Hasanuddin examined avocado seeds in polybag containers in front of the house in Semparu Hamlet, Batu Dulang Village, Batu Lanteh District, Sumbawa Regency, West Nusa Tenggara, last July 17. On the two-meter-wide yard are rows of grafted avocado seeds.
Avocado seeds share space with a clothesline. Residents’ houses line up following the contours of the sloping land on the hill at an altitude of 750 meters above sea level. Healthy seeds immediately he moved to the fields.
“In the past, I planted 500 seedlings, most of them were damaged,” said the 33-year-old man. Hasanuddin is the Head of the Lestari Harapan Farmers Group.
Now, he is trying to choose ready-to-plant seeds to move to the farm.
He tries to convince farmers that avocado seeds are healthy and can thrive. No need for complicated maintenance. Failure to plant, he said, could reduce farmers’ confidence.
Hasanuddin is worried that if the start fails, farmers will give up planting avocados. The choice of clearing the land, then changing it to corn fields is Hasanuddin’s concern.
Beneath Batu Dulang Village is the Semokat TWA which is a source of clean water for the urban area of Sumbawa. Hasanuddin is aware of the strategic position of his village.
Batu Dulang Village is part of the villages in the Batu Lanteh Forest Management Unit (KPH) area. The area of the Batu Lanteh FMU is 32,776 hectares covering four sub-districts, namely Batulanteh, Moyo Hulu, Moyo Hilir and Moyo Utara. The area is divided into protected forest (14,303 hectares), production forest (14,842) and limited production forest (3,631 hectares).
If the environmental conditions of Batu Dulang Village are damaged, the source of clean water will be disrupted. The microclimate can be disturbed.
If the supporting trees run out, it’s easy to fall,” he said pointing to a hill that looked like it had just been cleaned.
“We will plant avocados there.”
Batu Dulang is known as a coffee and candlenut producer. Coffee needs shade plants. In the past, residents planted dadap as a shade plant. Over time, dadap trees are considered unproductive. The residents cut down the dadap, leaving the coffee unprotected.
On the one hand, the farmers’ coffee plants in Batu Dulang are quite old, more than 20 years, even 50 years old. The tall tree rises to seven meters.
During the harvest season, farmers have to climb or pull branches. In the past, when he was still very productive, the coffee in the Hasanuddin family’s garden reached 5-6 tons. Since 2014, he’s felt diminishing returns. Now the maximum is three tons. The same condition is also felt by other farmers.
Because coffee was felt to be less productive, farmers began cutting coffee. Plant annual crops, such as spices. As the need for corn has been high since 2014, farmers have started planting corn.
Corn crops are harvested faster and the sales results are greater than coffee. Farmers began to be tempted, coffee began to replace corn. It was then that Hasanuddin began to worry when more and more farmers replaced their crops in their gardens with corn.
“We have to give alternative plants that are profitable. So this avocado is an option, while keeping the land from drying out,” he said.
For a coffee plantation, Hasanuddin gave an example by planting avocados, spices such as galangal, turmeric and ginger. With a system like this, he said, the garden could produce every year.
In Batu Dulang, the coffee harvest ranges from June to August. During the coffee harvest, the avocado is in bloom. After the coffee harvest, we will continue to harvest avocados. For spice plants, the planting season can be adjusted.
With this model of diversifying plant species in one coffee plantation, farmers get greater yields. It’s a different case if shade plants only rely on dadap or non-fruit plants.
“Now, thank God , there are many requests for avocado seeds,” he said.
Another problem farmers face when harvesting avocados is the low price. At the farmer’s level, one kg of avocado is purchased by collectors for IDR 10,000. Hasanuddin surveyed the market, the price was IDR 35,000.
Together with his group, he designed avocados so that the cooperative could buy them. They also train farmers how to harvest properly. Can sort out premium class avocados and those sold in traditional markets.
He convinced farmers to be more diligent in caring for, when harvesting, and sorting out the sales of avocados, farmers could get bigger.
Hasanuddin and the Lestari Harapan Farmers Group learned to grow avocados on their own. They read on the internet, watch You T ube . They plant, graft, look for the right fertilizer formula. Several times tried failed, succeeded after trying a dozen times.
He realized that starting an avocado nursery was not an easy job. Every time there is training, counseling, or activities related to fruit plants, Hasanuddin participates. The group also partners with KPH.
As an area with cool climates, he imagined Batu Dulang could become a fruit ecotourism. Currently, he said, it has indeed been promoted as coffee ecotourism. Visitors can see coffee plantations, participate in harvesting, and be directly involved in processing. The time is only around June-August.
The potential for fruit ecotourism, said Hasanuddin, is a big potential in the future. In the future, avocado plants that are starting to grow in residents’ gardens can be increased with other fruit trees. Durian, jackfruit, longan, duku, mango, orange, apple, can be planted in the garden. It’s not just a coffee shade plant, but a special fruit garden.
Apart from orchards, Batu Dulang could become a center for fruit seedlings in Sumbawa Regency. It could even become a center for fruit seeds for Sumbawa Island. So far, he said, fruit seeds were imported from Lombok and even Java.
“If Batu Dulang remains awake, the source of clean water will remain.”
Apart from being a fruit center, Batu Dulang can also be a center for spices such as ginger, galangal, and turmeric which are starting to be planted in residents’ gardens. The result is not as big as coffee but can increase income.
Moreover, this is only an intercrop in the garden.
“On average now many have started to plant spices,” said Heri Fitrawansyah, a member of the Rokam Bangkit Farmers Group.
Heri’s family garden mostly grows coffee. His father-in-law the founder of Rokam Bangkit. He continues the business of processing coffee.
Heri saw that coffee was starting to become less productive. Not only because of soil fertility, also the age of old trees. He showed examples of several old coffee plants up to seven meters high with coffee grafting techniques, only 1.5–2 meters. The tree is lower, the fruit is denser. In addition, with a short coffee plant, it will not compete with shade plants such as avocado.
“For old coffee plants, they are the same height as the shade plants.”