Tuesday, September 8, 2009


                                            Me at Los Angeles, Starbuck.
arvest time was over, but trailer's motors bike back and forth carrying two big bags of coffee granules at its saddle on the dusting road, to pushed the driver closer to the stir of the motor bike. Its a common sight in daily life of people at Kotaway, a Village name in central OKU Selatan district, a newly set up district, separated from OKU, Ogan Komering Ulu district in the Southern part of Sumatra, Indonesia in Saturday morning Juli 28, 2008. 

                                                  Lahat coffee, South Sumatra

My astonishment raised a question mark in my mind after saw a lots of Mitshubihi L300 pick up trucs carry around 3 ton of coffee of 10 - 13 bags, value Rp. 4.500.000,- (US.$ 450). Is this the proof that the people here in isolated area had a better living after 63 years of independence ?

My questions asked to a common people and coffee traders, saying that opportunities to get a better life was always open, depend on every single person, but generally speaking the poor farmers still poor, living in this rich fertilized land with vacant land and hill  waiting for hands to plant. This district formerly, long time ago is a forest  and many Indonesian people migrated from Java and neighbour provinces  try to grasp the new life in agriculture sector, including  growing coffee.

                    South Sumatra in red

In our free discussion, informal chatting in front of their house, they explained that to run a plantation here needed a lot of capital that they can't afford. To manage 10 ha for instance needed  Rp. 50 millions for capital Investment and the harvest is not always success every single year. And if its success, the price might not be higher as expected and for this reason they forced to borrow money to finance the family for daily consumption.

                     Coffee fruit

Since coffee products had belong to hard plantation yearly basis, so they need funds for daily consumption. So they have in mind, it was more profitable to plant a rubber trees in order to get income faster for daily living. Working in rubber plantation, they might get around Rp. 250.000,- daily, compare to  coffee's harvest. Unfortunately, the local Government didn't paid any attention whatsoever for their struggling. Since the Government lately very very busy in their politics, Governor or District head competition so far.

In order to understand people welfare from time to time, Sumatra  old generation  (North - South) accustomed to make a price comparison in Dutch colonization era. Recently  they put a special ratios among mayor crops prices. Between coffee and rice, between rubber and rice. In Juli 2008 the ratio status is 1 : 3 for coffee : rice and 1 : 1 between rubber : rice. Coffee price is Rp.15.000,-/kilogram and Rp 5.500,-/kg for rice and rubber. This ratios happened from  Dutch era, after independence day and recently.

                   Coffee harvest in South Sumatra

Looking for the ratios and how people way of life was, we may come to conclusion that Development program didn't touch this area so far. The new road just on the process of development, housing condition look like the same for 50 years. What should Government take care among other things are road completion, field supervision for coffee and hard core plantation from the Agriculture office. This issues might be using in campaign in election by local authority in Regional level or districts level, if they want to win the competition.

What  were interesting to see is the development in communication and electricity. that  spread all over small villages. Wireless telecommunication lines run by Private companies as Mentari, X/L, Ceria towers erected in every places, so people or business transactions could be done till to very remote areas. Besides, since the place far from TV production houses, it isn't luxurious behaviour if most of the houses erected  Parabola antennas. They compete to build a wider antennas as the sign of the social status of the owners.

Hearing the talking tone of  mixing languages, I got confusing what language I should speak, Java, Sundanese, Minang, Palembang, I knew a little of all those languages. So, to prevent miss understanding, I prefer using Bahasa Indonesia, thanks to Sumpah Pemuda 1928 ( Young vow) in making Bahasa Indonesia become a tool to united our Nation.  As I spoke in Bahasa Indonesia, they knew for sure that I  come from Jakarta or Java island.

                                      Ampera bridge, Palembang city

They speak a special dialogue, an interesting mixing of several languages of Java, Sunda, Minang, Palembang. But according to them that origin language was Bahasa Melayu . I didn't had the opportunities to dig it deeper, but it might be as the influenced of heavy trading between Palembang -through Musi river- and Malaysia long time ago. Wallahuallam.

To joint a tour to Komering land, I take a P.O. Ranau Indah Bus from Bekasi and driving all the night long and wake up early in the morning, we reach Muara Duo, capital of OKU Selatan district. It means spend 16 hours on the road, including ferry ship across Sunda strait.

                                   Ranau lake

From  this small town, took a motor bike for 5 km to Kotaway, the central of coffee plantation. Beautiful panorama, drive a bike motor through hard and dusting road, climbing 45 slope road through the small wooden bridges without fences and saw a deep valleys far below on the left/right side of the road. Not far away, around 35 kilometers they had a tourist destination, well known lake, Danau Ranau. Unfortunately, this time I had no opportunity to see the lake.

                                        Me and my kids (Peggy, Pahala, Monang) in Jakarta
As coffee lovers, I had the opportunities to visit the plantation, talk to the farmers and traders, see and touching granules, smell the leafs, before shipping them to Lahat or Palembang, capital of South Sumatra. We know then, how farmers grow the coffee tree and see their daily life, still in the poor environment.

While sip your expensive hot coffee, please imagine how poor farmers live in remote are  planting coffee for you and for the rest of the world.
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