​​​​​​​​United by Coffee: Learning about Coffee Cultivation at Its Origin

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    ​​​​With average production​ of 685 thousand tons per year or 8.9% of the world's total, Indonesia is the third largest coffee producing country in the world, after Brazil and Vietnam. Being aware of this and the fact that coffee as a commodity has a role in promoting the welfare of communities around the forests, Conservation International (CI) Indonesia aims to provide capacity building for coffee farmers of North Sumatra Province through its Sustainable Landscapes Partnership (SLP) program.

    Ludi Antoni Damanik, Leader of Namanis Farmers Group of Pematang Sidamanik Village, Pematang Sidamanik Sub-District, Simalungun District, one of CI's target villages, explained, "Our coffee production and quality are much better now. It's because of CI's continuous support for our village." In the past 3 (three) years, Starbucks has regularly made visits to the village for their annual Origin Experience Trip. The purpose is to let Starbucks 'partners' (employees) gain experience and knowledge about how coffee is cultivated - from planting, caring of crops, harvesting, grinding to marketing - by visiting coffee plantations.

    This year, the trip took them to Huta Ginjang Village, Muara Sub-District, North Tapanuli District. The village was chosen because of its proximity to the processing plant of PT. Sumatra Specialty Coffee - Starbucks' green beans supplier. The company also partners up with CI to purchase coffee beans from CI's target farmers.

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    ​​​​Welseng Simareme, Acting Chief of Hutaginjang Village, Muara Sub-District, North Tapanuli District said, "After three years [the trips were done] in Simalungun, this year, our village becomes a visited target to this trip."

    Prior to the trip, CI and Asosiasi Petani Kopi Aman Terpadu (ASPEKAT) informed the locals of the Starbucks' visits and what activities they would be doing. One hundred Starbucks partners from the Asia-Pacific region made two visits on 22 March and 29 March 2016, respectively.

    The first visit began at 2 pm with a prayer and opening remarks by the local government, CI, and Starbucks. The first day activities focused around coffee farming experience. Fifty participants from Starbucks, plus members of ASPEKAT, were divided into four groups to mix with the farmers to grow coffee and shade tree, as well as trim and harvest coffee.

    ​​​​​The second visit focused around coffee nurseries in Tapian Nauli Hamlet, Huta Ginjang Village. Starbucks funded the whole nursery operations in support of ASPEKAT. The participants from Starbucks and the farmers were divided into three groups, namely handymen, soil sifters, and polybag fillers.

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      ​In addition to technical activities, local cultures were introduced at the end of each visit. The children of the local coffee farmers and Ibu Petani Kopi (women coffee farmers) performed a Tortor dance – a Batak Toba traditional dance. The farmers also presented an Ulos material as token of gratitude and memento to Starbucks participants. They concluded the activities by singing 'Oh Tano Batak' - a song depicting the beauty of the deeply loved and missed Batak land, and 'Sayonara' (farewell) - a song about somebody who departs but will return next time. (Isner Manalu/May, 3​ 2016)