Written by Zahtamal
A farmer in Besur village is applying biopesticides that he obtained from the "ATM" stations where the farmers can claim the bioagents for free. The biopesticides contain bacteria and fungi that Besur farmers cultivate in the village laboratory.
In the heart of Lamongan, East Java, lies a village that has inspired many villages in the region with its journey towards sustainable farming. In 2016, Besur village faced a severe agricultural crisis due to the Brown Planthopper (BPH) attack, which devastated their rice crops. However, this problematic situation led to a remarkable change. Instead of using chemical pesticides to manage the pest, farmers adopted sustainable farming practices. This decision was a huge success and became an inspiring example for others to follow. The journey started at Farmer's School.
The Indonesia Department of Agriculture (POPT) Lamongan region initiated the Farmer's School program in Besur village. Their goals were to empower farmers by helping them understand and apply the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) concept and make them self-reliant and capable of independently solving their agricultural challenges.
"Farmers had been using incorrect farming methods for 40 years. Therefore, we were committed to supporting them until they became self sufficient and comfortable, of adapting to the new concept. We know this won't be easy for us, but for the farmers, this new hope makes them enthusiastic to follow the program - Mumim (POPT Officer)
The Farmer School program spanning eight seasons from 2016 to 2019, produced promising results. Farmers significantly reduced their use of chemical pesticides, by about 50% per hectare. This Farmer School programme also led to increased agricultural yields and the positive outcomes further encouraged farmers to implement IPM and sustainable farming practices. These practices included maintaining planting gaps and using straw as organic material to enrich the soil instead of burning or discarding it.
Furthermore, the ability to analyze and solve the problem was also developed. For instance, when pest attacks returned after a six-year break, farmers did not run to apply chemical pesticides. Instead, they took a thoughtful approach. They held regular meetings to determine why brown planthopper infestations were returning and how they might deal with them effectively. Farmers came up with a clever solution: they changed their planting schedule. They started planting their crops earlier than usual, ensuring their rice crops would be mature enough to withstand the attack when the brown planthoppers returned.
Farmers are highly adaptive and have a strong commitment to sustainable farming practices, particularly when they have the knowledge and support to implement practices that can benefit their livelihoods and the environment. Their excellent problem-solving and analytical thinking skills make them even more innovative. To reduce the cost of biopesticides, farmers in this village initiated the creation of their own laboratory for making natural agents like bacteria and fungi. This saved them money and empowered them by creating their own solutions and enabled the products to be distributed free to other farmers in Besur Village. But the innovation continues beyond there. They've also found creative ways to use village land. They have set aside a part of their land, about four hectares, to grow unique refugia plants.
These plants serve two purposes - they attract helpful insects like predators and parasitoids, and they invite tourists to experience the village's unique charm" -Zainuddin, farmer
The village is also committed to continuing to find better ways to produce food and support sustainable livelihoods. The PPAH Besur Community has some exciting projects underway; their latest project is the construction of a greenhouse for growing organic melons. It's still a work in progress, but they want everyone in Besur village to enjoy these delicious melons when it's done!
"We have also started working on cattle farming facilities, where we will manage cattle waste and turn it into valuable compost for our crops." - Muchlish, the head of the PPAH community
The spirit of Besur
The inspirational spirit of Besur village has reached many other villages. Farmers are eager to share their experiences with other farmers from different regions. Five villages are following in Besur's footsteps by adopting sustainable farming practices.
Besur village is now self-reliant and can solve their problems without needing intensive support from us. They are also actively starting similar programs in other areas, and we at the POPT are always ready to support and expand this program to more villages. It's our main focus right now. -Hamim, POPT Officer
Collaborating, exchanging knowledge, and sharing information among farmers are productive steps toward achieving the common goal of sustainable agriculture. What the Besur farmers have shown demonstrates that small villages can develop and innovate and be a model for sustainable agriculture practices. This collaborative spirit can be an example to small-scale farmers in Indonesia and communities everywhere.