Aisyah (left) and Uci (right) in the front of their garden
It was around 1:21 PM. Uci was tying pohpohan vegetables for their meal while sitting and chatting with her family. Suddenly, an earthquake disrupted everything. “Everyone, get out!” she shouted, urging everyone inside the house to quickly evacuate.
Not everyone managed to leave the house unharmed. One of her children was struck by debris, and his leg was bleeding. Uci was anxious, forcefully pulling her child out of the house. “I’m afraid he might get hit again,” she muttered.
Some of the house’s roofing tiles had flown off. Other residents’ houses had also suffered damage. There were cracked walls, scattered roof tiles, and tilting buildings. According to Uci, all the neighbors were screaming in terror. The earthquake had shattered her heart. “It felt like doomsday. Once is enough; there shouldn’t be a second time,” she recalled the bitter incident.
This event was followed by a series of aftershocks. According to BMKG monitoring data, there were as many as 390 aftershocks recorded until December 6, 2022. As reported by Abdul Aziz through tempo.co news portal, eight earthquake victims were still being searched for by SAR teams, believed to be buried under landslides in two search locations: the Tebing Palalangon landslide area in Cibeureum Village and the Cijedil Village area in Cugenang District, Cianjur Regency, West Java. These two villages are not far from Tunagan Village, only about 5-6 kilometers away.
IDEP and KUN+ responded to this situation and continued to provide post-disaster recovery assistance to the residents of Cianjur, particularly those in Tunagan Village. Since May 2023, we have been offering various training sessions to empower the residents of Tunagan Village to become more resilient and self-sufficient. The training includes Earthquake-Resistant Housing for residents and local craftsmen to equip them with the skills to build earthquake-resistant homes using local resources. The goal is for residents to be able to construct more robust homes in the future, reducing the risk of earthquake-related impacts.
Next is the Family Garden training, aimed at equipping residents with the ability to manage environmentally friendly garden components using local potential and organic materials. Moreover, the produce they grow can be processed independently. This means that, in addition to family consumption, cultivating and producing their own seeds is also important. The goal is to meet the need for healthy food and minimize expenses on food and seeds. If the harvest becomes a market commodity, it can generate additional income.
The road to Tunagan Village RT 02 is quite narrow. After descending from Baleriung Tunagan Village, take a left turn and follow the road. Meanwhile, on the right side, there is a steep slope. The houses of the residents are close together, with some still showing earthquake damage.
Siti Aisyah was available when she was met at her home. Her husband was inside, carrying their baby. Uci, her mother-in-law, was also present. Currently, she stays at her married child’s house because her previous residence has not been repaired.
“But the house, oh my. It’s already in ruins. There’s been no help. It hasn’t been fixed. We’re just staying here for now,” Uci said.
On that evening, around 5:30 PM, we discussed the garden they had recently created. A simple garden in front of their house. Its placement was somewhat risky for the uninitiated. A wrong step could lead to falling into the ravine.
Aisyah had no prior experience in gardening. Unlike Uci, who worked as a farmer every day. She was used to tending to gardens, but having her own garden was a new experience for her.
“After the first permaculture training. We were given seeds during the permaculture training, and I started planting from there. It’s been about four months,” Aisyah explained.
From the training they attended in May, Aisyah and Uci received seeds for roselle, cucumbers, and spinach. In the same month, they immediately planted them using polybags. Two months later, they attended the second training on Seed Saving practices. From that activity, they brought home chili, roselle, and mustard green seeds.
“These are still growing,” Aisyah said, pointing to her small chili plants, which were only about 14 days old.
Aisyah mentioned that she no longer needed to go out to buy some vegetables. There was Chinese kale and spinach that they could pick right from in front of their house, and they were of substantial size. Occasionally, they fried the spinach with flour.
“As for the vegetables, we pick them from here (in front of the house). So now, we’ve reduced our expenses. Previously, before farming, we spent more on buying vegetables. Now we have our own vegetables; we only need to buy the seasonings,” Aisyah explained.
Aisyah and Uci helped each other. They took turns in various tasks, except when Uci was working. This included finding soil, providing fertilizer, and looking for sacks or used bottles to use as planting media.
“We mostly use sacks, plastic, or old containers (bottles). There are no more polybags. We received 20 polybags from Bu Anesah yesterday, so we mostly use sacks,” Aisyah explained.
Seeing Aisyah’s enthusiasm and skills in tending to the garden, her husband created a special platform for her using bamboo. It was about a meter long. This way, Aisyah’s family garden became more extensive.
“I always want to create more space for planting,” Aisyah told her husband.
Beans, cucumber, mustard greens, spinach, tomatoes, chilies, kalian, and rosela in one small garden
Aisyah and her family practiced vertical gardening, a simple form of vertical or tiered plant cultivation. This cultivation system is a gardening concept aimed at overcoming land limitations.
Morning or evening, it didn’t matter. If Aisyah didn’t have time to water the garden in the morning after washing dishes and clothes, it was not considered too late in the afternoon. The use of liquid compost was also essential, given twice a week, sometimes every two days.
Aisyah and Uci felt proud of what they had grown. They usually sat in front of their house, watching their plants grow vigorously. According to Aisyah, it might be even more enjoyable to watch when it rains.
“It probably feels more lush when it’s raining. It’s a joy to see.”
Interview: Edward Angimoy
Article & Photo: Nicolaus Sulistyo © IDEP Foundation