Still about the story of forced planting and coffee in West Sumatra. Based on the last writing of the Governor of West Sumatra, Colonel A.V. Michiels made a proposal about the coffee system. Michiels’ proposal was ignored, because in late 1838 a government commissioner -P. Merkus, a member of the Raad van Indie – was appointed to examine affairs in Central Sumatra. P. Merkus reached Padang in July 1839.

The first thing he did was to remove all coffee matters from the authority of the Governor, Michiels, and hand over all coffee matters to the deputy Resident of Padang Highlands, C.P.G. Steinmetz.

Steinmetz’s view to expand coffee in West Sumatra is to “Jawanize” coffee cultivation in West Sumatra. Steinmetz rejected the merits of the Minagkabau cultivation system, which was planted close to home and could not bear fruit well, as well as gardens in the hills that were not maintained and the fruit was eaten by wild animals.

Steinmetz issued a regulation in January 1840 that stipulated the establishment of village (nagari) coffee gardens.

These plantations were organized on a district basis, utilizing unused land, known as raja land. This system is usually used to settle disputes between villages, and is supervised by the district head or head of the barrel.

This new system from Steinmetz was of course strongly opposed by farmers in West Sumatra. The reality is that in the hills, the traditional “coffee forest” is unmatched in terms of efficient use of village resources. There is no need for a lot of labor, only a small amount of land clearing. The densely planted trees also do not require much maintenance, and can be left to grow on their own under the shade of the natural forest.

The resulting harvest is also better. If there are not many trees, there must be many gardens, because of the large number of trees planted. Forest plantations also have a longer lifespan than regular plantations.

In terms of getting workers, Steinmezt used the steps taken in Java. By building cooperative relationships with local leaders who understood how to manage land and labor for the benefit of the colonial government.

The move they made was considered a complete failure. This is because the strata intended to control labor as in Java are not found in West Sumatra. This is because the authority of the traditional leaders in West Sumatra is based on association, consensus and reciprocal customs, which are not compatible with the labor system as practiced by the colonial government in Java.

Farmer households in West Sumatra have considerable autonomy in their economic lives.

With this understanding, it is not surprising that, despite the pressure and incentives in the form of objects from the colonial government, the government-made local adat leaders and the indigenous local adat leaders were powerless to use their influence to regulate the labor process in West Sumatra.

Steinmetz’s system of “Jawanizing” West Sumatra’s coffee plantations has clearly failed miserably, the resentment of the farmers on the new plantations was so great that many plantations were left uncared for and later abandoned by the farmers.

The problems of the private traders could not be solved, nor could those of the peasant traders who continued to exist and flourish. As a result, coffee policy in West Sumatra was returned to Governor Michiels in 1845.

In Michiels’ view, coffee production in West Sumatra has and will again reach its peak “as long as development is left to the people and at their pace.”

As well as taking advice from Michiels, the colonial government also consulted NHM officials. All NHM officials agreed with Michiels’ opinion on the need for more government involvement in coffee cultivation in West Sumatra.

The strategy of eliminating merchant farmers according to Michiels and supported by all NHM officials was to restore the “protected price” which was lowered slightly from 1830, as coffee prices were falling that year. By eliminating all transport costs and intermediary fees, it was replaced by using unpaid forced labor to deliver coffee to the coast.

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