Neither rain, nor heat, nor bumpy roads can stop Hardianty and Erwin from visiting the farmers they assist as part of the Rainforest Alliance and Olam International’s climate-smart cocoa project in South and Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia. The program’s 12 trainers—all as motivated and energetic as Hardianty and Erwin—are key to reaching the program’s goals. "The value of this work matters more than the discomfort I face every day," said Hardianty, an effervescent young local woman who recently graduated from university (like many Indonesians, she goes by one name only). "Many farmers have become like family to me. I love to meet with them and share the knowledge I have."
In order to prepare the trainers for their field work, the Rainforest Alliance provides workshops in climate-smart agriculture (CSA) as well as a week-long "training of trainers" (TOT) session. Hands-on activities help trainers deepen their understanding of climate change processes, emissions caused by cocoa farming, and most importantly, the impacts that climate change can have on the cocoa system itself. Once information about these topics is shared, trainers learn strategies to address those challenges.
In one activity, trainers were asked to write down their observations of climate patterns from the past few years compared to when they were kids. They were asked to speculate on the cause of these changes, before the Rainforest Alliance trainers provided a fuller explanation. In another activity, workshop leaders made a circle on the floor with tape to represent the Earth; participants then called out ways that we humans create greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, tossing a cotton ball in the circle for each carbon dioxide-creating activity that occurred to them. Soon the “Earth” was covered in a thick blanket of cotton "GHG emissions." Finally, participants performed skits in which they took on roles of farmers, government officials, and cocoa bean buyers, all struggling with climate impacts. This activity aimed to raise the level of empathy and understanding trainers need to support the thousands of farmers they will eventually work with out in the field. The Rainforest Alliance staff remains in constant contact with the trainers to help monitor and support them during this exciting—and often challenging—phase of work.
Once out in the field, Hardianty and Erwin quickly learned that they had to be patient, as many farmers want quick fixes to increase their yields, and don’t yet know much about climate change. These young trainers also learned to be creative about sharing information with some of the smallholders who speak only a local language. But Hardianty and Erwin also built strong bonds with farmers, staying late into the evening to get to know the cocoa growers and their families.
Erwin noted how rewarding the field work is—and how important it is to be flexible and work with farmers to arrive at the best solutions to any given challenge. "I like to try something, testing to see which method I got from the training is working and which one is not, and sometimes try something new. If it works, farmers benefit and make all of us proud. When farmers succeed, other farmers imitate them."