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Internships with local high schools and universities allow our partner ASRI to share their knowledge of safe, sustainable farming practices with the broader community. In return, these young interns bring fresh ideas and innovation to the program, keeping ASRI at the forefront of the Planetary Health movement through an influx of talent from all backgrounds.
This summer, ASRI welcomed nine new interns to the conservation team. Six came from Universitas Tanjungpura in Pontianak, with majors in agriculture, forestry, and biology. The remaining three came from SMK Al Aqwam, a vocational high school in Sungai Belit specializing in farming and agriculture. The high school reached out to ASRI to send students for their practicum: a three-month stint of work experience required for graduation. ASRI happily agreed. Today I was able to meet with these interns to discuss their experience in the program.
Erleni (16), Megawati (17), and Adinda (18) have now been at ASRI for two weeks. They come from Tanjung Satai and Siduk, two towns in the region, and are staying with family or friends in the area. Their interest in farming comes from a desire to serve their communities. “It’s not only fun; it’s an honorable profession. People need farmers because without them, where would they get their food?”
When asked why they chose ASRI for their internship, all three young women agreed: they can learn about organic farming here. ASRI is the only training center in the region that doesn’t use chemical agriculture. In their first two weeks, they have learned how to manage soil and make organic fertilizers, working alongside ASRI’s organic farming specialists Muhammad Yusuf (Jili) and Fitri Suryani. Megawati’s favorite part of the program is planting new seedlings in the garden, but the Erleni and Adinda agreed that harvesting corn has been the most fun so far.
“We are very happy here. If I could, I would suggest that everyone come here because it’s so comfortable and nice,” said Megawati. The others nodded in agreement. ASRI is comfortable because of its clean, friendly environment, and because they don’t use chemicals—a rarity in Kayong Utara. “Nobody will get sick working at ASRI because they won’t be working with pesticides.”
An added bonus to the program is easy access to high-quality health care. All interns at ASRI receive a 50% discount on medical care in the ASRI clinic. “Our families feel safe sending us here because they know that if we get sick, we will be taken care of.”
The young women are set to graduate in May of 2018 and will be going to university in the fall: either Universitas Tanjungpura in Pontianak or Bogor Agricultural University in Java. When asked about their goals for the future, they said that they want to continue learning about farming and agriculture so that they can do farming outreach in their communities.
Interns extend the reach of ASRI’s impact by sharing knowledge with their professional and educational networks. In turn, ASRI is strengthened by the unique insights and innovations of its partners. Adaptability and continued education allow ASRI to break the cycle of logging dependency with realistic, sustainable solutions. ASRI’s organic farming training program remains successful through time-tested methods coupled with innovative problem solving, keeping farmers healthy and allowing them to rest easy with the safety net of ASRI’s high-quality, affordable health care.