JAKARTADAILY.ID – Seferinus We’e and Krensensiana Nasa, a farming couple from Nangaroro, a steep hill on the Eastern Indonesian island of Flores, have managed to increase their yields and income three-and-a-half-fold by implementing conservation agriculture techniques through a project supported by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and its NGO partners.
By terracing and intercropping, they have put an end to the erosion of their land and by capturing the manure of domestic animals and using it as organic fertilizer on their conservation agriculture plots, their corn yield has increased from two tons per hectare to seven. As a result, their two oldest children are now at university in Jakarta, which they could not afford previously.
The technique promoted by FAO through local implementation partner the Independent Farmer Partners Foundation (YMTM) has now been mainstreamed and made accessible to all farmers cultivating marginal lands, according to Oliva Monika, Head of the Ministry of Agriculture’s Nagekeo District Office.
The district has around 21,000 farmers and around 10% work on marginal land.
Amandus Buiu, a small-scale farmer in Wolowae, previously could only plant rice on his one-acre plot, which often gets flooded. By introducing small drainage canals and intercropping corn with beans, his flat plot with a slope of around 2% has transformed into an area that provides enough shade, moisture, and natural fertilizer from leaves in the soil for both plants to thrive.
He has also kept a rice paddy at the end of his plot closest to the creek. Farmers have moved from slash-and-burn agriculture and shifting cultivation to permanent farming, increasing their income and benefiting the environment.
“The methods we introduce – and our local partners help the farmers implement – conserve the land and resources while increasing yields and incomes,” said Wayan Tambun, National Program Officer at FAO Indonesia.
In another marginal area, Rendubutowe, where high elevation means much lower rainfall, FAO partners World Neighbors and VECO Indonesia have introduced the idea of terracing and the use of hedgerows to conserve soil and water and planting trees to minimize water run-offs in the rainy season and limit water shortages in the dry season.
As a result of the new practices, the land in many areas is now covered by forests, providing natural erosion and flood control, carbon storage, and giving rise to new water springs.
Life has improved for the farmers who participate in the program. Inheriting marginal land is no longer a curse, Mr. We’e says. Now he can even think of taking a trip outside the province, he added: “With our older children now in Jakarta, we hope we can go and visit them.”