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Have you ever heard of a hospital that grows its own vegetables? Our partner Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI) not only grows trees to plant in the rainforest - they also grow fruit and vegetables! ASRI's garden, which is currently being re-designed and expanded, also showcases organic gardening techniques to families who want to learn.
ASRI offers participants the opportunity to learn about the whole process of organic, sustainable agriculture.
On average, the ASRI garden produces 5 kg of chilies, and 30 kg each of eggplant, squash, and cucumber every month. More than enough for lunchtime, the surplus produce is sold at the market to help pay for program costs.
ASRI Executive Director Nur Febriani highlighted the purpose of re-designing the garden: "to produce more and to attract more people to learn." What started as a demonstration garden is evolving into a participatory space. They are in the process of re-designing the garden for this purpose, "with help from an intern from Forestry Vocational School, under the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, in West Java," Febriani told us. The new layout will help ASRI promote sustainable agriculture in the community.
Recently, ASRI staff distributed seeds to surrounding villages and showed interested families how to create their own gardens. Each participant received 20 bags of seeds with a wide variety of different plant species such as watermelon, mustard greens, chili, eggplant, celery and leek. In Sidorejo, one of five villages that staff visited in the past two weeks, Garden Coordinator Ibu Fitri also taught members of the community how to sow their seeds.
But what does seed planting have to do with protecting the rain forest? The ultimate goal of these programs is to promote sustainable agriculture in this part of West Borneo, so that families do not need to clear forested land. With increased yields and more food security - and more income from selling surplus produce at the market - families can be healthier and at the same time break their economic dependence on the illegal timber trade.