Never Too Old to Study Rice

Story by Nurhayati Lubis, Junior Professional for Public Relation, Monitoring and Evaluation GIZ Indonesia – Better Rice Initiative Asia (BRIA) Project
Photos by BRIA – Indonesia Team

A 60-year-old farmer in Simalungun district, Indonesia thought it would be strange to return to school at her age and studied about rice. But with her curiosity and open mind, Mrs. Rustaida Sianturi from Simpang Pane village seems to enjoy it so far.

“At first, I was not interested in the farmer field school activities. I thought it might be weird for an old woman like me going to school, learning, and memorizing things again,” said Mrs. Sianturi from North Sumatra province.

“But then, I found out there are so many new things I didn’t know, even though I had been farming for almost half of my life.”

Mrs. Sianturi is one of thousands of farmers in Simalungun district who attended the Farmer Field School (FFS) supported by Better Rice Initiative Asia (BRIA) project in making rice farming more sustainably. During the first planting season from December 2018 to March this year, she had participated in a series of classes.

In classes, field facilitators introduced the use of soil testing kits, selection of the right seeds and their treatment, integrated pest management, and an adaptation of Jajar Legowo planting system.

Jajar Legowo is a recommended cropping patterns that bridge between two or more rows of rice plants and one empty row. As a result, plants and production will be boosted, making it easier for farmers to apply fertilizer and control pests, diseases and weeds.

While Mr. Modipa Siahaan, 59, a farmer from Panambean Marjanji village said he had just realized that importance of seed selection and treatment when taking the classes.

“I am very happy I participated in this field school,” said Mr. Siahaan, also from Simalungun district.

Each school consists of at least 25 student farmers, including senior farmers, female farmers, young generation farmers, and community leaders. The class lasts for about two to three hours.

The student farmers meet periodically based on the growth of the rice plants in a demo plot. For instance, when it is time for fertilizing, the participants will meet to discuss and learn about fertilizing-related activities.

There will be 360 field school classes conducted within the next three years, benefiting at least 9,000 Indonesian farmers nationwide.

Through BRIA project, various generations of farmers in Simalungun district are changing the future of rice farming and themselves with their open mind and the welcoming of new sustainable rice farming practice and technology.

BRIA – Indonesia project is now on its second phase.

A farmer from Panambean Marjanji village, Indonesia conducts a seed selection and seed treatment during the class of the Farmer Field School (FFS) in December 2018. (Photo credit: BRIA – Indonesia Team)
A group of local farmers, who participated in the Farmer Field School (FFS) in Simpang Pane village, Indonesia observes a variety of pests and disease that often ruins their rice fields. (Photo credit: BRIA – Indonesia Team)
A group of local farmers test their soil nutrients and pH with the guidance from the field facilitator at Pematang Panombean village, Indonesia in January 2019. (Photo credit: BRIA – Indonesia Team)
Local farmers pose for a photo before they started planting the rice on the demo plot of the Farmer Field School (FFS) at Raja Maligas village, Indonesia in November 2018. (Photo credit: BRIA – Indonesia Team)
Jajar Legowo has proved to be a good planting system because rice receives full sunlight that is needed for its growth. (Photo credit: BRIA – Indonesia Team)
Female farmers learn to observe different kinds of pests and diseases that attacked their rice fields by identifying the symptoms during the class of the Farmer Field School (FFS) with the topic of integrated pest management at Simpang Pane village, Indonesia in January 2019. (Photo credit: BRIA – Indonesia Team)