Half a year on from Indonesia’s double disaster

Group photo of a group of adults and children smiling

Indonesia has become my second home since I moved to its capital, Palu, in 2007 to lead a team of more than thirty people who form the heart of Olam Cocoa’s two-decade long operation in the country. I have witnessed the impact the 7.5-magnitude earthquake and tsunami have had on the country and its people, both in the immediate aftermath and up to the present day.


The Indonesian government has indicated that the total confirmed number of casualties is 2,256 and have mainly occurred in Palu and the areas of Sigi and Donggala. Many more people have been reported missing and 235,000 have been evacuated from these areas since the disaster. In monetary terms, over USD$900 million worth of damage has been inflicted upon the country.


I was one of the first to reach the disaster zone and although, thankfully, none of our employees were harmed, thousands of people were left without basic supplies. Within days, we were able to begin sending regular vehicles carrying items such as food, water, tents, medicines and diapers to those in need. Over the proceeding months, my teams on the ground worked tirelessly to offer support to local communities by coordinating the distribution of food across Palu, assisting with the running of a medical camp on our premises and collaborating with Save the Children as they attempted to reunite children who had been separated from their families and or orphaned. 


During my time in Palu, I have seen it flourish from a provincial town with little infrastructure to a buzzing capital with numerous employment opportunities. Six months on from the disaster, I am saddened to say that this has set it back a decade in its development. However, I truly believe in the resilience of Palu and its people and as one of the largest companies in the city, we want to support its long-term social and economic recovery. Toward this effort, Olam Cocoa teams around the world are focused on raising substantial funds to invest into critical areas that will have the greatest positive impact on local communities:


Medical facilities: Nearly all healthcare centres and hospitals have suffered medium to heavy damage and the Indonesian Government requires support to run a programme of rehabilitation.


Education:  A large number of nurseries, primary and secondary schools were either destroyed in the disaster or require significant renovations.


Cocoa farming: Since 2004, we have run sustainability programmes in partnership with our customers, and work with over 10,000 smallholder farmers in Sigi who depend upon cocoa for their livelihoods. Although we cannot currently say how many have been directly affected, we will work with these farmers and farming groups to determine the best means of support.


I have been genuinely touched that so many of my colleagues over the world have also donated to this cause. Six months on, Indonesia is still very much in the early stages of dealing with this double tragedy but through collective efforts, the country and its people will begin to recover and rebuild for the future.