The farmers of Masen Village were producing enough rice for eight months out of the year. To make ends meet, they were dependent on government subsidy programs and purchasing rice from other communities.
Caritas CR began working with the farmers of Masen Village in October 2008 to establish a demonstration plot for intensive rice paddy cultivation using the organic system of rice intensification (SRI) method. The SRI method of growing rice requires the farmer to intensively manage the seed, soil and water usage in the paddy. While the method is labor intensive, it can increase the rice yield more than eight times in one year. It also allows the farmers to plant twice a year.
The 1.2 hectare demonstration plot in 2008 grew to thirteen hectare in 2010. Caritas CR’s goal is to have the SRI methodology in use in thirty of the fifty hectares in Masen. They have trained forty-seven farmers in to use the SRI organic method.
Caritas CR provides field staff that works closely with the the farmers. To show their commitment, Caritas CR also set up a base-camp within a short distance to Masen Village so their field staff can travel frequently to see the farmers.
The farmer in the picture was the first farmer that agreed to learn the SRI organic method. His land was used for the demonstration plot. I asked him why he took the risk – was he not afraid of failing? He humbly nodded but said that Carita’s advisor, Roberto, and his staff explained the process and he trusted them.
The farmer has since traveled to nearby villages to train others on the methodology without compensation. When asked what he would like to do next, this soft spoken man smiled shyly and said he would like to learn the technical terminology so he could better explain the process to others.
Masen Village was recently recognized by the Ministry of Agriculture in the Aceh Jaya District as an outstanding example of community farming.
I left the site excited for Caritas CR and the farmers. It was a wonderful partnership that supported the work of local leaders. The Caritas CR staff supported the work of the farmers by earning their trust, connecting them to educational resources and provided the initial seed capital. The staff continues to meet with the farmers and helps them with strategy and planning. Yet, the decisions, work and recognition were that of the farmers. Caritas CR supported a local farmer and provided him the opportunity to become the entrepreneurial leader that he was.