The future of cocoa: Harnessing digital solutions to get more Indonesian youth engaged in agriculture

The future of cocoa: Harnessing digital solutions to get more Indonesian youth engaged in agriculture

This news is part of the following focus areas:
Gabriella Cynthia Andries
Gabriella Cynthia Andries
Communication Coordinator

Last year, Rikolto was selected as one of the partners for the eMpowering Youth Across ASEAN (EYAA) Cohort Two, a collaboration project initiated by the ASEAN and Maybank Foundation dedicated to empowering ASEAN youths and communities towards inclusive and sustainable development. In this project, Rikolto sought to attract the young generation's interest in agriculture through digital-based farming and agripreneurship.

Young people have enormous potential to adopt innovations and new technologies that can provide added value and increase agricultural production. However, Rikolto's assessment showed there is little interest among educated youth to work in the agricultural field. In the cocoa sector, there's a lack of attractive job opportunities and support, which as a result, drove young people to seek better opportunities elsewhere.

The development of cocoa-derived products and agripreneurship could be the solutions to allure young people into agriculture. To implement this project, Rikolto worked with one of the cocoa partners, Mitra Agribisnis Mandiri (MAM) cocoa cooperative in Polewali Mandar Regency, West Sulawesi Province. This project also involved seven youth volunteers from seven ASEAN countries to work with the young farmers. 

We need to look beyond farm jobs to attract young people to agriculture. There is enormous potential for creating non-farm economic activities linked to agribusiness development around the food value chains.

Nonie Kaban Head of Programme, Rikolto in Indonesia

Igniting the spark for agriculture through digital technologies

From October to December 2021, ten young farmers in Polewali Mandar participated in online knowledge cafes and an intense 12-day Internet of Things (IoT) workshop. Each of the 10 champions then trained four other young people, resulting in 50 young farmers equipped with the essential knowledge of digital technologies and entrepreneurial spirit. 20 out of 50 trained young farmers were female.

Under the supervision of a technical expert, the young cocoa farmers and ASEAN youth volunteers discussed the problems of cocoa farming and potential innovative technologies to solve those problems. During this process, it was essential to consider the feasibility of the technologies: if the function addresses real issues in the cocoa sector, time limit, and availability of resources.

The cocoa produced by the Mitra Agribisnis Mandiri Cooperative has received attention from artisan chocolate producers. The taste and quality of our cocoa beans are considered to meet the quality of premium chocolate. However, the remaining challenge is maintaining the consistency of the fermented cocoa beans. The technology that these young farmers developed can be a solution to increase the efficiency and productivity of our cocoa.

Rauf Director of Mitra Agribisnis Mandiri Cooperative

The young farmers successfully developed four prototypes of digital technologies to improve cocoa processing:

1. Main monitor. The temperature and humidity sensors measure the temperature and humidity outside the drying house and then display them on the main monitors. The monitors are placed in the drying and fermentation houses and linked to the internet. By comparing the two readings, we can decide whether it is necessary to replace the air in the drying room with fresh air. 

2. Temperature sensor for fermentation house. The readings will appear after the sensor is covered with damp cocoa beans. The sensor is waterproof with an accuracy of 0.5 °C, and it is measured every five seconds.

3. Drying house sensor. This tool has four sensors: temperature, humidity, light intensity, and air pressure. The readings from the four sensors are displayed simultaneously through the display.

4. Relay control. This tool consists of eight relays that function as switches to four fans in the solar drying house and can be controlled through the internet. Control relays can also be connected to any device that can be activated remotely, such as room heaters, lights, and water pumps.

Innovation can increase our income as farmers. Activities like this also boost youth interest in returning to the agricultural sector. We used to think that farming was troublesome. It turns out that with a touch of technology, many things can be more manageable. We hope that activities like this can be held more often to provide new knowledge and reduce the workload at the farm.

Ramli Mitra Agribisnis Mandiri Cooperative cadre and young farmer

Adopting digital marketing to expand the market of sustainable cocoa

Young people are the future leaders of ASEAN. We want to encourage them to be actively involved in transforming the agricultural sector to increase their income in the community.
Dr. Yang Mee Eng Executive Director of the ASEAN Foundation

One of the exciting aspects of the project was ASEAN young volunteers' involvement. Even though they were far apart, they collaborated virtually to strengthen the capacity of young farmers in Polewali Mandar, particularly in developing a digital platform that can help expand Mitra Agribisnis Mandiri Cooperative's cocoa business.

Rikolto also conducted a digital marketing workshop with experts to improve the capacity of the Polewali Mandar youth farmers. Attended by 12 young members of Mitra Agribisnis Mandiri Cooperative, the participants learned about different aspects of digital marketing and branding. They did exercises including creating a Facebook page, ad placement and making a social media plan.

From the workshop, Rikolto learned that although some participants were still stuttering with digital platforms, there are great potential and interest. With the foundation already laid out, participants will further develop necessary skills such as writing, concept development, content production, marketing, and ad placement to better market their products digitally. With the website developed through this project, the Mitra Agribisnis Mandiri Cooperative can build more visibility and expand its global market.

Future-proof agriculture and food security mean involving young farmers. Rikolto believes in the tremendous potential of youths and will continue to empower and establish opportunities for the young generation to innovate for a sustainable, profitable, and inclusive cocoa value chain.

I am thrilled and proud of Rikolto's active role in integrating digital technology into agriculture in the cocoa sector. A breakthrough that the local government has not optimally pursued. Through the adoption of innovation and technology by Rikolto, youths can become role models and be replicated in other agricultural sectors.

I Nengah Tri Sumadana AP, M.Si Head of the Information and Communications Office of Polewali Mandar

For more detailed information about this project, check out "Story Book: A lesson of youth engagement in the agriculture sector".

Want to learn more or collaborate with us? Contact our colleague!

Peni Agustijanto
Peni Agustijanto
Cocoa & Coffee Southeast Asia Regional Director