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World Food Day, 16 October 2017
Amaq Genap
"Money is now right here, knocking at my door. "
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“Compared to my income as a construction worker in Malaysia, I am now better off as a farmer…“Money is now right here, knocking at my door,” says Amaq Genap, a former migrant and farmer from Indonesia.

Amaq Genap, a 58-year-old gray haired farmer from Sekaroh Village, Lombok Timur looks serious but content.

His sun-burnt skin and sturdy shoulders depict someone who is hard-working and perseverant, someone who has been a farmer for all his life.

Except the time when he had to leave his farm and family to be a migrant worker in Malaysia.

Now, he is standing tall in front of a field of bright chili peppers ready for harvest. The chili peppers were planted among maize that had been harvested earlier – a method to minimize soil erosion and to increase soil fertility.   

“Money is now right here, knocking at my door,” says Amaq a thin smile slowly emerging from his lips as he is picking a chili pepper, his wife and youngest daughter by his side. 

Before leaving for Malaysia, Amaq used to work on a farm of about half a hectare that he inherited from his father. As a traditional farmer, he planted corn once a year. If there was rain, his harvest was good. If there wasn’t, his harvest was poor.

But with more than seven dry months per year in Indonesia, his average maize yield was 3-4 tons per hectare, hardly enough to cover for his family’s needs. His situation was becoming difficult; wanting to improve his family’s life, Amaq took the bold and risky decision to go to Malaysia. 

There he ended up working in construction.

“Being a migrant worker and being far away from home and loved ones are a kind of deprivation. I did not enjoy it at all,” he says, adding that this is what prompted him to come back to his village and rekindle his passion for farming.

Driven to turn farming into a success, he borrowed money from the bank, using his land as collateral. He was still cultivating his land in a traditional manner. When he came into contact with Conservation Agriculture (CA) in 2014, he was willing to try a new approach.

“At first, I had doubts about the CA approach. How can this work? Not tilling the soil and the farm dirty with crop residues?” he explains.

But when he realized that the maize grew despite the delayed rain, he felt this approach made sense.

During the planting season of 2015-2016, Amaq began applying CA techniques. This meant that the soil was not tilled, crop residues were used as mulch and he applied organic fertilizers to provide nutrients for the soil. There was a prolonged drought during this season and the threat of crop failure was real.

To his surprise, despite surrounding areas experiencing crop failure, the maize at his farm kept growing; he harvested an average of 6.1 tons per hectare.  

This result encouraged him to keep adopting CA techniques for the next planting season too. He expanded his land – to 1 hectare - and planted a hybrid type maize seed. This led to a harvest of an average of 7.6 tons per hectare and US$ 2,076 from the sale of the harvest.

“This is a very extraordinary yield, something that I have never experienced before. With the money, I could pay off the money (US$ 358) I borrowed from the bank, putting aside some money as saving for my children’s education. I also bought goats; I now have 12 goats,” he says proudly.

“Compared to my income as a construction worker in Malaysia, I am now better off as a farmer thanks to CA techniques,” he concludes.

Aside from maize, Amaq also planted chili peppers as intercrops with the maize and used his front yard for more chili pepper planting. As a result, Amaq had an additional income of US$ 30 – 40 per week.

He is a member of Moga Sukses Farmer Group of Sekaroh Village, Lombok Timur District of NTB. The group has 35 members and started practicing CA in 2014. Amaq and his fellow farmers are among the first farmers to practice CA in NTB Province.

As of now, in NTT and NTB provinces, CA practices have been expanded to more than 650 farmer groups with more than 12,500 members across 51 sub-districts, in 152 villages, with farmers enjoying significant increase in maize yield and additional income from beans and other inter-crops.

The Indonesia government plans to scale up the technique as part of the climate smart agriculture intervention and mainstream it into agricultural practices across the country to increase corn production as part of thenational food security programme.

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