Farmers benefit by going organic

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Features – January 31, 2008

Smiling and talking casually despite the strong aroma of cow urine coming from the bucket in front of him, Ketut Wiantara looked very happy as though he was rich with treasures.

The urine was his real treasure though, for later it would be mixed with water to create organic fertilizer and pesticides.

Farmers in Pancasari village, Sukasada district in Buleleng regency, around 60 kilometers north of Denpasar, used to use chemical fertilizers and pesticides for farming, which inevitably caused them losses.

“The expense for the fertilizers and pesticides was bigger than the income we got,” Wiantara said.

The chemical fertilizers and pesticides also hurt the soil, causing the size of the harvest to decrease year after year, he said.

Three years ago, Wiantara started to use organic fertilizers and pesticides, after reading about organic farming technology on the Internet.

Wiantara and other farmers in Bedugul received computers and Internet facilities donated by the world’s largest information technology company, Microsoft.

Wiantara then obtained a Rp 30 million (about US$3,225) bank loan to apply the organic farming methods on four hectares of his land.

Pleased with the results, Wiantara got another Rp 70 million loan and applied organic farming on all 25 hectares of his land.

Organic farming methods have increased his harvests, and now he can earn Rp 10 million a month and employs two permanent and four temporary workers to monitor, clean and harvest his vegetables.

Through the Bali Organic Association (BOA), the farming products from Bedugul’s farmers, who have joined the Independent Young Farmers Group (Kelompok Tani Muda Mandiri), are now supplied to catering companies and restaurants in Denpasar and Kuta.

Association chairwoman Ni Luh Kartini said organic farming greatly reduced farmers’ costs for chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

“They only need to use the resources around their places (to practice organic farming),” said the lecturer at the School of Agriculture at Udayana University.

She said the association is now spreading the initiative to other places in Bali like Kintamani, Wongaya Gede, Petang and Pipid.

Kartini said a group of farmers calling themselves Somya Pertiwi in Wongaya Betan had established a training center for organic farming on 35 hectares of land. The center is equipped with a meeting hall, an office, a library, a shop, a guest house, internet facility as well as a rice processing place and an organic fertilizer production area.

Farmers in Wongayan Betan combine cow dung, chicken droppings and kascing fertilizer (fertilizer made from worm waste) for their organic fertilizer.

“Cow urine is used only as an additional fluid because the cow dung contains only a small level of fluid,” said I Nengah Miasa, chairman of Somya Pertiwi.

He said Wongayan Betan farmers only started to apply organic farming methods more than two years ago, but they set the stage for such farming technique as far back as 1997.

“Only a few people tried organic farming at that time and since nobody supported such farming techniques, the results were not maximal,” he said.

Kartini, who introduced organic farming to Wongaya Betan 10 years ago, said the farming techniques at that time were a new thing for local people.

“Many farmers still doubted organic farming could improve their harvests,” she said.

Now 30 members of the Wongaya Betan traditional farmers organization use organic fertilizer on their 98 hectares of land.

“We are not have a better income but also do not have to worry about diseases caused by chemical fertilizers and pesticides,” said Miasa.

— Anton Muhajir

Published in The Jakarta Post

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