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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Kotagede, Yogyakarta, Indonesia

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Kotagede, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
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Registered: November 2011
City/Town/Province: Chester
Posts: 1
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“Gimana kita harus mulai?” I heard the question, but the answer sank into the blankness of my mind. That was five months ago when I first began an internship with WALHI, an environmental NGO in Indonesia. I applied to work on their clean water projects, but over tea and the course of the hour-long introductions custom in Java they found out my family lives on a farm in rural Virginia. Immediately they decided they instead wanted me to launch an urban agriculture campaign for them. They said that from conversations with locals they had realized over the past year that there is a real need for fresh, pesticide-free vegetables among the city’s poorest residents. I told them that just because I grew up on a farm that did not mean that I knew how to start and manage an urban farming movement in Indonesia. I quickly learned though.
For the past five months I have been giving presentations to the media and meeting with local residents to elaborate on the economic, health, and environmental reasons behind urban farming. While economic and health reasons have proven the most effective in persuading locals to start their own gardens, we really emphasize the environmental reasons behind urban agriculture, such as reducing air pollution, rainwater run-off, global warming, and urban heat islands. We want to be sure residents understand that urban farming not only helps their diets and budgets but also the planet. In addition to the theoretical portion of my job, I have been meeting with local farmers to discuss with them organic techniques I learned growing up on my grandparents’ farm in rural Virginia. In exchange, they have taught me about local crops, the effects of the rainy season, and the inner workings of Indonesia’s agricultural system. All of that knowledge helped me to launch and run the Urban Agriculture Education Center at our office and to advise locals on their own gardens. By helping residents to plant and manage community gardens, we have provided them with a small livelihood which enables them to supplement their diets as well as their household budgets with fresh organic produce. Many of the plants at our urban agriculture center have already begun to produce. The tomatoes, peppers, and some indigenous leafy greens known as kangkung have been the first things to come up. The past months we have been busy at our office compound tilling the land, planting, building shelves to hold potted crops, and meeting with local community groups. Just to get the land ready to plant we have had to remove large amounts of trash from the vacant lots we are converting into community gardens. Over the next month we will be launching two new community gardens outside of our office in two of the poorest neighborhoods of Yogyakarta: Kotagede and Sotoran.
Our Urban Agriculture Education Center has two educational goals: to give people a chance to engage their relationship to the environment and to teach them about better nutrition. “Unless you have eaten rice you have not eaten” remains a ubiquitous saying here. People’s diets consist almost exclusively of carbohydrates: rice, noodles and rice-based products are the sole basis of any meal. Based on nutrition surveys and medical testing conducted by a group of public health NGOs in Yogyakarta, roughly sixty percent of the women in the city are not getting enough vitamins and minerals in their diet for their breast milk to provide adequate nutrition for their children. Food culture and traditions plays a role, but poverty and a lack of access to fresh vegetables are the underlying causes of malnutrition here. Our urban farming projects are trying to change all that.
Many city-dwellers here have lost all contact with nature and their food chain among the cramped concrete and pollution of Yogyakarta’s poorest areas. One of my close friends is a law student here in Yogyakarta at Indonesia’s most prestigious university, but he looked at me with a confused stare when I explained that not all eggs will hatch into chicks; a rooster is required. He also gaped at me when I told him heads of lettuce don’t grow on bushes. He doesn’t understand why I care about the environment. He told me once that Mother Earth can take care of herself. Such a lack of knowledge and caring for the environment is all too common here an provides the motivation for us to try and change it by inviting school and youth groups to our urban agriculture center, so that they can play with, learn about and come to care for plants and nature in general from a young age. We also give each child a young bean sprout in a cup to take home so they can start their own garden at home and continue their connection to our world.
To advertise urban farming here, I knew I had to create a catchy slogan. Indonesians are a very social people that use mottos and catchy phrases for everything from a roadside food stand to the local laundromat. What I came up with was “Hemat, Sehat, Hijau,” which translates to “Thrifty, Healthy, Green.” That simple message conveys everything that WALHI’s Urban Agriculture Education Center and gardens is trying to promote. For the past five months, I and a team of tireless Indonesian youth have been planting the seeds of progress here in Yogyakarta. With a Nicodemus Wilderness Project award, we could greatly expand our urban farming projects across the city and educate countless Indonesians how to live healthier and more eco-friendly lives.
· Date: November 29, 2011 · Views: 3018 · File size: 24.0kb, 3305.0kb · : 4288 x 3216 ·
Hours Volunteered: 312
Volunteers: 27
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 21 & 8 to 40
Area Restored for Native Wildlife (hectares): 1.2
Trash Removed/Recycled from Environment (kg): 3.2
Native Trees Planted: 13
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