program includes components such as ICS training, exchange visit, intercropping programmes, etc. Farmers will learn about internal control systems (ICS) from processing until marketing. Ex-change visits will be organized between local farmers visiting other farmers organizations in Java in order to learn more about organic agriculture and business plans.
Nowadays, farmers are applying intercropping in their farming systems. This is part of VECO Indonesia program. Farmers are cultivating horticultural products such as chilli and tomato to obtain a secure income while waiting for cinnamon harvesting. In this way, they head towards sustainable farming systems in the Kerinci region. [Anton Muhajir]