Miyatty Jannah’s story

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

 

 

Mrs Lonah Akumu’s story

Mrs. Lonah Akumu: One Woman’s Story of Resilience Championing SRI in western Kenya

By: Bancy M. Mati[1] and Kennedy Ouma[2]

The soft-spoken Mrs. Lonah Anyango Okumu is an uncelebrated heroine in her own right. This mother of seven children is a widow who has overcome many odds to bring up and educate her family single-handedly as well as become a leading champion of the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), in western Kenya. Born in 1961 in Karachuonyo, Homa Bay County, Lonah later married Mr. Akumu of Ahero Irrigation Scheme in Kisumu rural in 1981. This introduced the young Lonah to paddy rice farming, a rather new experience to her. She and her husband were happily married and were blessed with seven children. The couple cultivated paddy rice under conventional flooded check-basin irrigation, as a source of food and income. Unfortunately, in 2003, her husband passed on, and Lonah was left a widow. She struggled farming paddy rice, raising her family and educating her children all alone. Life was tough as farm inputs were expensive, rice cultivation had high labour demands, while yields were low and thus poor income from rice farming left Lonah with many problems. To augment family income, she sometimes used to work as a casual worker in other farms, while also cultivating her 4 acres of paddy. Moreover, the continuous flooded paddies meant that poor Lonah spent every day of the crop season in stagnant water, exposing her to water-borne diseases.

In 2010, Lonah was among the first batch of farmers from western Kenya who were trained on SRI by Prof. Bancy Mati of JKUAT. She quickly identified with the need to use less seeds, reduced labour for weeding and the promise of higher yields and better incomes from SRI. Thus, Lonah was one of the first SRI adopters in Ahero Irigation Scheme. She was trained as a ToT (Training of Trainers) in 2011 through Prof. Mati’s initiatives in promoting SRI at the time, further improving her skills.

lorna-shows-her-paddy-field
Lonah shows her SRI paddy during an interview at Ahero Irrigation Scheme, October 5th, 2016

Lonah says that at first, she thought SRI is complicated. Before SRI came, when she cultivated rice in conventional paddies, she would plant 25 kg of seed per acre and transplant the seedlings when they were 28 days old. She was not sure the new method would work. So in her first year, she tried SRI on one acre, using just 5 kg of seeds and transplanting 12 day-old seedlings. The crop did very well and she counted 105 tillers on her SRI plot. At harvesting, the one acre yielded 35 bags of paddy compared to the 20 bags obtained from conventional paddies. From that time on, she converted to growing all her rice by SRI method and has never looked back since.

As a woman, Lonah has faced several challenges, especially as a widow. Sometimes there is shortage of water, in which case, men can go out to irrigate at night when water is sometimes flowing, but as a woman, she can’t. She requires capital to buy fertilizers and pesticides, and due to family demands, at times she can’t afford. But even with these struggles, she has remained steadfast as an SRI farmer. As a ToT, Lorna has trained many other farmers on SRI and has been a motivational speaker for the system. Currently in 2016, all her 4 acres of paddy are under SRI. She urges other farmers, especially women, to adopt SRI. It is for this reason that we consider Mrs. Lonah Anyango Okumu a champion of SRI in Kenya.

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[1] Professor at JKUAT and SRI Project Coordinator in Kenya

[2] Officer in Charge, West Kano Irrigation scheme, Kenya

Making Space for Women Farmers’ Voices

Women play a pivotal role in agriculture, but their contribution is not given due recognition. Women’s role as a farmer is hardly recognised as a result of which they have limited access to productive resources, decision-making and markets relating to agriculture. Owing to this ground reality, special efforts are being undertaken by civil society organisations under agriculture and livelihood programmes to respond to gender and equity concerns.

Women extension worker to promote SRI

Ms. Kala Bista (wearing black jacket with camera and bag) is working for a micro-finance institute (Jiwan Bikash Samaj) of Nepal. Last year she took a 5 days intensive SRI training and one day field visit. It encouraged her to introduce SRI method in her working village. She start to disseminate SRI information and its benefits among intended farmers. At initial stage, some male farmers took interest but face obstacle and negative responses from most of the female farmers. In spite of strong negative reaction she started SRI method in that village. When SRI fields became attractive, slowly female farmers turned positive towards Kala Bista and SRI. At the end, when SRI rice crops mature and gave double yield with similar fertilizer and production cost most of the farmers thankful towards the dedicated agriculture extension worker. This year, SRI areas become double and all male and female farmers involve equally.

Asia’s invisible women farmers

(From Sci-Dev.net – See original)

Speed read

  • Women farmers provide up to half or more of the labour input in rice production
  • Women’s contributions to agriculture and household income are often unrecorded
  • Technology support needs to keep pace as urbanisation expands women’s rural role

Women hold up half the sky, so goes the Chinese saying.

Yet in the developing countries of Asia, they do not get half the credit for it. In the field of agriculture, women have been especially invisible to scientists.

“The work women do, no matter where it is, doesn’t count. If the work goes unpaid, it is ‘housework’, and if it is paid, it is simply ‘farm labour’. Neither term recognises the true value of the contributions women make to the food-producing capacity of Asia,” say social scientists Michael Collinson and Hilary Sims Feldstein, who produced a gender study on rice farming systems for the Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers (CGIAR). [1,2]

Yet, both stress: “Women are major participants in the rice growing regions of Asia. In Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines, women provide up to half the labour input in rice production.” In India and Bangladesh, women do as much as 80 per cent of the work.

Invisible women’s role in farms

Other scientists have also pointed out that women are often the most important decision makers in the household. They manage the household budget, decide the amount of rice to be kept for consumption and for sale, and buy farm inputs like pesticides when they go to the town market. [3]

The role of women in Asian rural life is growing with urbanisation. As men are drawn to the cities to find jobs, the women are left behind to manage families and make decisions on the farms.

But Asian agricultural scientists were slow to recognise this, and in the isolation of their labs, continued to develop technologies for men on Asian farms. [1,2]

These scientists could not see that technology is not necessarily gender neutral, Thelma Paris, a gender specialist at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), tells SciDev.Net. Consequently, “women farmers are excluded in technology design, testing and dissemination, and agricultural extension services. This has left untapped the potential capabilities of women as farmers and as leaders in agricultural development.”

Paris adds that she had a hard time convincing engineers at IRRI to develop machinery that would help ease the work of women as this was not considered a research priority.

But after years of persuasion, IRRI engineers finally designed an ultra-light transplanter in pink colour to help women with the backbreaking task of transplanting rice seedlings, Paris recalls.

The same narrow focus characterises agricultural extension workers. Typically, their advisory services on improved crop establishment techniques involve only men, although in most rice communities, women take care of seed nurseries as well as uprooting/pulling seedlings.

Even social scientists have fallen into this trap. When doing surveys on rural poverty, they interview only the men as heads of household. The wife’s occupation is automatically recorded as housewife although she provides unpaid labour in almost all agriculture-related activities (crop production, postharvest and livestock management activities). Women’s contributions to household income, although small, are also often unrecorded.

Broadening gender perspectives

Thankfully this narrow-mindedness on the part of agricultural science research is changing. Since the mid-1980s, Paris notes, “social scientists led by IRRI have started making Asian women in farms visible in agricultural statistics by quantifying their labour inputs in rice production per hectare and by disaggregating unpaid family and paid hired labour of male and female workers.”

These data, she says, have provided evidence that although women’s contributions vary across countries, their contributions total to about half in Cambodia and Indonesia, up to half in Thailand, and more than half in Vietnam and Laos. In the Philippines, women participation in rice production is about a quarter but their participation in farm management decisions about inputs and hiring of labour is higher than the women in other countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). [3]

Programmes like Women in Rice Farming Systems (WIRFS) have worked to address gender issues in agriculture, enhance gender analysis in research for technology development, recruit and train more women scientists and professionals, and develop and disseminate teaching and communication materials to promote understanding of gender analysis in research.

WIRFS launched a model project in a Philippine village in 1986 to demonstrate how a gender-sensitive approach to science and development could work.

Among the outcomes of that project was the design of a micro rice mill powered by a small motor — the first technology intentionally designed for women. The micro rice mill meant the women did not have to pound the unhusked rice to process the rice for cooking, reducing the drudgery of women’s work on the farm. [1,2]

In Thailand, the WIRFS project on integrated pest management primarily involved women. IRRI entomologist Kong Luen Heong narrated how they were surprised when visiting farming villages to find only women farmers since the men had all gone to the cities to work. [4]

But they found out in a survey that the women did not know how to properly use agro-chemicals on their rice crops. Only the men had attended government training programmes on pest management.

Heong, however, noted that women farmers tend to be more receptive to new ideas while men tend to be more dogmatic. Women are more sensitive to the health effects of spraying. This realisation led to the inclusion of women in pest management training programmes and projects.

The pioneering work of the WIRFS programme since its inception 30 years ago should be a model for others. It has raised awareness about the role of women in rural Asia and made people realise that Asian women, hitherto invisible, may even be holding up more than their half of the sky.

Crispin Maslog is a Manila-based consultant for the Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication. A former journalist, professor and environmental activist, he worked for the Press Foundation of Asia and the International Rice Research Institute.

This article has been produced by SciDev.Net’s South-East Asia & Pacific desk.

References

[1] Consultative Group of International Agricultural Research From Field to Lab and Back: Women in Rice Farming Systems (CGIAR Gender Analysis Program, 1995)
[2] Hilary Sim Feldstein Gender analysis: Making women visible and improving social analysis In: Michael Collinson (ed.) A History of Farming Systems Research (FAO and CABI Publishing, 2000)
[3] Thelma Paris Bringing women from the margin to the mainstream of rice research and technology development: Strategies and lessons learned (Unpublished Ph.D thesis, November 2000)
[4] L. Meenakanit, M. M. Escalada, K. L. Heong Changing Role of Women in Rice Pest Management in Central Thailand In: K. L. Heong, M. M. Escalada Pest Management of Rice Farmers in Asia (IRRI, 1997)

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