Wageningen University & Research is working with vegetable seed companies in Indonesia to improve yields and the quality of vegetables such as chilli peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers and cabbage. Ten thousand farmers have already improved their harvests, and many more could benefit.
The growth in the vegetable sector is crucial for food security and food quality, as vegetables contain many important minerals and vitamins. At the same time, growth in this sector gives an impetus to the rural economy. ‘The vegetable sector is the most dynamic agricultural sector,’ says Flip van Koesveld, based in Wageningen. ‘On a per-hectare basis, it generates the most employment and the highest financial yields. What's more, farmers can easily grow other crops in order to respond to market demands.’
Although many Indonesian farmers cultivate the vegetables alongside rice or coffee crops, the yields and quality are low. In addition, the frequent use of pesticides has an adverse effect on the environment as well as on the health of farmers and their families.
Wageningen is working with large seed companies and Indonesian partners as part of the vegIMPACT project, aimed at improving vegetable production and marketing for small farmers in Indonesia, and is well on the way to bringing about a change in the situation. ‘We are trying to develop a “knowledge dynamic” that uses our expertise and farmers’ input to create customised innovations,’ explains Van Koesveld. ‘The focus is on improved plant cultivation, less and safer usage of pesticides and more effective use of fertilisers, in order to reduce costs. Our efforts are leading to higher yields and better vegetable quality.
Having working demo farms is an important part of knowledge transfer, but videos, cultivation manuals and e-learning modules are also used. That is the strength of this approach, which is now helping ten thousand farmers. However, expanding our farmer networks, creating demo fields and involving local agricultural consultants will allow us to help one hundred thousand farmers and their families, who could benefit from this approach. The number of farmers we help could even be increased tenfold – taking the number to one million – by using social media such as Facebook and WhatsApp, as well as ‘old-fashioned’ text messages.
Researchers from Wageningen are working on similar projects in other countries, including Tanzania and Myanmar, and are already demonstrating how this approach can support continued growth. However, public-private partnerships are needed to build new networks, set up demo fields and involve local consultants, says Van Koesveld. ‘Although this collaboration can come in an endless number of forms, the potential of our approach to achieve significant steps forward is huge.’
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