Yudiantara poses with the students next to the garden of Yehembang Kauh Elementary School 1
Last March, we held a training session on Family Home Garden (KPK) in our community. After the training, participants started implementing what they had learned by creating gardens at their homes. We selected the top 20 gardens after assessing all the ones realized by the residents. The garden at Yehembang Kauh Elementary School 1 was one of the chosen gardens, along with the private Family Home Garden in the village of Yehembang. Those selected continued their activities with post-harvest training in July.
On Saturday, July 22, 2023, in the morning, the air was still pleasantly cool as we waited for all the participants to arrive at the Munduk Anggrek hamlet. The ladies from the Family Welfare Empowerment Group (PKK) arrived early, around 7:15 AM. By 8:00 AM, the weather had started to change, and the sun was beginning to heat things up. That month marked the beginning of the El Nino phenomenon in most parts of Indonesia, and Bali was no exception. There had been a significant drop in rainfall, and in fact, there had been no rain at all since that day.
According to information released by the Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), as of mid-July 2023, 63% of the country had entered the dry season. BMKG reported that over the past ten days in July 2023, the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) index showed a value of 1.14, indicating the strengthening of El Nino since early July (Damiana, via CNBC, 2023). Two days ago, BMKG announced that the El Nino phenomenon would continue until the end of 2023, possibly extending into the next year (Dewi, via CNBC, 2023).
Climate change was unfolding before our eyes. Drought was spreading everywhere, and agriculture was one of the sectors most affected. However, discussions were ongoing to find the right and effective planting solutions amidst this unrelenting heatwave.
The spirit was evident in the participants who came that day. Their main motivation was to learn. A young-looking man arrived later, wearing a gray t-shirt. His name is Yudiantara. He is a teacher at Yehembang Kauh Elementary School 1.
The time showed 08:15 AM.
Yudiantara wasn’t engaged in teaching activities. There were no blackboards, and no curriculum. This time, he was focused on learning and sharing experiences regarding gardening practices and processing its yields. This included training on soil preparation, seed saving, and post-harvest product processing, including the conversion of coconuts into Virgin Coconut Oil (VCO).
“For this opportunity, I chose to deepen my understanding of VCO, and I invited the students at school to practice it. VCO, as seen from the activity, can involve the children in making it collaboratively,” he said.
A Step Back to Learn about Home Gardens
Yudiantara was no stranger to gardening. Since 2021, he had been planting vanilla and coffee in a large garden owned by his parents. A year later, he started a Family Home Garden at his own home. Here, he chose to plant white chili in 25 polybags. “But unfortunately, the chili that came out was chili padi,” he mused.
After teaching, Yudiantara devoted his attention to his garden at home. He implemented all the knowledge and experience he had gained, including taking care of chili. He hoped that when the vegetables were ready to be harvested, he could just pick them and use them for daily consumption.
Contrary to his expectations, Yudiantara felt that something had gone wrong in the process of tending to his garden. The choice of seeds or seedlings was an essential factor, and Yudiantara admitted it. He had even made another mistake, which was planting white chili and chili padi in the same area. This practice tended to compromise the uniqueness of the types of vegetables planted.
“At that time, the chili was about a year old. I tried to do it myself, using polybags because the land at home is limited. But it turns out that the results weren’t good. I wanted to plant white chili, but chili padi came out. I thought it might be due to the wind or insects, and when planting, they shouldn’t be too close. As a result, they grew small.”
White chili should be somewhat round and elongated, with a size of more than 3 cm when ready for harvesting. However, Yudiantara found that his chili was smaller than that. He was sure that what he had planted was white chili, but the size was only about 2 cm or even shorter.
His original plan was to produce new seeds from the chili, but the results were only as big as a pinkie finger, he said. This condition made Yudiantara abandon the idea of reproducing chili from that batch.
Seed training intrigued him because there was a lot of information to be gained. Yudiantara learned that the choice of seeds or seedlings was crucial. He no longer planted the same family of vegetables in the same area. There was no more planting white chili and chili padi close together.
“Now, after the training with IDEP, it turns out that you have to place them separately if you want to plant them. So, chili padi should be planted separately from other plants in the same family.”
In August 2022, Yudiantara, along with teachers and students from Yehembang Kauh Elementary School 1, planted marigold as the only plant species in the school garden. He was quite satisfied with the result after about 45 days. He mentioned that the flowers were large.
Bringing self-produced VCO bottles
About eight months later, we conducted Family Home Garden training in the village of Yehembang Kauh. The training was held in six hamlets over five days from March 27 to March 31, 2023. Most of the participants were PKK mothers, but there was something different in Munduk Anggrek Kaja. In this location, we collaborated with the students and teachers from Yehembang Kauh Elementary School 1, specifically on Wednesday, March 29, 2023.
“For now, we’re growing eggplants in the garden. Growing chili is a bit difficult because it requires special care. Here, the environment is shared with the community, and there are chickens, for example. So, it’s a bit challenging to plant chili again,” Yudiantara explained.
During the training, we provided three vegetable seeds for the participants: eggplant, chili, and cherry tomatoes. Yudiantara, along with teachers and students from Yehembang Kauh Elementary School 1, used these seeds to expand their garden by creating two new beds. The eggplants were planted not far from the marigold they had planted earlier. It seemed that they were increasingly satisfied with the larger garden. Yudiantara realized that the school garden could serve as a good example for the students, allowing them to understand and have a model in their memories if they were to create their own gardens independently.
A Teacher Goes Beyond the Profession: I Serve the Community
Yudiantara graduated from Ganesha Education University in 2010 with a degree in Pancasila and Civic Education (PPKn). However, he didn’t immediately pursue a career in teaching. Soon after graduating, he worked as a project supervisor for Swiss-Belresort Pecatu. Later, he was also involved in the construction of Teras Ayung housing in East Gatot Subroto, East Denpasar.
He chose his profession as a project supervisor with strong consideration. At that time, it seemed that graduates in PPKn didn’t have many opportunities to start teaching right away. After 11 years, the COVID-19 pandemic changed his life.
“I came back and started getting involved in the community. After that, there was no one at home to take care of the children. So, I was appointed as a staff member in the banjar, but I refused. The reason was that I wanted to serve and make use of my degree,” he recalled, reminiscing about the two years of the pandemic.
Yudiantara was close to children. He considered his profession as a form of service to provide knowledge to the community. That’s why he always involved the students from Yehembang Kauh Elementary School 1 in activities that could develop their skills. For him, teaching went beyond theoretical lessons; students needed practical experience to better understand the subject matter.
A teacher is a guide for his students. For Yudiantara, guiding was more than just educating. A teacher should be a good friend to his students. This was different from his own experience as a child. He compared it and noticed that the world of education had changed.
The values of today’s children were different from what Yudiantara experienced as a child. He believed that when he was in primary school, there was fear and respect when meeting a teacher. Such feelings were no longer found after he became a teacher. However, this wasn’t entirely bad. Yudiantara dealt with it wisely, saying, “Nowadays, teachers are seen as friends. That’s how it is now. So, if you meet on the street, saying hello is normal.”
Yudiantara took the initiative. He tried to provide education in a different way by instilling the value of mutual cooperation. Therefore, he implemented some of the lessons learned in training with us, to be done collaboratively with his students.
“That’s why I was interested in implementing VCO production because the children can help each other, like peeling coconuts. The production of VCO is essential and can be done together, so I can invite the children to make it at school,” Yudiantara explained.
The process of making VCO with students
This man seemed quite adaptable. He saw the production of VCO as an important part of what he assumed was included in the P5 (Pancasila Profile Strengthening Project) curriculum. He later emphasized it.
“At school, there needs to be the implementation of P5 learning. So, the production of VCO, done together with students, is also part of it, as it relates to the use of environmentally friendly materials in the school environment.”
As information, P5 is a student character development project that aims to live and behave in accordance with the values of Pancasila, Indonesia’s foundational principles. The project focuses on “Sustainable Lifestyle,” encouraging students to understand the importance of a healthy and sustainable lifestyle that balances human needs and environmental conservation.
The process of making VCO with students
Yudiantara saw this as an opportunity for students to take a role in reducing negative impacts on the environment, as described in the curriculum. He shared his knowledge about post-harvest processing practices with the students as part of their new knowledge. Coconuts were not just for their water; they weren’t just grated to make coconut milk or turned into charcoal. There was another commodity, which was processing them into VCO. Together with the students, they packaged VCO in 100ml bottles labeled “Tugek Manja.” Up to the point when this text was written, they had already processed coconuts into VCO four times.
Article: Nicolaus Sulistyo
Photo: Yudiantara (Personal Documentation) & Fajar Kurniawan © IDEP Foundation