TREE's planting seeds of knowledge
date 05 Jun 2020
In a recent bLOG post, we shared some of the unique tree species that have been introduced in our tree planting project in Java, Indonesia (read more about our initiative here). But what else does it take to build a forest for our future? Today, we take a closer look the role education plays in building a sustainable, well-supported planting year, as well as get to know some of the farmers of the community!
Planting seeds of knowledge
Prior to our tree planting project, many farmers and families of the community depended on rice and cassava crops. Given these species’ tendencies to absorb nutrients from the soil without giving anything back, as well as the current conditions of the forest (read more about it here), living solely on these crops makes it challenging for farmers and their families to get by.
Helping restore the forests goes beyond planting more trees and crops – it requires a holistic approach to nourish a sustainable environment and ensure that the landscape is maintained for many years to come. Education is indeed an important component for achieving such sustenance and provides the farmers the right tools and knowledge of their newly planted crops to make their farming businesses profitable.
With the help of our tree planting partner Trees4Trees, a programme was put in place that emphasises the importance of sustainable agroforestry and provides guidance on how to look after new crops. “Last year, our education for the farmers was simple, mainly talking to them about changing crops from cassava to corn and tree planting to conserve soil and water,” says Mark Schmidt, our Trees4Trees spokesman. Corn was previously grown in the area, but factors such as cultivation techniques, planting times, as well as the emergence of pests hindered its optimal harvest. The training informs the farmers on the right practices and handling to ensure their corn crops yield maximum results and provide a stable income as they are also slowly introduced to other tree species and crop commodities.
“In 2020, we’ve implemented a specific training programme to discuss the rationale of agroforestry, as well as what to expect when we make the next transitions to coffee and albasia,” says Mark. While these crops have already been planted, they will take some time before they ripen and are ready for harvest.
Meet the farmers
Tree planting and education are important aspects of our transformational tree planting project, but most importantly it is the farmers – the heart and soul of the community – who nurture these crops using their new knowledge and help restore the forest. We were able to speak with some of the farmers participating in the programme and learn of their stories.
Rasito is a father of two, with his youngest son Japra working as a field facilitator in our tree planting project. Before taking part in the programme, Rasito mainly depended on cassava and corn crops, as well as cultivating grass for livestock.
“We’re very thankful for the seedlings,” Rasito says. “We truly were given an opportunity to improve our lives.”
Wasis is a 60-year-old farmer who lives with his wife, daughter-in-law and grandchild. He mainly harvested cassava crops to provide food on the table and support his family, and while he helped connect irrigation systems on the field for a fee, it wasn’t enough for them to get by.
Wosari was delighted to receive the seedlings and is looking forward to the many opportunities that they bring. He’s most excited about the coffee seedlings – with such a productive crop, he exclaims “you only need to plant coffee once to enjoy its benefits for the rest of your life!”
Sumeri is a 71-year-old farmer and a father of six children and currently resides in Wonosari with his wife and youngest son. With just cassava and coconuts to depend on, he’s appreciative of the tree and coffee seedlings he’s received. Sumeri has previous experience of growing coffee when he lived in Lampung, Indonesia, and thus understands how having such a crop can bring many benefits to him and his family.
While it’s important that the farmers were equipped with the right knowledge to nurture their newly planted crops, education on post-harvest handling is essential to ensure their produce is properly prepared and ready for market. This includes training on storage, packaging, as well as the standard grade that is received by factories.
A portion of the training is also dedicated to home business management, which helps farmers understand the financial benefits of long-term corn yield (along with the new crops that have been planted in the area). "The Wonosari community generally believes that rice is an essential crop to harvest, and without it, there won't be any food on the table. This way of thinking continues to prevail, even when the availability of water in the area only allows rice planting to be done once a year during the rainy season," says Mark. "Corn is one alternative for community food security (as it can be planted twice a year), thus financial management training needs to be conducted to minimise the farmers' concerns."
F is for farmers…and for female!
For many traditional Javanese families, farming is generally carried out by men or the husband in the household. One of our goals for our tree planting project is empower the village community’s women to also become actively involved, so that they too can take part in the farming business and positively impact their own income. “This year, we are expecting around 60% male and 40% female participants, whom are the spouses of the farmers but there are also a few independent female farmers,” says Mark. “We typically have found that the women attend the parts determining when to harvest and marketing the harvested product.”
While this segment of the training is yet to commence, we are hopeful that it will help the farmers and their families reap the long-term benefits of their new crops. Watch this space!
We hope that today’s bLOG gives a little insight into how education plays a vital role in renewing and restoring the forests of Wonosari!