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Agricultural sector has always been the backbone of Indonesia rural social economic strength, including in Luwu Timur, the area where Vale operation is located. Rice farming is one of the main activities of farmers in this area which was challenged by the continual declining of productivity.
Vale, through its community development and empowerment program introduced rice organic farming method based on System Of Rice Intensification Organic (SRI Organik). This program is not only managed to increase the productivity of the rice farming but also able to improve self sufficiency of the community while at the same time improving the natural ecosystem.
Farmers access to fertilizer has been perceived to lead to increased production. However, practice in the field found that continual usage of chemical fertilizer tends to decrease the productivity of rice farming in the long run. Aggravating to this is the usage of chemical pesticides which make the soil's health even more degraded.
Some of the factors that caused this condition are :
1. Declining soil health and fertility due to the use of inorganic chemical elements both fertilizers and pesticides. Chemicals had caused microbes in the soil not to function properly, preventing the flow of energy from underground and creating unbalances which affect the supply of necessary nutrients from the soil.
2. Potential to increase production is stagnant, because of the first problem, and also a dependency of the plants on food supplies from outside in the form of synthetic fertilizers.
3. The continuous and excessive use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides has broken the food chain.
SRI Organic is an agricultural cultivation system that relies on natural ingredients. The goal is to provide food that is safe for the health of producers and consumers while at the same time environmentally friendly. SRI Organic only uses organic fertilizers and organic pesticides. The SRI Organic also adopted a farming method that is environmentally friendly, which includes:
Fewer seed. Using only one seed in one planting hole, compared to 2-3 before, to give full opportunity for the rice plants to develop to their potential.
Less water. Removing the habit of inundating rice fields with water, which is also the reason for the reduction of infertility: the topsoil, which is the most fertile part of the soil, was carried away when the water flowed out of the rice field.
No burning . Removing the habit of burning dried rice stalks (the residue from the harvest) can cause air and water pollution and reduce environmental bio-diversity.
In 2015, Vale with Aliksa SRI Organik Konsultan began to introduce SRI Organic. This activity is based on a community empowerment program scheme through innovation of Agricultural System, Fisheries, Environmentally Friendly and Sustainable Healthy Livestock.
Learning and implementation of this program are focused on 4 Vale's empowerment areas, namely Wasuponda, Mahalona, Towuti and Malili. The company also provides technical assistance support for several regions.
With SRI Organic, it is expected that the farmers could improve the productivity of their land, lower the production cost and thus improve their incomes; while utilizing the existing local resources in a sustainable way.
SRI Organic requires more people interactions which have resulted in additional positive development in the form of improving social interaction between the farmers, creating support for another community.
Vale, aside from being able to achieve the implementation of the community development program, will also benefit from the increasing supply of healthy natural products for the employee and community in the surrounding area.
My rice is from my compost, my compost is from my cow, my cow is from my rice.
Mr. Yusup Rante (63 yo) is an Organic SRI farmer from Urako farming group Ledu-ledu village Wasuponda. He joined the training to become an organic farmer in the Vale program in 2015. He began to develop SRI organic method rice from 2015-2020. At the beginning he was struggling to become a SRI Organic farmer given he must change all of his behavior in the conventional farming, and reduce his reliance on synthetic materials.
In 2016, Mr. Yusup planted one small rice field to grow SRI Organic, prepare compost, make local microorganisms, and make vegetable pesticides. The transition from conventional farming was tough, but Mr. Yusup persisted. He was successful in harvesting the organic rice which he was able to sell to his neighbors, the community, and to shops facilitated by Vale. Even though initially the organic rice was considered expensive by consumers, it is now very sought after. Currently, Mr. Yusup has planted 0.75 hectares. Every season he harvests and sells organic rice, and because of this he now owns some cows as well.
Environmentally friendly organic materials. SRI Organic will only use organic materials for all of the farming activities, starting from organic fertilizer and also organic pesticide. By using these natural materials, the farming activities do not burdened the environment with additional synthetic materials.
Easy to procure materials. All of the materials for fertilizer and the pesticide is available locally, some of them can be created by the farmers themselves. The availability of these supporting materials is more secured and dependable, preventing the delay in planting time and/or having not enough materials .
Lower cost organic materials. Fertilizer is created from lamb or cow waste, which is cheaper than the synthetic fertilizer. The requirement for fertilizer is gradually getting smaller as the land becoming more natural after few years of organic farming and at one point (usually after 10 years) the fertilizer needs will become very minimal.
Better margin as productivity increases. While the cost continue dropping due to lower fertilizer need, the production per ha will gradually increase along the way. Farmers will benefit from higher margin after several years of practicing the organic activities.
Healthy food for the community and employee. Eating organic rice offers additional health benefits. When compared with conventionally grown food crops, organic foods contains less pesticides and food additives, minimizing your exposure to harmful chemicals.
Synergy among the community. When more people interaction happens, new ideas and synergy are created. One example is the collaboration between the farmers and Akademi Teknik Sorowako (ATS) a technical school support by Vale. From learning together, they could invent Gasrok mekanik, a manual machine to replace the conventional machine to clean the farming areas from weed and grass. This initiatives has won Gold award from Indonesia Social Development Gold Award (ISDA) 2021 for Applied Technology and Innovation category.
Self sufficient Village. The next stage of people empowerment program is to create strategic partnership within the community, marketing network and support among the villages within Vale empowerment area. In addition to direct marketing to consumers, Vale is also trying to link the organic rice marking to to its employee and canteen.
The SRI Organic was introduced in 2015, and has shown positive results in form of increasing productivity while decreasing production cost . From only around 4 ton per ha production, now the farmers of SRI Organic in the four empowerment area enjoying and average production of 6 ton per ha. The production per ha is expected to continue increasing, following the increase in productivity of the land.
The average production cost of SRI Organic is around Rp18 million per ha, slightly higher than the conventional of Rp17mn per ha. Nevertheless, many of the costs are generated from items or activities that can be procured by the farmers themselves (not a cash cost).
Organic rice price is higher than conventional rice, with the increasing awareness toward consuming organic foods. The average selling price of SRI Organic at Vale empowerment area is around Rp16,000 per kg, compared to conventional rice of Rp11,000 per kg.
The Organic SRI program also give benefit to the society and environment in broader way, as it able to stimulate the potential of the local community, which was previously dormant. Because of that the agricultural productivity could be increased. Examples of such potential are as follows:
Compost usage. Prior to the implementation of SRI Organic, cow waste was ignored by farmers- sometimes the compost was just heaped behind the villagers’ cattle sheds. Majority of the farmers in SRI Organic program are now using the waste. Besides reducing expenses for purchasing fertilizer, using the waste is also beneficial to maintain a clean environment
Organic Material. Organic material for LOM (Local Organic Material), such as bamboo shoots, maja and pace fruit for pesticides, are all locally available. These organic materials can substitute the industrial fertilizers and chemical pesticides. LOM returns a natural soil fertility. It makes ecological process can be re-run well by activating the soil microorganisms as a provider of plant nutrition. As the farmers will receive better income or profit, be higher and the potential for further destruction to the ecosystem will be diminished.
Social relationship. The existence of Organic SRI in Vale empowerment area has allowed villagers to rediscover their sense of cooperation. Such cooperation is now visible in the resolution of common problems and in the general development of the village.
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Ardian Putra, Manager Social Development Program
Yusuf Suharso, Manager Corp. Affair & General Admin - IGP
PT Vale Indonesia Tbk (Vale) is one of the leading mineral mining and processing companies which has been operating for more than 50 years in Indonesia. The company produces nickel at its integrated mining and processing facilities in Luwu Timur, South Sulawesi.
One of Vale's' strategic pillars is to incorporate sustainability into its business by building economic, social and environmental legacies and mitigating the impacts of its operations. SRI Organic is one the company's community development programs introduced by the company to increase the productivity of rice farmers using green methodology which also provide sustainability.