Teaching Farmers Sustainable Agriculture in Indonesia

For many years, farming in Indonesia relied on the heavy use of pesticides, many of which caused significant damage to the environment in that country. In the 1970s, the Suharto government encouraged farmers to switch to greener growing methods using new crop varieties that boosted production. However, some of these crops and their growing methods continued to damage the environment until foundations like those created by Sukanto Tanoto began introducing farmers to methods that were more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

Particularly Damaging in Tourist Areas

The methods of agriculture used in Indonesia in the past actually killed the good organisms in the soil and damaged the natural ecosystem. The damage was particularly dangerous in Bali which has a high tourist population that already puts a strain on the ecosystem. Today, however, Indonesia is seeing a trend toward sustainable and organic agricultural methods. Farmers are returning not only to traditional methods but turning to new, environmentally-friendly techniques.

Organic Farming Imperative

According to many experts in Indonesia, changing to an organic form of farming is imperative to the health of the country. Not only will environmentally-friendly farming techniques protect the land, but it will also help preserve the culture of the Indonesian people. Before the 1980s, farming was a self-sufficient industry with farmers purchasing minimal items. Since that time, however, farmers in Indonesia have grown increasingly dependent on agrochemicals, markets and purchasing items on credit. Because the use of chemicals further degrade the soil, farmers were finding themselves in an endless cycle of borrowing and purchasing in order to make ends meet.

Grass Roots Level

Foundations are working with farmers at the grassroots level in an effort to teach them about organic fertilizers and pesticides. One agency focuses on cultivating earthworms, allowing farmers to control their own fertilizer factories and minimize their dependence on other forms of fertilizers. Farmers are willing to listen to this type of sustainable fertilizing as earthworms are linked with the a form of Hinduism practiced in the country. According to Hindu belief, Brahma entered the earth in the form of a worm and purified the soil of poison. By using this cultural belief, experts can convince farmers to choose more natural methods of farming than chemical methods.

International Vision

Many organizations in Indonesia are creating sustainable farming methods for local farmers with an international vision. By helping farmers understand sustainability, they are able to obtain a fair price when their products are taken to market. Other organizations are creating better ways for small farmers to get products to market and expand their customer base to what could eventually be an international market.

Hybrid Organic

After so many years of using chemicals, many farmers are reluctant to begin farming with totally organic methods. For this reason, a hybrid version of farming in which organic and chemical methods are used has been adopted. Farmers are simply encouraged to reduce their use of chemicals and use natural alternatives whenever possible.

Indonesia is the world’s largest producer of products such as palm oil, cocoa, rubber and coffee. With its rich, fertile land, Indonesia could see their agricultural economy grow significantly, simply by adopting sustainable farming techniques that will keep their land rich and plentiful.

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