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Promoting Sustainable Agriculture on the Togean Islands

Agriculture forms one of Indonesia's key economic sectors, employing over 41% of the country's workforce. Indonesia is a global leader in the production and supply of many items including cinnamon, nutmeg, coconut oil and rice. In recent years the country has also become synonymous with destructive agricultural practices with the palm oil industry regularly targeted by environmental charities.

One such practice which has permeated it's way through the sector; is slash and burn. A quick and cheap method of cultivation, this destructive technique of cutting forest and burning the remaining vegetation has become commonly accepted amongst the population.

Although illegal in Indonesia, officials within the country struggle to enforce the law and convict landowners of setting fires. Difficulties in enforcement are exacerbated by vegetation sitting on carbon-rich peat deposits which allow the fires to burn deep underground for extended periods of time.

Slash and burn on sloping farmland resulting in soil erosion and eventually landslides

Slash and burn has a hugely detrimental impact on the air quality in Indonesia and also neighbouring countries such as Malaysia and Singapore. It also causes significant habitat and species loss, soil erosion leading to increases in landslides, water contamination and the release of carbon into the atmosphere.

The release of sequestered carbon is also contributing to the less visible threat of climate change. Within the next thirty years it is expected that Indonesia will face increasing temperatures, sporadic rainfall and increased water stress as a direct result of climate change. A recent study predicted that one third of farming families will become vulnerable to these impacts as well as economically predominant crops such as rice and soybeans facing decreased yields.

Much like the mainland, slash and burn is commonplace across the islands, with it even been used for weeding. Whilst this technique gives an instant boost to the fertility of the land through the ash deposit on the top later, this quickly deteriorates leading to further slash and burn to create new land.

Pest problems directly caused by a loss of soil fertility

However in comparison to the mainland, the majority of the farms are still small and privately owned with palm oil yet to become a major crop for them. Instead the farmers main crops are, cloves, coconut and maize but patchouli taking dominance over these in recent years.

Farmers can expect good prices for small, easy to ship quantities of patchouli, leading to a surge in popularity for the product. In some villages 100% of farmers are now growing the crop.

Our farmer training program aims to provide education on these issues as well as teaching about restorative agriculture and finding ways to mitigate human - wildlife conflicts.

It is our belief that Indonesian education systems need to equip local communities with basic agricultural skills such as an understanding of soil, plant growth, pest management and the importance of wildlife services to farming. We would also like to see the introduction of agricultural economics within education programmes to help provide farmers stability in the face of adverse weather events, pest outbreaks and fluctuations in market prices.

Farmers in the Matobiyai Village take part in our permaculture project.

Media enquiries and volunteer opportunities to:

Stephanie Garvin

Togean Conservation Foundation

Tel/ Whatsapp +62 821 8897 9315


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