Tuesday, Mar 20, 2018 Author: Hera Diani
The sweltering heat subsided as the sun moved closer to the west that afternoon in early August. For a farmer group in Haikatapu Village, Rindi Subdistrict in Sumba Timur, East Nusa Tenggara, that only meant one thing: watering and weeding the nutrition gardens.
The gardens occupy a total of 2,000 square-meter and a 1,200 square-meter of village lands that are close to one another, surrounded by rice fields and close to a spring. A group of eight farmers have managed the gardens since 2012, when the Generasi program handed out five sachets of vegetable seeds per person and 100-kilogram of onion seeds, as part of the initiative to improve people’s nutrition. The farmers tend the gardens every morning and afternoon, and they work on their own farms in between.
“We produce plenty of vegetables now, from cabbage and spinach to lettuce, eggplant and sweet potato, as well as papaya,” said Ninda Halawulang, member of the farmers group.
The situation is very different compared to a couple of years ago. The dry season, which can last up to eight months, makes Sumba Timur dry and difficult for people to grow vegetables to meet their daily needs. This has contributed to nutrition issues in the community.
The management of the farms were also not as organized. Those who lived near the water source used to manage their own farms, which were usually quite small. Inadequate public transport made it difficult for them to obtain seeds, which are sold only in the district capital about 1.5 hours’ drive away. Therefore, most community members relied on grocery sellers, that passed through their area, to obtain vegetables.
These issues were discussed in a village meeting, which the Generasi Cerdas Sehat (Generasi) team attended. Responding to the problem, the village community empowerment cadre, which was part of the Generasi team, assisted the community to identify the type of seeds needed and a budget plan to obtain them.
The local health post cadres in Rindi Sub-district has also been very proactive among the community. Following Generasi conducted cadres training, the cadres worked with the community to establish nutrition gardens in each village.
Today, the gardens help ensures families meet their daily nutritional needs. Some of the produce is also given to seven integrated health service posts (posyandu) in the area (whose cadres received Generasi training) as supplementary food for toddlers. Moreover, the gardens also serve as income source, as the communities sell the produce in the market.
“The money helps pay for our children’s schooling and household expenses,” Ninda said, smiling.
Generasi, in coordination with the Health Agency, facilitated nutrition gardens in three other villages in the area. The nutrition gardens have improved people’s nutrition, testified farmers group who managed a garden in Lukuhippa Hamlet near Haikatappu.
The garden was started in 2016, when Generasi provided seeds worth Rp 20,000 for every pregnant woman. Managed by a group of six farmers, the garden has earned Rp 10 million so far, mostly from the sales to employees of a sugar cane plantation.
“Most of the produce are sold and the money is for each member of the farmers group. The rest of the produce is for community needs, like if we have community meeting,” said Jeara Pay, daughter of the Lukuhippa hamlet head who helps with the garden.
The success of the nutrition gardens has urged village government, that are integrated with Generasi programs, to discuss the initiative in their village development planning deliberative meetings. The purpose is to allocate funds from Village Budget to support the sustainability of the initiative.