22 Oktober 2020

Cooperative as an Economic Vehicle for Better Livelihood

Fernando discussion small txtFernando Maruli Haruan is the manager of Marsada Cooperative at Hutaimbaru village, Sipirok Regency of North Sumatra. Previously he was a conservation staff at PETRA, a local NGO working on issues of environmental and economic development in North Sumatra. Fernando helps PETRA to provides assistance for local cacao farmers in Sipirok areas.

Nando, as he usually called, is asked to manage community cooperative. His primary tasks will be to manage the cooperative in terms of human resources capacity building, management of cacao production in tterms of maintaining quality and quantity, standardizing the cooperative administration and cacao marketing.

Marsada Cooperative is developed in response to and following up the successful project to increase the cacao production in terms of quality and quantity in Hutaimbaru and the surrounding villages and initial market networking developed through PETRA’s assistance. The project, which is part of the Batang Toru forest block protection is supported by TFCA-Sumatera trough its first grant cycle.

Marsada Cooperative itself seeks to spread the spirit of co-operative in the village community. The cooperative is managed professionally as of a public corporation without negating the concept of people-based economy. Besides receiving benefits from the developed production and marketing, the cooperative members also receive annual returns from their shares to the cooperative.

The cooperative has conducted community (participatory) mapping to determine farmer’s power on supply of the commodity and the actual market price. There are several large exporting companies of cocoa beans and coffee approached to engage in cooperation with the cooperative. These include PT. Olam Indonesia and PT. Cocoa Ventures Indonesia. The companies welcome this prospective cooperation as long as farmers are supplying standardized products. In this regard the companies and PETRA will be able to assist farmers to meet the corporation’s standards.

kakao untuk dijualPrior to the establishment of the cooperative, farmers found difficulties to manage post-harvest activities. Farmers were trapped in trading with usurer or money lender in which the farmers had to sell the products to them with unreasonably low price. The cooperative offers a more competitive price and fair benefits sharing. The cooperative also provides comprehension that farmers should have been able to receive much more benefits by selling process products which have higher value. Cooperative Marsada educates the members to obtain understanding that cooperative roles are not just to buy their products with reasonable price, but can also provide knowledge and skills on the best practices of cocoa cultivation. Therefore, cooperative does certainly give added value to the local farmers.

Decisions made in cooperative meeting forum stating that cooperative should not be acting as middlemen or agent has further strengthened the spirit of the cooperative management to continue to fight price distortion for its members. The expectation of the members is that the cooperative must be able to act as price controller for the weekly sale of around one ton of cacao beans.

To capitalize and expand their bargaining power, Marsada Cooperative attempts to disseminate information about the missions of the cooperative in every village meetings and expand its membership to 5 priority villages: Marsada village, Luak Lombang, Buluh Mario, Aek Latong, and Simajambu village.

As the manager of the cooperative, Fernando showed a fairly high dedication to the advancement of the cooperative. He went back and forth from Padangsidempuan to Marsada village for the the cooperative to grow. He seems to enjoy his job. Looking at happy faces of farmers who receive high cocoa prices make him more than happy.

In the near future, the cooperative will be projected to become vehicle to increase the people’s income as well as learning resources center for the community. Knowledge will be sought together and shared to increase farmers’ productivity.

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