Jayapura, Jubi – Yustus Yekusamon, a key figure and driving force behind the economic progress of indigenous communities in Grime Nawa Valley, Jayapura Regency, is collaborating with the Assessment and Empowerment of Indigenous Peoples Association (PPMA Papua). Together, they are involved in the cultivation and processing of chocolate fruit from community-owned plantations in the area.
Speaking to Jubi on Saturday, September 9, 2023, Yekusamon mentioned that they were currently experimenting with chocolate production on a small scale, processing chocolate beans into both chocolate bars and powdered chocolate.
"The chocolate undergoes a fermentation and drying process. The entire process of transforming cocoa beans into ready-to-eat chocolate takes approximately a week, from bean selection to packaging," said Yekusamon.
He clarified that the cocoa beans used come from Grime Nawa Valley, where the chocolate plantation has a history dating back to the Dutch era. He noted that it has evolved from a mere plantation into what is now referred to as a "chocolate forest."
Yekusamon explained that this production is part of PPMA's program which will eventually be introduced to the Grime Nawa indigenous people, to empower these communities to have control over the entire chocolate production chain.
Furthermore, he highlighted the need for a production facility within the village that would serve as a hub for chocolate production in the region, allowing the community to not only cultivate, nurture, and harvest cocoa beans but also produce market-ready chocolate.
Yekusamon emphasized that chocolate has long been a vital source of income for the indigenous people of Grime Nawa Valley, dating back to the Dutch colonial period. He shared his personal experience, mentioning that he financed his education with the proceeds from his parents' cocoa bean sales.
Throughout his involvement, Yekusamon has played an active role in supporting the economic development of indigenous people in Grime Nawa. Additionally, he has been engaged in efforts to protect the Grime Nawa customary territory alongside fellow indigenous communities, safeguarding their land rights and preserving their customary forests, including the precious chocolate forests, from threats posed by a palm oil company. (*)