Indonesia is not currently producing enough vegetables to feed its population a balanced diet that provides the daily requirements of nutrients and vitamins. Researchers from Wageningen think that a few simple procedures for using pesticides and artificial fertilisers could help smallholders in Indonesia to increase production. vegIMPACT is a programme in which researchers from Wageningen UR are working alongside researchers from Indonesia and local and Dutch companies to train farmers in sustainable vegetable farming and help create better market opportunities for smallholders.
Interventions to improve crops are sitting on the shelf
In 2013, a group of researchers from Wageningen UR, including Flip van Koesveld and Arij Everaarts, launched the vegIMPACT programme. Everaarts: “Here in Indonesia, they already have all the knowledge they need for interventions that would hugely increase vegetable production. They simply need to put them into practice. For example, a practical tool like a spraying schedule for pesticides when growing crops like tomatoes would help to reduce the volumes of pesticide used and the health risks to farmers.” Van Koesveld: “Health is not a subject that Indonesian farmers pay much attention to. Women in particular are exposed to huge quantities of pesticides. We hope that we can persuade farmers to use fewer pesticides by showing them that this will cut costs without affecting the quality of their produce.”
Local-level strategy to build on local knowledge
In a four-year plan, the researchers want to find local trainers who can train around ten thousand farmers in ways of increasing their vegetable production. Van Koesveld: “We hope that by using local trainers in partnership with Dutch companies, such as East West Seed Indonesia, we can build on local knowledge of farming. This should ensure that the knowledge remains in place, even when the programme finishes.”
The training courses focus on subjects such as artificial fertilisers, pesticides and all-year-round vegetable farming. Van Koesveld: “At the moment, farmers alternate the crops they grow between vegetables and wet rice. Our demonstration fields show that it is better to grow vegetables like cucumbers, tomatoes and potatoes all year round, instead of alternating them with wet rice.” The researchers hope that this will lead to a sufficient supply of affordable vegetables so that the population can rely on a balanced diet. The first training sessions for local trainers started in March 2014.
Better outlet opportunities for farmers
During the training courses given by local trainers, the farmers are taught better ways of marketing their produce. Product market combinations for various vegetables will also be defined. Forging contacts between farmers and partners in the chain means better outlet opportunities and higher income for the famers. Van Koesveld: “Another advantage of better outlet opportunities and higher production is that it will increase employment in rural areas. We hope that this rise in employment will go some way to averting the current exodus from rural areas.”
Everaarts: “We have devised a special strategy for the vegIMPACT programme. Although the government has some influence on the project, it is mainly run via the dynamics of industry. We opted for this approach because we want to reach as many farmers as we can, in order to get the fastest results. In addition, the results are more likely to make a lasting impression if local farmers and companies incorporate them into their day-to-day practices.”
Funding the vegIMPACT programme
vegIMPACT stands for ‘vegetable production with impact’. The programme is being fronted by Wageningen UR as part of the ‘Food Security and Private Sector Development’ programme run by the Embassy in Jakarta. This programme is also exploring opportunities for improving milk production, poultry farming and fisheries in Indonesia. vegIMPACT works alongside local parties, including the Indonesian Vegetable Research Institute (IVEGRI). A local support office has been set up in Jakarta. Dutch companies, including Rijk Zwaan, Bejo Zaden, Enza Zaden and HZPC, are also working on the project to boost their share of the Indonesian market. The programme is funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.