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In search of sustainable farming

Bali-based NGOs are an important part of Indonesia’s growing sustainable agriculture movement

Nicola Edwards

   A farmer from Selat in Bali examines the worms that constitute his
   ‘fertiliser factory’

In Indonesia, most farming is based on the heavy use of artificial pesticides and fertilisers. The switch to these ‘conventional’ farming practices began in the 1970s when the Suharto government encouraged Green Revolution methods. New rice varieties required pesticides and fertilisers to boost production, resulting in Indonesia’s temporary self-sufficiency in rice. But these new farming methods have caused negative environmental impacts, decried by many civil society organisations. Tejo Pramono of the Indonesian Peasants Union and La Via Campesina argues that conventional agriculture kills ‘good’ organisms within the soil and ultimately leads to more severe pest outbreaks, because it damages the natural ecosystem. According to Dr Ni Lu Kartini of the Bali Organic Association, the impacts of conventional agriculture are particularly worrying in Bali, where tourist-fuelled development already strains the natural environment. She explains, ‘Bali’s farming land is already very degraded … and tourism is decreasing as a result of the way we are mistreating our land.’

A plea for environment and culture

In response to the degradation caused by conventional farming, Indonesia now supports a growing trend towards sustainable and organic agricultural practices. In addition to commercial ventures, non-government organisations (NGOs) and farmers’ unions throughout Indonesia promote a return to traditional sustainable methods as well as new,

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