Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
Among Indonesia’s 230 million populations, 87 million are food-insecure and Indonesia’s eastern province of Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT) is one of the country’s most food insecure. In the drought-prone mostly rural province of 4.5 million people spread out over 50 islands, the average per capita income is $265 a year, which is way below the poverty line. Government’s 2009 data claimed NTT the country’s highest rates of under-five children diagnosed as chronically malnourished (as measured by height-for-age) or acutely malnourished – 46.7 and 20 percent, respectively, as compared to the national average of 36.8 and 13.6 percent, due to food insecurity and feeding practice.
Nonetheless, in the drier eastern islands of Indonesia, food production is still largely focused on meeting subsistence needs. With slash-and-burn and shifting cultivation system, food production could only feed farmers and their families for ten months in a year. After having been cultivated and got exhausted in 2 years, the land is left for 10 years allowing farmers to return, otherwise the soil will be permanently unsuitable for farming. With longstanding environmental degradation this farming system is less productive per hectare than irrigated system as it needs about 10 times the area to produce the same volume of food. Regrettably, as extreme climate change occurred in 2011, the farmers could only produce crops and secure food available for only 7 months. The problems have been worsened by local improper storage system where farmers should experience seeds preservation failure for the following planting seasons and food losses due to pest problems of maize weevil (Sitophilus zeamais).
Despite chronically vulnerable, government treated malnutrition and food insecurity with short-term solution such as rice giveaways. None has yet addressed the interrelated problems of crops production, feeding practices and malnutrition. The Agriculture Office, for example, would focus on hybrid maize seeds provision support. Besides very much sectoral approach, it raised problems in timely seeds distribution as they arrived when the planting season was over. The Food Security and Agricultural Extension Agency have also mobilized agriculture extensionists to stay in the village to help farmers with agricultural technology and information. Nonetheless, most of them are not willing to be based in the village. Alternatively, many local and international civil society organizations have worked with farmers to improve agricultural productivity though still sporadically spread across the area. In terms of market, farmers still have no bargaining power since the middlemen will set the price. And when cash is needed, farmers will go to money lender for small loans and are trapped by high rates of interest.
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
While others provide short term and sectoral measures to address pervasive poverty in rural drylands, Vinsen has introduced a new livelihood patterns. Through a holistic approach, farmers successfully increased crops production, developed crops storage system and improved nutritious food consumption. Thirteen thousand farmers in 4 districts across East Nusa Tenggara Province and in the neigboring Country of Timor Leste have now shifted their slash-and-burn cultivation to sedentary farming. With the new practice, all year long food is secured and the environment is sustainably managed. By leaving subsistence farming for agroforestry, farmers’ household income have increased and malnutrition amongst children under five has been addressed.
Vinsen has mobilized farmers to set up groups to work on the crops together, conduct collective marketing, savings and loans and post-harvest production activities. Almost 300 farmer’s groups formed 25 farmer’s group association across over 100 villages across 4 districts in NTT province. Together with the farmer groups Vinsen and his organisation (Yayasan Mitra Tani Mandiri/YMTM) have built 8 small dams and have harvested water to cultivate vegetables which contributes to improve nutritious food. The farmers also improved cattle fattening management and gained net profit of IDR 1,284,000/head/11 months (USD142), which is three times more than before. They also established saving and loan groups with a total cash flow of IDR 450 million (USD50,000) releasing farmers from high interest money lenders.
With the success, Vinsen’s model has been adopted by TTU District Head and replicated in all TTU’s 175 villages. The TTU District Head selected 4 local civil society organizations to implement the model and engaged Yayasan Mitra Tani Mandiri to provide assistance. Vinsen’s model has also inspired the Ministry of Welfare to change the implementation of Government’s Rice Giveaways for the Poor program. Before receiving routine rice donation, farmers who work in groups will develop the agroforestry. In partnership with different organizations, Vinsen is currently developing a mechanism for farmers able to do long-lead climate forecasting and develop local coping and adaptation strategies to avoid crops failure.