Peals of laughter and lighthearted chatter sounded over the Soverdi Palangka Raya yard that morning. The sky was deep blue, textured with white clouds rising like the wings of a large bird. Dozens of people were gathered in red t-shirts bearing the words Ela Laya, Mahaga Ramun Taluh Kinan, meaning ‘don’t be careless, take care of our foodstuffs’.
These people are participants of the 2022 Farmers’ Gathering, which was held in collaboration between the Technical Implementation Unit (UPT) of the Production Forest Management Unit (KPHP) Kahayan Tengah and the Borneo Nature Foundation (BNF) Indonesia.
The farmers had come from five watersheds (DAS): the East Barito watershed (Tamiang Layang sub-district), the Kapuas watershed (Mantangai sub-district), the Kahayan Hulu watershed (Manuhing sub-district), the Kahayan Hilir watershed (Tuwung village, Sigi, Petuk Liti, Bukit Liti, Bamba Hill, Tahawa and Parahangan), and the Rungan watershed (Mungku Baru Village, Sua Hill, Petuk Berunai and Panjehang).
The event was held on the 30th and 31st of May 2022 in Palangka Raya, Central Kalimantan. On the first day, there are opening performances such as Karungut art from the Surung Palampang Tarung Community, Kacapi by Daniel Nuhan, and theater arts from the Tingang Borneo Theater Institute. At the end of the opening session, prizes were awarded to the winners of the local food photo competition, with all entries supplied by local farmers.
On the second day, the participants were divided into three groups, where each of group learned all about the cultivation of environmentally friendly peat soil, urban farming, and permaculture on different places around Palangka Raya City. One of the group are learning about urban farming on Yuliana Nona (BNF Indonesia’s Community Development Manager) and Norisa Jumala’s home garden.
Participating farmers were also invited to the gardens of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) Kalimantan and the Permaculture Foundation Kalimantan (YPK) in order to practice eco-friendly gardening and share their knowledge and experiences.
The road to JPIC Kalimantan is a scenic one, and the half-hour drive granted passengers a clear view of the region’s peat-swamp forests. Approaching the gardens on foot, the farmers were led up a shady path, flanked by tumih trees and balangeran. Half a kilometer later, a simple wooden gate inscribed with ‘Saint Anthony’s Farm’ marked their destination.
The gardens are quite spacious, approximately 30 x 60 meters across, with a gigantic vegetable patch bearing chilli, kale, tomatoes and beans. The vivid greenery stands stark against the peat soil, enriched with environmentally friendly fertilizers and pesticides.
One of the young farmers, Rendi, who is also a staff member at JPIC Kalimantan, revealed that the fertilizer used on these plants contains eco-enzymes. Pesticides are mixed in-house, made from onion, garlic, betel leaf and galangal, then topped up with water and left to stand for 24 hours before being sprayed.
“We don’t use chemical fertilizers, but fertilizers that are fermented from excess vegetables and fresh fruit peels combined with brown sugar or palm sugar. The fermentation process itself takes about three months,” Rendi explained.
All that’s needed is a kilogram of brown sugar or palm sugar, three kilograms of fresh vegetables and fruit peels, and 10 liters of groundwater or rainwater, Rendi continued. These simple, eco-friendly methods are an easy and inexpensive way for farmers in Central Kalimantan to create fertilizer, especially for those where commercial products are difficult to obtain.
Elsewhere, a dozen participants at YPK learned how to cultivate narrow strips of land, such as small yard spaces, and turn them into a garden. Here, farmers were invited to tour the permaculture gardens and witness firsthand the most effective ways to fertilize soil and provide natural planting media.
According to Yuliana Nona, the Community Development Manager at BNF Indonesia, this activity is aimed at increasing public awareness, so people can grow crops on the land around their homes.
“The idea is simple: to meet people’s food needs without harming nature in the process,” said Nona.
This is especially key in light of climate change, the threat of which has had a negative impact on the sustainability of local produce. Also contributing to environmental degradation are land conversion, illegal mining and electrofishing, as well as a general lack of awareness surrounding nature.
“Having learned directly about permaculture and farming practices without the use of harmful chemicals, participants can apply these lessons to cultivating the land around their neighborhoods, thus cutting down on pollution,” Nona added.
You can watch the video here
Written by: Yohanes Prahara, Content Creator and Media Liaison BNF Indonesia