The Enthusiastic Paksoy Farmers

The once-dusty Waingapu meadowland is now flowering with onions, paksoy, cabbage, caisim, pitsai, tomatoes, water spinach, and mustard leaves. Some enterprising city dwellers are even trying to cultivate rice there –a movement that started with the Sumba Iconic Island training to convert pigs’ dungs into biogas, back in 2011. A mixture of a collaborative spirit, entrepreneurship, and active communication network has been key in the emergence of women farmers.

Heinrich Dengi would ride his bike every weekend –enjoying the morning breeze while riding along the paddy fields, using the opportunity to meet and converse with ordinary folks from the East Sumba Regency. This bundle of energy, popularly known as host of the “Let’s Go Organic” radio show and owner of the Radio MAX FM Waingapu, regularly shares the latest tips and information on land cultivations.

Heinrich is also active on social media, reaching out to his network on a range of subjects: from the importance of using organic fertilizer and vegetable seeds to achieving significant harvests. “How enticing is the organic water spinach with its white roots; the sign of good health,” goes the typical post on his facebook page. It all started in 2011 with Heinrich’s participation in a training to convert pigs’ dungs into biogas –part of the Sumba Iconic Island (SII) alternative renewable program. The participation of people like Heinrich has since made it possible for the program to achieve its current success.

Heinrich soon stuck gold with his “Bio Slurry” –earning Rp. 25,000 for every jerry can of liquid organic fertilizer sold. “The buyers came from all over the city of Waingapu,” he explains. Flush from his early success Heinrich went on to set up an organic farming program in co-operation with 9 local women. It has since grown into a self-sufficient organization of 40-strong members who cultivate vegetable seeds, connect irrigation pipes, and build water containers –all on their own. They also decide on prices by directly selling their vegetables online and via MAX FM Radio.

“Simple solutions like these inspire people”, explains the Airlangga University graduate. “Vegetables from city gardens provide low-cost nutritions for families while women who used to be dependent on their husbands’ salaries now get to earn their own income. Arid city square is now blooming with with onions, paksoy, cabbage, caisim, pitsai, tomatoes, water spinach, and mustard leaves.” The Kalu Organic Farmers Grup he leads is now preparing a new 0.5 hectares plot of land, piping water from the Payeti river to the future vegetable garden.

“Once the rain comes, we will be seeing people planting rice in the city for the very first time,” Heinrich says with a beaming face. He is even encouraging people to cultivate their gardens beyond the wet season through the use of watermills, channeling water from the river 24-7. “Once we completed that project children no longer have to carry water up from the river to their gardens. A sight that no one could have imagined 4 years ago is soon becoming a reality.” (FI/YS)

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