The Experiences of an SRI farmer Ms. Miyatty Jannah, East Java, Indonesia
Adapted from Report on Visit to Indonesia to Review SRI Progress, January 11-18, 2008 –
Norman Uphoff, CIIFAD
Visit to Aliksa Organic SRI Training Center at Nagrak (Thursday, January 17)
Thursday morning, we traveled south of Jakarta to this training center operated by a new NGO, Aliksa, which is promoting organic SRI production. Victor Lee and I left the hotel in Jakarta at 7:30 accompanied by Ms. Miyatty Jannah,an SRI farmer-leader and one of Aliksa Consultants’ farmer cadre, all of whom are prepared to do training and advising of other farmers for practicing organic SRI. Miyatty had been invited to travel with us because she was one of the few SRI farmers who spoke much English. She gave us a very professional business card, with both home and cell phones listed. She lives in the village of Crawuk, located in Widodaren subdistrict (kecamatan) of Ngawi district (kabupaten) in East Java.
Miyatty’s command of English was impressive, the more so because it was self-taught, having had only three years of formal schooling. Victor told me that Miyatty learned her English as a young woman from watching televisions shows while babysitting in the homes of richer households who had TVs. He commented that the television series ‘McGyver’ had been one of her favorite programs, which explained why, when she responded to my questions, she often said “Yep” instead of “Yes.”
The two-and-a-half hour drive to Nagrak, south of Sukabumi which is south of Bogor which is south of Jakarta, went fast with our conversation. Miyatty cultivates three hectares of SRI rice, one personally and two with hired labor. She cannot do more herself, she said, because she now spends a lot of time in Aliksa activities. (Aliksa is an NGO that promotes organic SRI in various parts of Indonesia.) Her yields have gone from 5 t/ha before SRI to 7 t/ha now, a 40% increase. She is happy with this because her costs have been reduced at the same time.
Moreover, she gets a premium price for her SRI paddy, 300 rupiahs/kg, simply because of its higher quality. This adds another 15% to her income from paddy, over and above the higher yield and reduced costs. She said that she doesn’t have to tell the merchant that the rice is higher-quality SRI paddy; he can see the difference and pays her more for it without any haggling.
When she first heard about SRI, four years ago, she contacted Pak Alik through our Japanese SRI colleague Shuichi Sato and invited him to come to her village and train its farmers in the new methods. [Aliksa was founded by Alik and Sato, a Japanese SRI colleague, hence its name.] Alik brought with him Sutarmin from Public Works (PU) and also a third person. (Sutarmin was already training farmers in SRI methods at the PU training center in Bandung, as noted in my trip report from September 2005: http://sri.ciifad.cornell.edu/countries/indonesia/indotrep905.pdf.)
Miyatty personally covered the costs of their stay in her village for four days, training 35 farmers in SRI methods. Only 10 of these farmers would try out the methods, however; and there was a lot of resistance at first, even abuse, she said. “The whole village was against us at first: ‘You are stupid,’ they said when they saw the transplanted SRI plots: ‘You will get nothing.’ ”
There was “really a strain,” Miyatty recollected, “it was really, really hard. People were talking bad things about SRI.” She had to convene many meetings among the ten SRI farmers, to discuss among themselves and to keep them all continuing. “One husband and wife were not talking with each other. They almost divorced. Even government people were coming and asking about this SRI. I explained what I understood, but they didn’t believe me and didn’t support us. But I continued. There were so many problems. Pak Alik came once again, and only 20 of the original 35 farmers were willing to meet with him.”
“But when harvesting was done, people came and said, ‘Wow. How did that happen from such small seedlings?’ All the people were surprised. With less water and less money, we had 40-50% more paddy. People from other villages came and asked us how we did this. So I went to other villages. But always there is the same problem: at first there are lots of tensions and problems, But the problems go away once they see the results.” It is always gratifying to hear this account of the first introduction of SRI among ‘disbelievers,’ although this story is by now quite familiar.
Miyatty added something that was consistent with other reports that I had heard on the social impact of SRI; however, she was more detailed. (Victor confirmed this, saying he has plans to do a video on this subject in her village.) “Now, after harvest the SRI farmers come together, and each household brings one kg of rice and some vegetables and a little money, and they all cook a big feast and eat together.” This sounded like an Indonesian version of the American Thanksgiving holiday. “There is so much solidarity among the SRI farmers,” she added.
We discussed how SRI is spreading in her area, mostly farmer-to-farmer. She is the most active proponent in her area, but other farmers are also helping now. The government efforts so far have not been a big factor. The Department of Agriculture allocated 1 million rupiahs ($100) for a one-hectare demo plot, but the farmer who provided the land and who did all of the work was paid only 150,000 rupiahs, Farmers want to know where the rest of the money has gone, a familiar question.
“The government SRI and my SRI are different things. The government is not successful, because for the officials, SRI is only a project.” However, now officials are starting to take a more positive view of SRI, she said, “not like when I started four years ago. There is a very warm heart for SRI in my area.” All of this was reported matter-of-factly, not boasting, as that would be out of keeping with local culture.
It turned out that Miyatty had met Sato-san first in 1996 when he was working in Sumbawa as a Nippon Koei technical advisor. She had impressed a Japanese colleague of his with her English and her ‘activist’ approach, so he asked Sato-san to try to find some employment for her. She began working in the project office, further improving her English and learning clerical skills. Her acquaintance with Sato-san had made her more willing to give some credence to SRI when she heard about it.
“There is a feeling among farmers that some government people are afraid of SRI, because it is ‘too good’,” she said. “They fear it will reduce their power, because it makes farmers less dependent on them. And there is no way for them to make money from SRI, like they can when they are handling seeds, fertilizer, etc.”
People come to her now to buy her SRI paddy. While the regular retail price is 5,000 rupiahs per kilo, she can get 10,000 rupiahs ($1) for organic SRI. However, only better-off people can afford to pay this price, and at present she has no stock left to sell. So she needs to expand further her production.
We discussed the ‘System of Intensification and Diversification’ (SID) that is being promoted by our NGO partner CEDAC in Cambodia, where smallholding farmers with as little as half a hectare take half of their paddy land out of rice production, and build a fish pond on this land that has been redeployed to alternative production — growing fruits, vegetables, legumes, etc. I will send her the manual that CEDAC has prepared on this with details of five farmers’ experience (manual available at: http://ciifad.cornell.edu/sri/countries/cambodia/cambSidMPREng.pdf).
Miyatty said that this could work well for her since she now has a pump for accessing groundwater and she can control her water use. At the SRI Harvest Festival in Cianjur last July, she was one of 5 farmers who received an award from President Yudhoyono with the promise of a mechanical shredder to make compost more easily. But this has not been delivered to her yet.
Miyatty discussed how Aliksa regards SRI as having ethical, even religious dimensions. It relates to “virtuous” activity, having respect for the environment and bringing opportunities to the poor. Even some imams have preached about SRI in the mosque, she said. It is consistent with the Muslim way of life, which advises people to share, and also to rely on reason rather than passion.
After two and a half hours, we reached Nagrak, where the Aliksa SRI Organic Training Center is located. There we were met by Ahmed Jatika, another founder of Aliksa, who has contributed the land for construction of the center here and also for a training center in Depok, on the southern edge of Jakarta (which I visited the next day). . . .
Full report is at http://sri.ciifad.cornell.edu/countries/indonesia/indoNTUtrep0108.pdf