Improving Farmers' Welfare through Agroforestry

Photo 1. Heri Hermawan, guiding farmers in the forest crops nursery

On March 21st, we celebrate the International Forest Day. We celebrate that day to increase awareness of how important those forest are. The need to preserve the forest has always motivated Heri Hermawan, a civil servant at the office of Agriculture in Klungkung, Bali.

Besides preserving the forest, Heri also wanted to increase the welfare of the farmers in his area. He wanted to develop a welfare-oriented forestry system by optimizing the land and empowering the people, for instance, start the plant nursery and to plant the forest crops and trees.

His motivation encouraged him to work harder in order to develop his ability as a professional in the field of forest and environmental conservation. He therefore planned to continue his study in Agroforestry. Luckily, he found out an ad in a newspaper about USAID PRESTASI scholarship program. He then tried his luck. "At that time, out of the blue, I was called for an interview in Kupang. Fortunately, after a vigorous selection, I was then selected to be one of the recipient of the USAID PRESTASI scholarship," Heri said.

The scholarship helped Heri pursue his master's degree in Human Dimension of Forestry and Agroforestry in Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studied, USA. During his study, Heri learned various aspects of farmers, from the financial, technological, to social-cultural aspects. The study was really applicable in his workplace in Bali as the people highly respected the social and cultural values.

"The studies in the US have increased my professional knowledge, especially regarding the holistic approach to increase the welfare of the farmers. From anthropology and sociology studies, I understand various social, psychological, and cultural obstacles for the farmers to improve their lives. I also understand indirect impacts of the development activities on their welfare," Heri added.

Photo 2. Heri (wearing blue batik) with his friends at Yale FES

During his study in Yale FES, Heri also conducted research on the socio-cultural factors of agroforestry activities. It's about combining the resources with the forest management, such as the planting of teak and mahogany trees with the planting of crops like rice, maize and cassava for the farmers in Bali. Through this research, the farmers knew that agroforestry was one of the strategies to diversify their sources of income in the rural communities, especially during the hard times like droughts. During drought, the farmers could still gain some income from managing their land. Agroforestry then played the role to be the source of income during the hard times.

Heri has implemented what he gained during his study in Yale FES. As a staff in the Agriculture Department in Klungkung, he applied his research by providing recommendations for the farmers to independently plan and state the goals of the agroforestry programs, and execute them all as well.

His recommendations have been successfully implemented in several forestry and agricultural programs. Kebun Bibit Rakyat (People's Nursery Garden), for example, handed over the nursery programs to the farmers, Sistem Pertanian Terintegrasi (Integrated Agricultural System) combined the farmers' activities with the agricultural activities, livestock farming, and waste processing in an organic and integrated way.

Photo 3. Heri (the second from the left wearing a cap) with his friends in critical land

"The best results can be obtained by giving much space for the farmers to participate in the programs. The farmers will voluntarily take care of the forest trees grown from their seeds. It will be different if they get the seeds from the government. By independently sowing the seeds, they can choose the seeds of the crops/trees they needed. They usually will choose the plants that have other benefits than wood producers, like fodder producers," Heri explained.

Heri received total support and appreciation from the institution he worked. It motivated him to conduct further research regarding the spiritual aspect of the traditional organic farming in Bali.

Heri said everything he has now, cannot be separated from the USAID PRESTASI. This program has provided a golden opportunity for him to develop his potential and knowledge. Heri is very grateful as he can play a bigger role and share the benefits of the program in the midst of society, especially in improving the welfare of the farmers in his area.

Heri also advised the young generation of Indonesia, "Always poses a high interest in learning, no matter how old you are or where you live. A proverb says seek knowledge even as far as China."