The 320 members of the Koerintji Barokah Bersama Cooperative live and farm on a plateau that sits at the foot of Mount Kerinci on the island of Sumatra. Mount Kerinci is one of the many volcanoes in the Pacific Ring of Fire, a 40,000-kilometer horseshoe-shaped series of 452 volcanoes that are part of an almost constant dance of eruptions and plate movements. Mount Kerinci’s historic eruptions have assured that the surrounding area is lush and verdant with a deep supply of fertile volcanic soil.
The cooperative is managed by Triyono, who leads members in processing and roasting their own coffees. They have a fully outfitted roasting facility, including a cupping lab, next to the dry mill. This is especially impressive considering the cooperative was founded in mid-2017!
Almost all farms on Sumatra are small. On average, farms are between 0.5 to 2.5 hectares. Coffee is usually the primary cash crop for farmers, but most also intercrop their trees alongside vegetables, potatoes and fruit. This intercropped produce will make up a substantial part of the family’s diet for the year.
In addition to growing coffee as a cash crop, many smallholder farmers also work as hired laborers at nearby tea plantations. Like coffee, tea is a huge cash crop in the area. The bigger tea plantations are often near coffee farms. When thecoffee harvest is finished, coffee farmers will go there and pick tealeaves under contracted labor.
There are more and more initiatives by farmers on Sumatra to organize themselves into cooperatives. In the past, farmers did not have much leverage to get better prices for their cherry or parchment. In cooperatives, they can share resources, organize training and negotiate better prices.
During the harvest season, coffee is handpicked. Usually, most labor is supplied by the immediate family.
After picking, the coffee will be delivered to a UPH collection center. A UPH is a collection center where coffee cherries are purchased by the cooperative and where the coffee is processed before moving it to the central mill. Essentially, a UPH functions as a small washing station. Triyono oversees the activities on and around the nine UPH stations owned by the cooperative.
To streamline the operation, there is an agriculturalist providing technical assistance to make sure the same, standard procedures are used to process cherry at each of the different stations. Each UPH is located in a different area and receives cherries from different farmer groups.
With this Natural lot, cherry is rigorously sorted before being delivered to dry on raised beds. The beds are located in domes to protect the coffee from rain or harsh sunlight. Here, the coffee will be sorted again and turned regularly to ensure even drying. When dry, the coffee is milled and sorted by hand. Members of the coop have a fixed buyer for their cherries, and at the end of the year, the coop invests its profits in either infrastructure to increase quality or shares them as quality premiums with the member producers