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Oct 04

BOEING - Bangli Farmer - I Ketut Suratna, 47 years old, Tamanbali Village, Bangli

Pak Suratna's family has been farming the same rice paddy in Desa Tamanbali for generations. At 47, he fondly remembers joining his parents in the rice field. Little has changed in rice farming methods since then, except for one thing – everybody uses pesticides and artificial fertilisers. Everyone, that is, except for Pak Suratna.

When agricultural chemicals were introduced to Bali in 1974, they seemed to work like magic. As a young, gung-ho farmer, Pak Suratna was a strong proponent. He sprayed pesticides as if it were holy water, creating miracles wherever it fell.

But then Suratna started noticing the impacts these chemicals were having on the health of his family. His parents started getting problems with their eyes. Their eyes were irritated and they began losing their vision. It seemed odd that they would both experience the same illness at the same time. "I couldn't help but suspect the chemicals were to blame," explains Pak Suratna.

A few years later, there was a talk in the local village by some representatives from IDEP Foundation about the hazards of agricultural chemicals and the benefits of switching to organic. "I became intrigued," Suratna says. "We created a group of farmers, and that's how it all started."

And thus the Bangli Seed Savers program was born. Led by IDEP Foundation trainers and supported by the Boeing Foundation, ten farmers from the Bangli region of Bali have learned how to grow organic vegetables. Pak Suratna dedicated a section of his farm to grow cucumber and kidney beans. Others chose to grow tomatoes, chillis, okra, beans or chinese cabbage.

The idea wasn't so much to sell the vegetables themselves, but to save and package the organic seed, selling it at shops in Bali under IDEP Foundation's brand.

"We are already seeing the benefits. We're saving around 75% by using the organic system simply because we don't have to buy any fertilisers or pesticides. Instead we use manure from our livetsock as fertiliser, or 'green manure' from plants," he explains.

"We're also eating vegetables at home direct from our garden. We have the peace of mind they're not covered in chemicals and our diet is generally healthier.

"The only hard thing is that you have to use more manpower to get the process working in the field. You have to be determined to maintain it.

"But I think it's worth it.

"I just hope IDEP Foundation keeps fighting to popularise natural farming with other farmers."

 

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