New Gardening Techniques Buoy Indonesian Families
It's early morning and Evita Tiro Wada is already busy attending to her long beans in the field. This sunrise work has become part of a weekly ritual for Evita in Lewobele village, on the remote Flores Island of Indonesia. It seems worlds apart from the urban sprawl of the metropolitan Jakarta, Indonesia’s bustling capital some 1,250 miles northwest.
Evita is not tending a typical field. This land is part of a demonstration plot displaying a simple, sustainable drip irrigation system. The slim, snaking tubes intermittently deliver gravity-fed water from a nearby natural spring, run solely on clean energy. The drip irrigation system helps farmers adapt to disasters, droughts and climate change, ensuring year-round planting of vegetables.
A decade ago, Evita’s life was very different. At that time, Evita was four months pregnant with her fourth child. Her husband took ill suddenly and died. Evita was left to take care of her children.
“When my husband passed away, it was a big challenge,” says Evita. “I had to get help borrowing money from family or neighbors. During the first two years, I only stayed at home, then slowly I went out in the community. When I stayed at home I thought about the past, but when I’m involved in these activities my sad feelings are gone. I feel happy when I’m involved and interacting with the community.” she says.
Working with her community’s Village Disaster Preparedness group, Evita gained renewed energy. The group of 30 members—with 12 women and 18 men—cultivate and maintain the plot. Using drought-resistant seeds, a variety of vegetables are grown in the village's demonstration plot, where Evita tends to organic long beans, bitter gourd, mustard leaves, chili and eggplants, depending on the season.
This demo plot is one of the many activities within the FLODESA* project, with 1,855 direct project participants from 10 villages.
Photo by Benny Manser/CRS
Drip irrigation reduces labor needed to maintain the plot, reduces water use and increases production. The demonstration plot also plays an important role as a learning center, with other villages and government officials coming to see the practices and then test the systems in their own communities.
The Village Disaster Preparedness group has already felt the benefits of some of the vegetables harvested from the demonstration plot from selling vegetables including water spinach and long beans to nearby villagers. With September to October marking the peak of the dry season, and water flow decreasing, drip irrigation helps sustain production.
A kitchen garden and plant demonstration plot have helped Evita Tiro Wada support her growing family of four.
Photo by Benny Manser/CRS
Evita is also using her knowledge and skills from the demonstration plot to cultivate her own kitchen garden—a specially-designed raised soil bed that is easily tended and allows for a variety of crops. When food becomes harder to obtain during an emergency, a kitchen garden provides a sustainable source of food.
It’s one of the many activities within the FLODESA* project, with 1,855 direct project participants from 10 target villages. These activities have helped Evita to support her growing family of three daughters and one son.
And while a productive, efficient kitchen garden that reduces food expenses and gives her surplus to sell is a big help, the connection with neighbors that she’s built while maintaining the demonstration plot is another lifeline.
“Education is important,” says Evita. “It is my dream for my children to have a better future. I’m working hard to support my children by farming, kitchen gardening, harvesting and selling. It’s been benefiting my children and I’ve been able to support their education, pay school fees and other related costs. My first child, David, is in his final year at university studying accounting and will be graduating soon.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the kitchen garden also helped Evita weather the economic shocks that hit families around the world. She was able to support her family through the economic crisis by selling cashews and her kitchen garden harvests, which included tomatoes, mustard, morning glory, eggplant and long beans.
“If we didn’t have the kitchen garden, we would have faced a very difficult situation,” Evita says. We needed money to buy food, pay schools fees ... When I sold the vegetables, I could also buy other things such as rice, fish and eggs, but I didn’t need to spend money on vegetables.”
Improving nutrition in communities
The kitchen gardens initiative aligns with the Indonesian government's program to reduce stunting by helping children get protein from vegetables. So far, out of 108 households in the village approximately 30 households are cultivating kitchen gardens. In East Flores district stunting levels were 20.9% in 2021, and slightly reduced to 20.4% by May 2022.
”In our village in 2021, there were 10 babies between the ages of 11 months to 59 months who were stunted. Now it’s being reduced to six. Every month a health staff comes to the village to check and have criteria to see if they are stunting, such as age and weight, to see if children’s nutrition is being fulfilled,” Evita says.
“I can support my family and my two oldest children say they are very proud of me,” she continues. “Even though they have lost their father, they think they have a super mum who is supporting their future. This project supports not only my family, but also my community.”
*Flores Disaster Risk Reduction to Enhance Sustainable Livelihoods