Helping local farmers of Biloto Village, West Timor to improve food production
Thursday, September 8, 2011
“I was pessimistic since rice field usually needs a lot of water, yet water is scarce in this village, and in West Timor in general. We gave it a try on a small-scale field,” says Chornelis Neno, 50s, one of village leaders of Biloto, West Timor. “It works,” Neno tells CWS, looking very happy.
Since March 2011 the local farmers of Biloto village have been trying System of Rice Intensification that allows them to plant rice with less seeds and water. In the area like Biloto Village of West Timor, where dry season can be prolonged and leads to drought, water is a big issue and should be used wisely.
Neno and his fellow neighbors tried out the permaculture method in a small land. Now they have harvested some vegetables. (Blasius Halek / CWS)
They also try out permaculture, a sustainable land use design that based on ecological and biological principles. Most are poor farmers, who try to secure family’s consumption. They cannot afford to buy more seeds to improve their farm’s production, let alone to buy fertilizer or pesticides. Permaculture is therefore a suitable method to improve local farmers’ agricultural productivity as it aims to create stable, productive systems that provide for human needs, harmoniously integrating the land with its inhabitants.
“It allows us to learn how to take care the paddy and also vegetables with organic fertilizer and pesticides; therefore we don’t damage the soil. We learned how to make compost and bokashi fertilizer using manure. We don’t need to spend money on fertilizer and pesticides. We turned an idle land into this farm and paddy field,” Neno explains.
“The practices are not costly since we can use what the nature has given us,” Neno, who has lived there for twenty-one years, continues. “We use rain water collected in the water reservoir to irrigate the field,” he adds.
It is CWS’ pilot project in a small community of Biloto Village to help them improve their food production to mitigate the coming drought. In order to equip the farmers with the knowledge and skill, CWS held a series of agricultural trainings for local farmers and facilitated the formation of a group of 25 local farmers called Tafena Kuan in January 2011.
These are follow-ups of the water reservoir construction that Neno and the other village leaders, proposed to build in the end of 2009 to catch rainwater. Villagers have been using the water in the reservoir for daily activities like bathing and washing since August 2010. Tafena Kuan, the farmer group of which Cornelis Neno is a leader, has received three times agricultural training since December 2010. In the first training they learned about permaculture: its ethics, principles, and components. The second training allowed them to learn about System of Rice Intensification (SRI) method, horticulture, and organic fertilizer and pesticides. The last training was for them to learn about local microorganism and effective microorganism, as well as fresh water fish breeding. In addition to theory, they had opportunity for practice.
Applying the permaculture design and combining it with horticulture has allowed the farmer to be able to harvest some vegetables. “We have planted vegetables. For 21 years I have lived here, the only vegetable I used to only have was papaya leaves. But since we have this farm in this area, my family and I can eat another vegetables like bok choy and beans,” says Neno. “Not only for family consumption, I have sold some bok choy to local market. I earned IDR 200,000 from selling the previous harvest. I’m happy,” Neno proudly tells CWS.
“Not only teaching us how to do it, CWS also introduced us to officials from District Agricultural Office that also have given us support and motivation to do the right way.” The group’s success in the pilot project has also motivated the neighbors to try doing the same thing, planting vegetables with permaculture method. “We plan to improve our production in the future so we have more food supplies in the dry season that always leads to drought and food scarecity. The members of the group will work hard to make this sustainable.”