Conservation Farming: New hope in Eastern of Indonesia
The conservation agriculture technique has shown promising results, with maize yields on average 77% higher, when compared to conventional farming practices.
Standing near a 24-square meter cornfield in Bakiruk Village, Malaka, 35 km west of Atambua, which borders East Timor, Herman Besseran (55) cited a biblical story of Thomas who doubted Jesus’ resurrection. “I was like Thomas at that time. I could not believe it works, until I saw it with my own eyes,” he exclaimed.
A farmer since 15, Herman could not believe that the “simple” method of conservation farming could transform the dry soil he ploughed into fertile ground. But, after six months working with his farmer group in a conservation project plot, his doubts disappeared.
Using the conservation farming technique, the corn leaves are lush green while the soil below is covered with bean-vines. Before the new technique, the leaves were yellow and the soil below was full of weeds.
In Nusa Tenggara province, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), with support from local governments and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), has introduced Conservation Agriculture since 2013. Currently, the Conservation Agriculture pilot project has been introduced to 664 farmer groups with around 12,783 members. The method has maintained and even improved the quality and fertility of the soil.
The method entails covering infertile soil with leaves or vines, use home-made compost and apply crop rotation. All simple ways yet unfamiliar for those farmers that had relied excessively on inorganic fertilizers and burnt biomass for more than 30 years.
The Secretary at the Food Security and Extension office in Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT), Edgar Tibuludji, admits that the success of the pilot programme will make it easier for other farmers to adopt and replicate the method. About 1000 extension workers participated in the training of trainers and trained farmers in NTT on conservation agriculture.
The Indonesia government plans to scale up the technique as part of the climate smart agriculture intervention and mainstream it into agricultural practices across the country to increase corn production as part of the national food security programme.
A farmer in a conservation agriculture cornfield.