Developing Local Agriculture in Tabalong, South Kalimantan

A Story from Irma Adyatni Mawardi

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Photo 1. Irma Adyatni Mawardi

Indonesia is a well-known agricultural country as one of the key factor of its development. Currently, for about 30% of the Indonesia land area used for agriculture. Indonesia is capable to becoming a major supplier of agriculture product in the world. A dream to make Indonesia as one of the key player in agriculture sector particularly in to develop the local production is been on my wish list One of the step to realize the dream is when I was being appointed to become an agriculture instructor staff in Balai Latihan Kerja (BLK) of Tabalong region in South Kalimantan. The path is to increase their product and process them into value-added products.

As an instructor of BLK, I have the responsibility to help the people with the knowledge of food processing as their farming products. If the farmer has integrated knowledge in food processing sector, it will help to boost their productivity to keep them running. If the productivity runs well, it will help the farmer to have a better income and life quality. I want to distribute the knowledge of a good food processing to the farmer. This encouraged me to take a master study in Agriculture Technology to maximize the result. The first step I took was to look for master study scholarship abroad in the United States.

God answered my prayers. My superior informed me that USAID PRESTASI Scholarship Program came to Tanjung, my hometown, to have socialization of the scholarship. I listened carefully what is the program and found that agriculture is one of the target. I applied the scholarship without any hesitation.

It was a paid off long and challenging process I was announced as one of the beneficiary of the USAID PRESTASI Scholarship Program. I went to Food science program majoring food processing engineering at the Purdue University, Indiana, US. The field of study suit to my bachelor degree on Agriculture Technology.

The reason I chose the food science program majoring the food processing engineering at the Purdue University was the syllabus match my target research, the program has one of the best laboratory for food processing, and the well-known network of experts in food science.

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Photo 2. Irma (front, second from the left) and her fellow students in Purdue University.

I learned a lot of new things during my study, started from comprehensive learning on how to correctly do the food processing up to experimenting with the use of pilot plant, a small scale experiment system.

One of the research I did was the recycling of red tomatoes. I managed to take a sample of pure lycopene in tomatoes that can be used for various products, such as vitamin supplement and cosmetics.

The program in Purdue University was mainly focusing on the practice with more time in the lab and the field. One of my activities is to support the field work such as the volunteering in giving the education on nutrition held by SSGSA community in US. The SSGA community holds regular socialization on how to handle fruits and vegetables – how to chop and peel them correctly –, and how to cook and process the food.

The socialization is usually in a way forming a small class of people to do farming to the table. The purpose of the class is to educate people on how to farm the source of food from the garden until serving them to the plate. The interesting knowledge of food processing has been invited the people from various background to participate to the class. Most of them were surprised that a bad cycle of processing and preparing their food will deduct the nutrient of the food that coming into our stomach. Good knowledge of preparing the food in our plate will keep the nutrition in a good condition.

Two years of studying has made a matured version of me in terms of knowledge and experiences. The first thing I did as soon as I arrived in my hometown in Tanjung City, Tabalong, South Kalimantan was to create my personal work plan as an instructor of BLK.

One of the program in the work plan is to do the Farming Production and Processing Training, which holds in 13 areas of the Tabalong regency. One of the training subject is the training on processing the fish into frozen food such as nuggets and the other alike products. Frozen fish and the other derivate products is one of the useful food processing method when fish are overflowing. Some of the farmers has started to open the business with the knowledge from the training. It will increase them to multiplying their source of income.

I am also starting the research on the possibility of processing rubber seeds beside using the soybean as the ingredient to make tempeh. The idea came when I see a lot of rubber seeds were thrown away in Tabalong. The rubber is the best commodity in Tabalong regency with only taking the tree and rubber seed is not needed. It caught my attention to find out more to increase the value of the rubber seed. However, this product is still need undergoing in an advanced research, especially regarding the nutrient content and the amount of its toxicity. If the research has a positive result of the possibility of rubber seed to have the value added product, it could become an additional income of rubber farmers.

I am hoping that I can continue to developing the local agriculture to be able to compete with imported food product. The only way we can do it is by increasing our food processing quality and good management to be able to compete with the international food processing business. Our local farmers will have a better life quality and will strengthen the national agriculture sector.

Nonetheless, I am proud to be the beneficiaries of the USAID PRESTASI Scholarship Program. The scholarship has given me the opportunity to enhance my expertise in developing the Indonesia’s agriculture sector. I hope that the the agriculture field will always be one of the target of the scholarship program. As the support of Indonesia to maintain the national food security.

My message to the young generation who read my profile is never afraid to dream. Always find positive way to increase your capabilities, always do anything diligently, and expanding network wherever you are. You will be surprised of what you achieve later. Be an inspiration to build Indonesia better and better.