Suyamto is a retired teacher living in Boto village near Klaten, central Java. He is warm and welcoming, with a large bright smile revealing his wonderful personality and kindness. He is one of the beneficiaries of the Klaten’s farmer’s empowerment project, launched in late 2010 by Danone’s Aqua Indonesia and Bina Swadaya (local NGO), part of the Danone Ecosystem program. The main purpose of this initiative is to improve water resources management in Pusur watershed, while improving rural livelihood. A relevant and complex model as water is a critical matter for Indonesia, one of the most populous countries in the world, yet where water & environment are often poorly managed. In Pusur River Watershed, rural livelihood has been endangered. Water and soil quality is being threatened, and local economy is facing difficulties. Furthermore, soybean and rice use for baby food require a strict control of farming practices.
The aims of the project are to empower farmers, providing access to adapted services through community organizations, to promote sustainable farming practices to protect water resources on long term, and to provide high quality products to Supply Sari Husada (Danone’s baby nutrition BU).
To that aim, the main actions were to establish “Community Eco-Centers” (cooperatives) providing services to 4500 members, and to operate 20 “village production units” supplying compost to local farmer’s groups. In addition, 100 “village nurseries” were set up to supply 1,000,000 trees to upstream farmers. The cooperatives permit to supply agro services, technical support, quality control and of course essential trainings for farmers, implementing innovative and green livelihood practices. Furthermore, a Business Development Services center enabled to establish micro-finance services (saving and loan) and financial and administrative assistance. The model is effective : after 15 months of running, 500 farmers were trained, almost half of them had access to micro credit and created their own structures, incomes and employment figures largely increased, including the youth, which was one of the major challenge. 11 Ha of land were converted to organic cultivation: corn, rice and soybean.
Suyamto is the owner of an integrated farming unit. Thanks to the project, he was taught about household green farming practises, and let me say he has done his homework pretty well! He is an example to follow for all other farmers. Since he started being in the program a year ago, he has put into application all the training and help provided: micro-credit, organic farming principles to grow vegetables and fruits, a focus on polybag agriculture for a quick conversion, but also the production of organic fertilizer (sheep compost), a poultry…All the space he has is exploited at best to generate a better income and integrate sustainable practises.
When we asked Suyamoto what were for him the main benefits of this program, he smiled gratefully and mentioned first the importance of the knowledge he gain thanks to the training.
Furthermore, and especially as he is retired from his previous job, these new activities have generated a significant income, improving his life conditions, and that quite rapidly (proving that organic conversion can be quick and facilitate).
When we talk about the future, he is very optimistic, not only for himself but for the rest of the community, as he feels this program can really help improving life conditions. In fact, Suyamato (as a teacher) feels very concerned about transmitting this knowledge. More than is own financial preoccupation, it’s teaching to other farmers that matters, a mission, a guiding role he wants to provide. And has he said, to convince the others in adopting new farming practises, you first have to make them witness concrete results, see from their own eyes that it can be rapidly achieved.
Suyamato will be an excellent example for other farmers, with no doubts.
While inviting us at his table, he talked to us about his daughter, showing us her photo on the wall proudly and lovingly; she wants to be a teacher too.
What about farming? He smiled. He will maybe teach her also about organic farming….
Suyamato will be an excellent example for other farmers, a “ green teacher” convincing reluctant established farmers to adopt these practises, as well as the youth that often see farming as poorly ambitious.
His good heart and optimism are incredibly inspiring. What a positive attitude. What a lovely person.
The objective of the project is now to prove its sustainability and to make the organization completely self-sufficient. A challenge Danone and its partners want to achieve in the two coming years. I must admit I truly admire the project and the amazing field team: the program is strongly innovative, as the entrepreuneurship is here based on natural ressources management, a very complicate matter.
Indeed, if the first objective is farmers empowement, the long term consequences should also be the water resources protection, a challenge even higher considering the very complex environment. The finality is nevertheless immense, water is a precious resource, even if western countries often seem to forget, it remains one of tomorrow’s biggest issue.
Alice Vivian, May 2012, Klaten