• Written by Aulia Rahman
    4 September 2013

Tomi is the nickname of the horse tied in front of Ramli’s house. Measuring 1.5 metres tall, the animal plays an important role in family life, in common with many households in the District of Bantaeng, South Sulawesi Province of Indonesia. He helps to plough the land and pulls the cart that transports the harvested crops.

Nearby, Abdul Madjid, a local facilitator in his 60s from the Cocoa Development Center (CDC) of Mars Indonesia, has been meeting with Ramli, a cocoa farmer of around 30 years old. They are using a mobile device running a field survey tool called Akvo FLOW that helps to monitor and evaluate projects and – in this case – manage sustainability issues within the cocoa sector. It is Abdul’s first experience with touch-screen GSM technology.

abdul and ramli
Sulawesi Island currently supplies at least 17% of the world’s cocoa beans, but alarmingly production is now under threat from global warming. Harvests are becoming more unpredictable and climate-related diseases more evident. Ramli is a typical young family man in this region, running his business managing the 2.5 hectare cocoa farm he inherited from his late father. His siblings, who shared his inheritance, have abandoned the farm and are planning to convert to other kinds of crops like cloves, which sell for up to five times as much per kilo as cocoa and palm oil which is easier to grow and more disease-resistant. Meanwhile chocolate products are still highly in demand. This is an alarming situation for businesses in the field who are striving to mitigate the market collapse that is likely to happen soon if no action is taken.

In order to map the situation on the ground, Mars Global has decided to use Akvo FLOW to conduct baseline surveys of its cocoa supply chain throughout the world. Other places besides Indonesia are Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana, which supply at least 80% of the world’s cocoa beans. Using Akvo FLOW on a light and portable Android device makes it possible to conduct surveys and carry out rapid assessments and realtime monitoring. FLOW incorporates GPS functionality so the points where the cocoa farms and their owners are situated can be mapped. Embedded camera and video technology plus connectivity via any available network make it possible to send the data in realtime so the management team can make fast decisions on crucial strategies regarding sustainabiity issues happening on the ground.

Above: Mr Madjid and Mr Ramli experience Akvo FLOW for the first time. Top: Tomi is the Ramli family horse. Photos by Aulia Rahman

Akvo FLOW workshop 

trainee portraitsOn 22-24 of August 2013, 23 people from around Sulawesi, including Abdul Madjid, took part in a workshop to familiarise themselves with this touchscreen technology. All the participants were local facilitators from the CDC with a broad knowledge of cocoa farming. On this occasion they were improving their IT skills and learning how to share their results globally to help solve some worldwide cocoa sustainability issues.

Above: participants of the Akvo FLOW workshop at Mars Indonesia.
Below: workshop participants getting direct experience of Akvo FLOW in the grounds of the Mars Indonesia factory before venturing into the field to use it the next day. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 was the device of choice. 
Photos by Aulia Rahman

With shaking hands, Mr Madjid asks his survey questions. Frequently, he accidentally touches the wrong button on the screen. His expression shows how worried he is, believing he has done something wrong and wanting to get back to the previous screen. However, slowly but surely he becomes more confident. His respondent, Ramli, waits patiently, smiling a little at times. They reach the last question, to which Ramli responds “I want to change my crops – not to other kinds of crops, still cocoa – but a better variety!” Madjid types the answer and clicks the submit button on screen. Valuable data has been sent, and is shared globally for a better future. 

Aulia Rahman is responsible for managing Akvo partnerships in Indonesia.