Daud Yusuf, Coffee No Longer Tastes Bitter

For Daud Yusuf, 35, coffee is more than just a good drink to be sipped, it also serves as a reminder of a lengthy process of a tenacity. Coffee trees, which are seen to be grown over Pengalengan’s rolling hills, tell a story about how he introduced coffee to Pengalengan.

Since he moved to Kubangsari Village in Pengalengan in 1997, Daud found out that forest encroachment continued to expand due to a national economic crisis. Making friends with field workers of the state-run forestry company Perhutani, Daud learnt from them about the extent of lost resulted from the forest encroachment. “Because of illegal logging, workers from Perhutani estimate that the total lost can reach up to 18 million rupiah a day”. Total forest rangers were outnumbered by illegal loggers.

Forest encroachment happened as people did not only wish to do illegal logging but also to acquire the forested land they cleared for vegetable farming. “Pengalengan is a base of horticultural farming of short-term crops. Crops of tomatoes, carrots and potatoes do not grow in a forest, instead they need direct sunlight,” said Daud, explaining his observation and analysis about that period of time.
Other than the legal issue of the land, Daud also observed a number of issues happening in his area, including the common practice in vegetable cultivation which was done in a relatively short-term period of crop cycle.

Consequently, it needs more seeds, pesticide and fertilizers. The fact shows that a prolonged application of chemical substance harms soil nutrients and will eventually turn a land area into a barren field. Planting down-slope or contour plowing may result in soil erosion and nutrient losses. Daud also said that vegetable farming under a dense shade of forested area would not give an optimum result as vegetable plants need direct sunlight.  

That was why many farmers cut forest trees to expose their vegetable plants to a full sun environment. In addition to being prone to pest attacks and diseases due to a climate change phenomenon, vegetable crops require immediate marketing due their perishable nature. Moreover, an intensive land use would affect conservation efforts that had long been done by Perhutani.  
Following up his observation, Daud sought for reference sources, be they publications or people with relevant knowledge and experience. Learning from them, Daud finally concluded that coffee trees were suitable plants to be grown in Pengalengan.

However, changing generations-old habit, that is, turning vegetable growers to coffee farmers, is not a simple matter. “My friends and relatives called me crazy,” recalled the Tasikmalaya-born man. He also got some knowledge about coffee from Ade Wahyar, a lecturer in Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB), who is also well-known as a ‘coffee doctor’ in Indonesia. To learn further about coffee, Daud also attended some trainings and joined comparative studies by traveling as far as Bali and Sulawesi.

Daud was also active as a facilitator in a local community. “In a 1997-1999 period, we could only complete a Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA). It was intended to assess the expectations of the local people and government”. Daud concluded  that there needed to be a synergy between the government, in this case the Perhutani, and the people to conserve the forest and create economic benefit out of the joint conservation.

As an initial step, Daud tried to access the community through a local farmer group. It was not unusual for him to personally approach the people by doing it door to door, family after family.
In every meeting Daud always presented a comprehensive explanation over the benefit of coffee farming. And the result ? “Out of 98 members of a local farmer group, only three of them responded,” he recalled, giggling over the incident.

“Why growing coffee ? You behave like a mad man. That was the response of the people I met and asked to grow coffee trees. I answered back by saying that we didn’t know whether it could work or not, but why didn’t we try first?” said Daud, recalling the early period of establishing the coffee farming. He even turned the back yard of his house in a less than a quarter hectare of land into a model coffee farm.

Despite a small number of farmers who joined the first coffee tree planting at the end 1999, the first harvest was made in 2003, resulting in a total of 41 tons of coffee bean. Members of the Perhutani Supervisory Board were also present during the first harvest.

 MG 1110Since then, the total coffee plantation area in Pengalengan, which has been jointly managed by Perhutani and local people under a PHBM program, has continued to expand. As of the end of 2008, total coffee plantation area in all over Bandung District reached 4,405.5 hectares, located in 24 sub-districts (Pikiran Rakyat daily, 24 May 2009). The PHBM program provides public socialization, facilitation, supervising members’ right and obligation and profit sharing. Pengalengan is now home to an increasing number of coffee factories. There used to be no single coffee factory back then, but now Pengalengan is a place for 5 coffee factories.

Coffee plants do not only grow within Perhutani area, but they also grow in land areas belonging to local people and the state-run electricity company PLN. One hectare plot of land could grow between 2,000 to 2,500 coffee trees, and in total their crops could reach around 5 tons of coffee berries. The average selling price of coffee berry is 3,000 rupiah a kilogram. While unhusked coffee bean is sold at 9,000 rupiah a kilogram and green bean at 18,000 rupiah a kilogram. Outside working hours Coffee farmers could spend their time on various side jobs such as doing cattle farming, motorbike taxi service, organic fertilizer business and other things.

Daud now feels at ease. His madness bears a sweet fruit. Around 3,000 heads of families residing around South Bandung have gotten the benefit of growing coffee tree in a plot of land measuring between a half to one hectare each. His tenacity bears a sweet fruit. A forest villagers group called Lembaga Masyarakat Desa Hutan (LMDH) which he helps support secured third and top positions in a 2004 and 2006 nationwide conservation and re-greening contest. In 2007, Daud was finally awarded as the best public facilitator in all Perhutani areas within West Java and Banten. Eventually the plot of land measuring 54.51 hectares in Kubang Sari has been kept as a model farm.  

“Today, many people, ranging from farmers to ministers, come here either to pay a visit or to conduct a comparative study. This is a little pearl and we have to let it grow. The coffee is good, the forest starts to recover its good condition and the people have taken economic advantages,” said Daud, not hiding his excitement. All of the hard works done by Daud Yusuf have turned the taste of coffee from bitter to sweet.