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In Indonesia: Working until we’re no longer needed

In September, LWR wrapped up a 20-month project in the area of Lintong in North Sumatra, Indonesia. We were there working with coffee farmers to increase the quantity and quality of their coffee production and to get better prices for their beans. The project had gone well, together we’d increased coffee productivity by 50% through trainings on improved coffee farming and post-harvest handling. However, it wasn’t until we held our project closing workshop that I realized something within the farmers had changed.

In the workshop, we met with our local partner, Yayasan Orangutan Sumatera Lestari – Orangutan Information Center (YOSL-OIC), local government officials, farmers in the project, as well various departments related to agriculture, farmers and forestry. The goal of the workshop was to review how the project had gone and officially hand the management of the farmers group, which was established through the project, to the members of the cooperative.

Farmers participating in the project meet to evaluate their progress.

We include local government officials in this process to demonstrate their continued support for the farmers group and the activities initiated in the project. However, if farmers do not express a desire to engage with their local government during these meetings, it’s hard to tell if there will be meaningful collaboration after our involvement in the project ends.

I have participated in many of these types of workshops before, and often we receive questions from the farmers and cooperative about whether we are willing to extend the project. But surprisingly that was not the case at this workshop. When we asked if there were any questions, comments, or concerns for us at the end of the meeting,  the farmers had many – but not for us! Instead they had plenty of questions for the government officials.

The farmers were eager to establish a direct working relationship with their local government, cutting us out of the equation. The farmers and officials energetically discussed the group’s capacity, future plans and needs for growth, and the procedures necessary for the farmers to avail themselves of the government’s agriculture support programs. Watching the exchange, I began to feel a  little left out, but not in a bad way. In fact, I’ve never been so happy to be left out! After all, isn’t that the ultimate goal of any humanitarian organization – to not be needed anymore?

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This path has been cleared at one of the farms in the project, so that vegetables can be planted. Growing vegetables gives farmers an extra source of income and food for their households.

The farmers had learned everything we hoped they would. And they seem to have transformed their new knowledge into the skills and confidence they will need to effectively interact with government officials and truly take ownership of their future livelihoods. This is an excellent sign. With the farmers’ determination and the local officials’ receptiveness that I witnessed at this workshop, I am confident that the work of this project will continue to move forward, and continue to improve the livelihood of farmers in Lintong for years to come.

Thank you for supporting LWR in its work to create lasting change in the lives of farmers living in poverty around the world!

 



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