TEMPO.CO, Kupang - The Ministry of Agriculture and provincial authorities have been working with over 16,000 smallholders since 2013, in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) and West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) provinces to help them adapt to climate change using a special technique called conservation agriculture.
The new approach helps farmers to cope with extreme weather events, while increasing their production and improving their soil. With support from FAO and USAID, almost 800 farmers groups across 28 districts formed the basis for organizing these improvements.
Today, a workshop conducted in Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara to mark the official closure of the project was attended by Government officials, NGOs, FAO and USAID.
“With Conservation Agriculture, water is preserved, land is preserved, and fertilizers are effective. The system will be sustainable, protecting the land, water, and the environment”, said Victor Laiskodat, the East Nusa Tenggara Provincial Governor.
Among the poorest farmers in Indonesia, the smallholders involved in conservation agriculture increased their corn production to over 4 tons by taking up conservation agriculture during the El Niño drought in 2015 and 2016, when traditional methods gave only 2.5 tons or even less.
Apart from the higher production of corn, many farmers have also planted a variety of beans and other crops to improve soil fertility and provide nutritious food for their families.
After four years of implementing the new techniques, farmers have also shown that the quality of their soil has been greatly improved, with much higher soil carbon and nitrogen content. The new techniques have shown long-term environmental and financial benefits when compared to traditional farming practices, which has enhanced the sustainability of small farms.
"Conservation farming techniques are especially useful for areas with low rainfall because they increase the ability of the soil to store water through the rainy season into the dry season. So, farmers in those areas are able to plant two crops a year", said Deddy Nursyamsi, Head of the Center for Agricultural Land Research and Development (BBSDLP).
Deddy noted that the increased need for labor has been met mainly by woman farmers, but in fact, Conservation Agriculture has brought more income to farmers.
In early 2018, following the successes achieved in NTT and NTB, these conservation agriculture practices were successfully introduced to smallholders in three further provinces, namely South Sulawesi, Central Sulawesi, and Gorontalo.
Anang Noegroho, Director of Food and Agriculture at National Development Planning Board (Bappenas) said conservation agriculture is a sustainable agricultural technique that is able to increase productivity in the dryland. "Bappenas hopes the conservation farming techniques can be replicated in other locations to support food security in the provinces."
Initially, the farmer groups established Farmer Field Schools, based on an approach developed in Indonesia more than 20 years ago and now adopted all over the world. Farmers collaborated to observe tests of combinations of the new conservation agriculture techniques in special areas on their land, encouraged by Government agricultural officers
"Conservation agriculture techniques allow smallholders to leave behind inefficient practices which can lead to the loss of most of their crop in dry years, and also take up some level of mechanization that offers higher returns. We hope that this technic will be further expanded in Indonesia to develop more resilient farming and bring wealth to the farmers”, said FAO representative Stephen Rudgard at the closing event in Kupang.