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Stories of Organic Agriculture and Community Organizing
11 February 2023 - by Admin

In 2018, Yoab Sagisolo just graduated from the Vocational High School (SMK) in Teminabuan, South Sorong. Yoab did not continue his studies at the tertiary level. He more often helps his parents, such as making roofs from sago leaves which are sold or taking care of the garden. On a daily basis, Joab is known to have the skill to make bracelets from tree roots.


Yoab said that the first time he came into contact with Bentara Papua's activities was through a mapping activity. Not long ago, Yoab and two of his friends representing youths from the Knasaimos indigenous people were sent to Sorong on the recommendation of Bentara Papua. They will study at the School of Social Transformation (STS). STS is an alternative school run by the EcoNusa Foundation in collaboration with the Indonesian Society for Social Transformation (Insist).


While at STS, Yoab learned a lot about organic farming and village mapping. After school, each STS alumnus has the task of carrying out three months of field work practice in their respective villages.


Joab also did the same. Arriving at his village, accompanied by Bentara Papua friends, he tried to apply the organic farming methods he had just learned.


Currently, the garden he is working on is on a slope and flat land using a raised bed system. About 100 meters long, 150 meters wide, about the size of a football field. There are already 50 beds prepared.


The types that are being planted by Yoab are mustard greens and long beans. kale, tomatoes, rica (chili) and eggplant as well as local plants around the village. It also grows mid-term food crops.


Why did Joab choose to grow vegetables?


“I once asked the mas who sell vegetables here. It turned out that the vegetables were also brought from another place. When they enter the village, the price is already more expensive," he explained.


Yoab was furious. The people in the villages which are the customary territory of Knasaimos should be able to grow the types of vegetables they buy themselves. This condition of being dependent on external supplies made him start vegetable gardening.


Discipline and diligently learn from the garden to produce the best.


Yoab recalls that the first harvest from his garden once brought him Rp. 2,500,000. Most only sell their vegetables around the village. While the costs incurred are limited to the procurement of seeds.


But what is more important than that is that he can prove that the agriculture he does can be a source of income without destroying the natural resources found in the forest.


Yoab is fully aware that the forest area within the Knasaimos customary territory is always threatened by illegal logging practices. Because of this, alternative sources of sustainable livelihoods must be created.


Yoab did not work alone. Together with their friends, they once received an Innovation Grant from Bentara Papua. Grants are not in the form of money, but equipment and seeds to work on the garden.


 Prepare a spayer containing homemade Liquid Organic Fertilizer (POC) to fertilize plants.


The success story in the vegetable garden will continue. Yoab wants to expand it to reachable villages. At the same time, he pushed for this agriculture to be more independent. “Several residents, such as those in Kwowok Village and Mlaswat Village, have started this farming practice. Some are young people, some are old," he said.


Agriculture like this has been proven to supply the needs of the people in the village. Therefore, the potential for cross-village agricultural independence should be created together.


His contact with friends from NGOs, be it Bentara Papua, Greenpeace and EcoNusa, made Yoab think about even more strategic issues. Especially with regard to the conservation of forest areas that are within the customary territory of their clans.


“I am well aware that protecting the forest cannot be done alone. Because of that, I started by having an internal discussion with the extended clan members. The discussion began by discussing the map of the clan's customary territory and the potential contained therein. Don't rely solely on cutting down trees. We have to be able to live without cutting down trees or destroying forests.” he said again.


Mapping of women's management space for agriculture.


Then, what kind of support from the clan elders? The elders of the clan are very grateful because the map of their area has been made. Furthermore, they are waiting for the role of the youth through empowerment activities.


Another big dream is to create an ecotourism area. Together with his friends, Yoab plans to map the potential distribution of flora and fauna in forest areas. If it meets the requirements, they plan to develop it through the ecotourism concept. The management base will involve cross-clans within one village. Ecotourism for its part can facilitate the restoration and maintenance of biodiversity in forest areas that have been damaged due to illegal logging practices in the past.


These ideas filled his head for one reason or another. Yoab is fully aware that Bentara and Greenpeace will not be in Kampung Sira and Manggroholo forever.


In the future, village youths must pave the way for independence.


“I have gathered youth friends and divided the tasks. I will focus on farming, being the coordinator. There are friends assigned to other functions. This youth group will conduct regular evaluations.”


Where did this sense of community organizing develop from?

“From the Bentara Papua brothers. I also read the book Organizing the People given by Bentara Papua," he said.


The book Organizing the People published by INSIST Press. This book is a reflection of the work of community organizing written by Jo Hann Tan and Roem Topatimasang, two senior organizers who live in Southeast Asia.


Time and consistency will prove the pioneering work that Yoab Sagisolo and his friends have started.

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