Members of Asosiasi Petani Organik Boyolali (APOB) take part in farmers field school. With facilitator Sutoyo, around 15 men and women farmers are planning to create an experimental plot for field school practice. Practice is an important part of field schools, after the participants have learned the theory. Seated on mats in the APOB secretariat in Cepokosawit village in the Sawit subdistrict of Boyolali, mid-March, they decided on the method and schedule for their organic farming practice.
The farmers discussed, for example, how to divide up the observation location by agriculture system used: organic, semi-organic and conventional. They also discussed methods for measuring the results of each of these farming systems.
Compared with other district-level rice producer farmer organisations in Central Java, APOB is extremely youthful. This organisation was set up only last year. Before that, VECO Indonesia was already supporting Asosiasi Petani Padi Organik Boyolali (APPOLI), and now support both of these farmer organisations directly and through local NGOs that are consultants for the two.
This addition of another organic rice farmer organisation in Boyolali represents a scaling up of the success of VECO Indonesia partners in Boyolali. So, VECO Indonesia’s method of support for this new partner is not very different.
Field schools are one activity being run by APOB. APOB Chair Murbowo explained that the previous year, APOB was focusing more on organising. Now the association has 231 members in three villages and two subdistricts. APPOLI has 1,027 members.
Having got a body of members, APOB began developing programs for more sustainable systems of agriculture. “Slowly, we started adopting eco-friendly farming, using no chemical pesticides or fertilisers,” said Murbowo.
Murbowo added that to adopt sustainable agriculture, local farmers faced many challenges. For example, the intensive use of chemical fertilisers, the large population of rats and stem borers, and unsynchronised planting patterns.
“We hope that after taking part in these field schools, we will be able to use organic farming methods on our land,” said Murbowo.
Although still in the early stages, the efforts of the farmers who are members of APOB nonetheless represent a change. From being completely dependent on chemical inputs, they are now starting to plan more eco-friendly and sustainable farming practices.
“I am sure that if we succeed, we will be able to grow healthier rise for ourselves and for our grandchildren,” said Suminem, a farmer.