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Last August, when I visited ASRI for the first time, I had the opportunity to spend a day with the Harapan Baru (meaning “New Hope”) farmers group. They taught me how to make a batch of liquid fertilizer, using some local ingredients that though readily available in Borneo, many of us in the West have never heard of.
I was accompanied by Pak Mifta, who is ASRI’s Sustainable Farming Coordinator, known for his big smile and gentle demeanor. Originally from West Java, before coming to ASRI Pak Mifta worked with boys on the street to teach them about sustainable farming. He is drawn to sustainable farming practices because he loves to see how it can change the way people think about agriculture and can drastically improve their lives. He started working with ASRI in 2009 as a consultant, and then stayed on full-time to help develop the farming program. So far, he has loved working for ASRI and is interested in how this model integrates human and planetary health. Even after a few hours with him, it was clear to me how knowledgeable he is and how much he cares about working with and developing relationships with the farmers in the program.
Through ASRI’s alternative livelihood trainings, over 500 farmers have been trained to date. Nur is one of these farmers and has been a member of Harapan Baru since 2008. Before meeting Pak Mifta, he was a farmer that practiced slash-and-burn agriculture – a farming technique that is contributing to loss of forests and raging fires across Indonesia. With Pak Mifta as my translator, Nur told me that there are now 10 people in the group and together they have vegetable gardens, rice paddies, and make compost. Even more, the local government was so impressed with the group’s success that they gave them cows and buy their compost. Now Nur helps trains other farmers so that they can farm on one piece of land for years and enrich the soil, rather than burning the land to remove the brush, planting, and then moving to another plot after the season ends.
One of the ways the farmers are able to continue using one piece of land for many years is through their homemade fertilizer and compost recipes. During my visit with the group, I got the chance to watch them make liquid fertilizer, and they even let me help! All of the ingredients that we used are natural and found locally for very cheap, so not only is it safe for people and the local ecosystem, but it's also very practical compared to purchasing expensive fertilizers ridden with chemicals. This particular type of fertilizer is used for the initial growth period of a plant.
Shredded salam leaves – Indonesian bay leaf that is aromatic and rich in nutrients
Kacang racang ang leaves – Local plant from the peanut family
Compost starter liquid – From an old batch of compost
Coconut water – Ideal for plant propagation
Now you’ve got liquid fertilizer. Happy farming!