Tolitoli – Clove City: Central Sulawesi

A wooden motor boat approaches Dede Port in Tolitoli regency, Central Sulawesi. From afar, rows of clove trees line the top of the mountainous range — there are virtually no other trees other than clove found on the hills of this province.

Tolitoli is a small but breathtaking city in the north of Central Sulawesi — unsurprisingly it’s known as the province’s clove city.

With a small population of only around 190,579 people, the town is made up of mostly Bugis-Makassar migrants whose everyday language is called Bugis.

Tolitoli’s economic growth in 2002 was 6.77 percent, while gross regional product was Rp 854,993 million in the same year.

Although Bugis is the dominant tribe in Tolitoli, there are three major tribes in the area — Tolitoli, Dondo and Dampal.

Topographically, the town sits on a level and hilly region, 47 per cent of which is on an elevation between 100 to 500 meters above sea level and ideal for clove cultivation.

Clove production has increased over the past five years — in 1998, it was recorded at 1,448 tons which increased gradually and reached 6,350 tons annually in 2002.

Tolitoli cloves are some of the best in the country, with the main species being Zanzibar.

Although the town has many other products of high economic value, no other product is managed efficiently, leaving cloves as the town’s prime commodity.

But other products must be exploited optimally for the sake of the town’s future and that of its people.

Today the Tolitoli regency administration has initiated a joint economic scheme involving neighboring countries, including Malaysia and the Philippines, called Totata-Tosamin. This name includes the first two or so letters of the towns Tolitoli, Tarakan, Sandakan, Tawau and Mindanao.

Joint economic cooperation evolved from past trade ties when between 1950 to 1967 intensive ties between the people of Dampal (Tolitoli) and Tawau in Malaysia were established.

Trade activity was limited to only copra then, but economic need has inspired the local administration to reestablish the cooperation.

“We will draw up a more feasible and contemporary plan,” Tolitoli Regent M. Ma’ruf Bantilan said.

Bantilan said formalization of economic ties would be spearheaded jointly by Tolitoli regency and Malaysia.

In 2000, the local administration sent a letter to the Tawau municipality in the Malaysian state of Sabah regarding a planned visit by a trade and investment mission and including data on potential investment opportunities in Tolitoli.

Tawau responded positively and said it expected to receive the trade delegation from Tolitoli. On November 10, 2000 formal trade ties between Tolitoli and Tawau were established.

“Besides that, we also made a formal proposal to the Nunukan administration in East Kalimantan to support our efforts, due to its strategic location at the border between Malaysia and Indonesia,” Bantilan said.

Since then, the local administration has continued to promote possible sectors that could be jointly accomplished with Malaysia, including food crops and horticulture, livestock, fishing, industry trade and tourism.

Data derived from the Tolitoli administration indicated in the 2000-2004 period food crop plantation areas increased to 26.62 percent, comprising seven types of food crops.

Production rose to 27 percent in the same period, far surpassing the figure prior to the Totata-Tosamin joint scheme.

Data at the Tolitoli Plantation Office showed the annual productivity rate of coconut increased from 1.04 percent per hectare in 2000 to 1.08 percent in 2004, while coffee rose from 0.12 percent in 2000 to 0.32 percent in 2004.

The 2002-2004 period saw a rise in the livestock population — the number of buffaloes rose to 10.94 percent, 6.59 for cattle, 27.11 for goats and 70 percent for poultry.

The fishery sector and shrimp farming had also flourished.

In 2004, fish production reached 11,093 tons and the total area of shrimp farms expanded to 904 hectares, producing 2,044 tons of shrimp annually.

In 2004, as many as 465 companies operating in the trade sector were recorded, comprised of 15 types of industries with a total investment value of Rp 7.9 billion and with the ability to employ 1,812 people from the local workforce.

Following the success of the Totata-Tosamin cooperation, the Tolitoli administration is working on forging economic cooperation with other countries.

“If we don’t act fast enough to spur development, we would be left behind and we will remain poor,” Bantilan said.

“The people of Tolitoli must revive the glory days and the Tolitoli administration is committed to realize that goal.”

Ruslan Sangadji