Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
The national high yielding rice movement that was introduced in the eighties during the Soeharto era turned out to be a disaster for the dry land farmers in Eastern Indonesia. In the western parts of Indonesia, where there is constant water supply and rain, rice can be harvested up to three or four times a year, while in Eastern Indonesia due to the lack of rain, it can only be harvested once a year which has also lowered the quality of the rice harvested. This movement has caused the disappearance of nutritious crops such as sorghum, red rice, black rice, jewawut (millet) and jelai (barley). Rather than having a variety of crops to grow, the government urged the farmers to grow only one crop. This has led the government to have tremendous control over the crops and also the inputs involved such as fertilizers and pesticides that needed to be ordered from outside of the eastern areas, which in the end has led to corruption from the government over the inputs involved.
As the system continues and the rice movement is no longer enforced, the farmers are technically free to grow anything they want. The government has even started a movement which they call “Go Local” and “No Rice Day” to support the local food program, but it has been inconsistent without movement at the grassroots level. What farmers continue to see is the existing rice program, in addition to a government partnership with big companies to encourage the planting of transgenic corn in an effort to show their support to alternative food other than rice. However, this has instead proven the government to be insensitive to local problems. The transgenic corn could not grow well in Eastern parts of Indonesia. The inputs needed to grow transgenic corn were again controlled by the government. In the end, the farmers had to grow corn, sometimes with the support of the government, but most of the time without their support.
Even as the government encourages people to eat local food, they have not taught the farmers what to grow and how to grow it. While they introduced the transgenic corn, the local corn was never made a part of the local food movement. The farmers are left on their own to recover their seed patrimony and to find the low cost, high nutrition varieties they used to cultivate. Most of the elders in villages still have some of the seeds and the knowledge, but the farmers have not been growing these plants for a long time. The knowledge is lost to farmers and will be forever lost to the next generation if these practices continue.
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
Maria Loretha has recovered local knowledge that has been missing for more than thirty years by re-introducing local crops such as sorghum, jewawut (millet), jelai (barley), red rice, black rice, and corn, local foods that are more nutritious than rice.. These crops were uprooted during the national rice movement, which greatly contributed to the malnutrition issues faced by eastern Indonesia for many years. The low inputs that these local crops require are ideal for the dry land of Eastern Indonesia, and they can be harvested up to three times a year, unlike rice that can only be harvested once a year because of the soil conditions. example herself and has helped the farmers by showing them how to farm these local crops.
Through her training, Loretha is learning about climate conditions and understands that promoting local food security is part of surviving these changes. She believes that by maintaining local food diversity, island communities are able to be resilient against inconsistent food supplies from outside their regions. Together with the government, she is starting a national movement for sorghum and other local alternative food that is built on small farmers’ organization at the grassroots level. These farmers organizations are based upon local self sufficiency, knowledge sharing, mutual support and an inter-island knowledge sharing network.
In 2007, Loretha started her quest by traveling from village to village in Eastern Indonesia in an attempt to find local seeds that have been missing for many years. She has managed to collect ten out of the thirty varieties of sorghum seeds and many other local seeds. She is now building the independent capacity of the small farmers groups to recover and disseminate knowledge about the local seeds, thus turning the farmers into innovators in her pilot areas in Kalimantan and Halmahera.