Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Seeds of Hope in Aceh

Ongoing ACIAR work in Aceh, Indonesia is helping farmers recover and improve livelihoods after the 2004 tsunami. Mirah Nuryati, ACIAR’s acting Country Manager Indonesia, recently visited the region and saw firsthand how an alliance between a women farmers group and project partners is setting an inspiring example to others...

It was a hot sunny day when I visited the beautiful village of Naga Umbang, in Aceh Besar District in Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam, the western-most province of Indonesia. It was in this province that more than 150,000 people lost their lives and many more lost their families and properties in the 2004 tsunami.

The tsunami has devastated this village. Tonnes of debris were dumped by the catastrophe and caused severe damage to the agricultural lands. The soil has become very saline and thus infertile to plant new crops, and much of it has been abandoned. The farmers have gone through very difficult times due to low agricultural productivity and unsuccessful harvests.

women in field
(image: P Jones)

A crowd of woman farmers were working in the field when we arrived. Their colourful outfits and cheerful faces were a stark contrast to the dirty yet promising soils they were working on!

Ibu Zainabon, a mother of three, is leader of the Tunas Harapan (‘Seeds of Hope’) women farmer group involved with ACIAR research in rehabilitating Aceh. This group of 40 members is divided into two sub-groups; one focusing on cropping systems, and the other on poultry farming.

Ibu Zainabon leads Tunas Harapan (Seeds of Hope)
women farmers group (image: P Jones)
Her responsibilities as leader are to mobilise activities among the members, lead discussions and be the main point of contact for the other agencies involved in the project. These include the Aceh Assessment Institute for Agricultural Technology (better known as the Balai Pengkajian Teknologi Pertanian or BPTP), Agricultural Services (Dinas Pertanian), extension staff and non-government organisations.

She told me how her group got involved in ACIAR’s work back in 2010. They were interested in learning from the project about ways to make use of abandoned land and produce some crops. The group’s interest and participation was most welcome, as it has triple-fold benefits: increasing agricultural productivity, providing a good source of food and improving the farmers’ livelihoods.

Various crops such as tomato, chilli, string bean, watercrest, spinach, cucumber, papaya, watermelon and many more were planted on the abandoned land. The yields were to fulfil their household consumption needs, as well as to be sold in nearly local markets.
Ibu Zainabon talking with BPTP researchers
Ir. M. Ferizal and Ir. Teuku Iskandar (image: P Jones)

There has been a lot of positive interaction and synergy involving different stakeholders in this project. BPTP researchers have been tirelessly providing much-needed advice and assistance to the group. Dinas Pertanian and dedicated extension staff provide valuable inputs and help with monitoring the activity in the fields. The Indonesian and Australian researchers have been working together to address technical hurdles on the project. And, most of all, the interaction among the women’s group is fantastic.

Impressed by the group’s achievements, a local cement industry has provided them with fertilizer, a hand-tractor and water pump, which can be rented by other farmers, and thus provides additional income to the Tunas Harapan group.

The Tunas Harapan women farmers group has become an excellent model, a system that has been adopted by the local government and introduced to other areas within the Aceh Besar District. BPTP has facilitated visits by Tunas Harapan to other farmers’ groups to enable them to share their experience and success stories.

Ibu Zainabon presenting on Tunas Harapan
(image: P Jones)
Having been so successful in leading the farmer group, Ibu Zainabon has now been appointed as a member of the National Farmers Association representing the Aceh Besar District and as an ‘ambassador’ at some agricultural events.

For the future, Ibu Zainabon wants to realise her dream of improving the group’s focus on poultry farming, and to form a women farmer cooperative.

By Mirah Nuryati, ACIAR’s acting Country Manager Indonesia

More information:
ACIAR project SMCN/2007/040 Building more profitable and resilient farming systems in Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam and New South Wales 

This project is led by NSW Department of Primary Industries, and aims to improve the livelihoods of farmers in the coastal farming areas of Aceh Besar, Pidie, Pidie Jaya, Bireuen and Aceh Barat. Key project activities include supporting women farmers groups, developing a network for women in agriculture, research and demonstration for a range of crops in the coastal farming system, and capacity building for extension services. See NSW DPI’s project website 

ACIAR also has fisheries-related research in Aceh, aiming to re-establish coastal aquaculture as a key source of income and employment. Also see related Partners article ‘Building Aceh’s aquaculture’ 

1 comment:

  1. Having been so acknowledged in arch the agriculturalist group, Ibu Zainabon has now been appointed as a affiliate of the National Farmers Association apery the Aceh Besar District and as an вЂ˜ambassador’ at some agronomical events.

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