Seeing is believing

A colleague shoots projects in Indonesia

An offer you can’t refuse – that’s how it feels when Wendy van Haaren, a colleague from Rabobank de Kempen and a photographer, offers to take photos of a number of our projects during her trip to Southeast Asia. For us it is a wonderful opportunity to get some great pictures and for Wendy a dream comes true. In Indonesia Wendy visits two farmers’ cooperatives receiving support from Rabobank Foundation.

Wendy first visits the dairy cooperative Tandangsari on West Java. “I’ve been a Rabobank Foundation donor for twenty years. Now I can finally see with my own eyes the work Rabobank Foundation does on the other side of the world. It’s a dream come true.” Wendy meets the people involved in the cooperative. Tandangsari’s chairman tells her how the Foundation’s help has materially improved the incomes of dairy smallholders. The cooperative’s top priority is to boost milk production and improve the quality of the milk. With the aid of a loan from the Rabobank Foundation, farmers are able to buy a cow, meaning that healthy cows capable of producing more milk are purchased.

The importance of more cows

But financial aid alone is not enough, says Wendy. “The farmers have little expertise and are oriented towards the short term. Many farmers will sell their calf, for example, even though a single dairy cow often costs as much to buy as the price of three calves.” For this reason the cooperative is seeking to teach its members that it’s better to invest a year and a half in raising the calf, so that they can be sure that the cow will later produce a good deal of milk. Not only is this in the farmer’s interests, it’s also in the interests of the cooperative as with more milk production it is in a position to negotiate better contracts with milk buyers.

Motivating young farmers

Tandangsari invests in knowledge transfer and education in various ways. “The average age of the farmers is 50 and older,” says Wendy. “Not only does the cooperative seek to boost the knowhow of existing farmers, it’s also geared to motivating young farmers. Together with the older farmers, the cooperative’s board is trying to gain an insight into the younger generation. By organising meetings it aims to motivate the young to take an interest in agriculture.”

Farm visit

After consulting with the cooperative’s board, Wendy is able to see for herself the impact Rabobank Foundation’s aid has. Visiting farmer Uli, she asks him what had changed since he’d received help from the Foundation. “He points enthusiastically to the two cows standing at the far side of the shed. When I walk towards them, I see their ears carry red tags bearing the letters RF. Uli happily carries on milking and says with a huge grin on his face: ‘Those are my Rabobank Foundation cows. One of them has even given birth to two healthy calves already.’ Uli’s astuteness as a farmer is evident from the fact that he has kept the two calves for himself.”

‘After this wonderful experience I can say with conviction: Rabobank Foundation really makes a difference!’

From West to Central Java

Following on from her visit to the dairy cooperative, Wendy travels on to Central Java. On her way to visit the savings and credit cooperative CU Lentera Usaha she passes by fields of chilli peppers, tomatoes, cabbages, aubergines and pulses. Together with her interpreter she arrives in the little village of Sobahan, some two and a half hours’ drive from Yogyakarta. Here she meets the board of Koperasi Kredit Lentera Usaha, which has been working together with Rabobank Foundation for around a year and a half. “They tell me that the cooperative’s financial position has improved strongly thanks to the Foundation’s help,” says Wendy. “Thanks to the working capital farmers are able to take out a loan to work their fields and to buy seeds. The cooperative also aims to teach the farmers more about agricultural techniques. Knowledge transfer from the Netherlands plays an important role in this.”

Farmer Jumino

Wendy gets into conversation with one of the cooperative’s members, a farmer of 43. “Jumino is married, with a son of 18 months,” she explains. “Like most smallholders he rents a small piece of land, where he grows chilli peppers. Chilli peppers have a long shelf life, so they can be easily transported with a low risk of spoiling. He explained to me the role played by middlemen. These go-betweens determine the price paid, and they have a huge network. Jumino can’t do without them but he’s well aware that they have all the power. The middlemen will come to the farm only if the price is right. If not, they won’t come, and the farmer will be forced to throw away his harvest. On average there will be around five middlemen in a village. It’s a difficult situation that’s not easy to resolve – although setting up a horticultural cooperative could certainly make a difference!”

Wendy asks Jumino why he started farming. “He tells me he didn’t really have a choice. That’s why his dearest wish is that his children receive a good education. Lots of the farmers don’t want their children to become farmers too. The work is just too hard. Later, as we walk through the fields, I can see what he meant. We are walking through fields of tomatoes, rice paddies and rows of chilli peppers and I see how everything is done by hand. Unbelievably hard work. Only once I’ve seen a piece of farm machinery. Farmers can rent machinery from the cooperative, but even then it’s tough going to drive the machine and work the land.”

Wendy’s visit to the cooperative comes to an end. “The biggest gift they give me at the end of the afternoon are the words ‘Your smile makes our whole day!’ So there you have it: no matter how big the differences are between here and there, we all smile in the same language!”

Contact

Rabobank Foundation

Office Address Croeselaan 18
3521 CB Utrecht
The Netherlands
Postal Address P.O. Box 17100, UC 079
3500 HG Utrecht
The Netherlands
Telephone +31 (0)30 216 2333