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Growing Organic Rice a Bucket at a Time in East Jakarta - Jakarta Globe
Last modified: 2012-03-11 18:30:16

There are bright forecasts for Indonesia's economy this year, but the prospects for its rice fields appear far dimmer. As the economy booms along, more and more rice fields are converted to housing estates and industrial areas, which could spell trouble for a country that lives on the grain as one of the biggest consumers of rice in the world.

A possible solution might lie in the hands of some teenagers. A group of junior high school students from SMPN 209 in East Jakarta is proving that organic rice can be grown in an urban setting by well-dressed kids.

The materials? Earth, cattle manure, buckets, water and Ciherang rice seedlings. The variety is ideal because it can be planted during both the rainy and the dry seasons. Additionally, the rice can be harvested about 110 days after the seeds are planted, which means there are about three harvests a year.

The cost? About Rp 5,000 (55 cents) per bucket, from which 100 to 300 grams of grains are produced. Recently, 30 kilograms of rice were harvested from SMPN 209's 300-bucket project. Not bad for tweens aged 11 to 14, many of whom are first-timers at raising crops.

Suhri is the proud Bahasa Indonesia teacher behind the project. He learned about Ciherang rice back in 2007 on a trip home to Pangandaran in West Java, when his brother described a similar project going on in the village.

It was perfect timing because around that time Suhri had taken charge of SMPN 209's re-vegetation project. Aside from planting rice, Suhri had very little farming experience but he was eager to make the project unique and memorable for his students.

Back in Jakarta, Suhri experimented with planting rice in buckets in his own yard before introducing the project at school. He quickly drew the students' curiosity and interest and, gradually, their active participation. The project now sits on the concrete rooftop of the school's musholla (prayer house), the fruits of the work of about 300 students.

"The Bucket Rice Club is so different from our other ones," said Salsabila. a seventh grader. "Before, I thought that cultivating rice was dirty work that could only be done in a wet field. But here, we plant rice dressed in ties and shoes."

Buckets are key to making rice cultivation much more efficient. "All the nutrients and water that the crop needs stay in there during its life cycle," Suhri said. "This solves problems like the high cost of fertilizers, irrigation and agricultural pollution resulting from chemical runoff during rains."

Although ripe crops occasionally attract birds, Suhri said pests were not a serious problem. To protect the plants from unwanted attention, they can be covered with a protective net or even relocated to a safer spot. This means that no pesticides are needed in the cultivation process.

Additionally, the low maintenance method means that even busy urbanites can squeeze raising crops into their hectic schedules. The project demonstrates the relative ease of producing organic rice from the comfort of a high-rise apartment's balcony in Jakarta.

In the interest of creating solutions for a greener world, the Bucket Rice Club has also started planting some crops in recycled containers, such as coconut shells and plastic bottles. In addition to rice, the kids are currently experimenting with growing kangkung (water spinach).

Despite the relative ease and simplicity of the project, it does require diligence and perseverance. Suhri said the highlight of his experience had been teaching his students skills and values that will last a lifetime, such as respect for farmers and making responsible choices that help keep the earth green.

Salsabila said her experience cultivating rice had made her appreciate how hard farmers work. "Before, I used to take rice for granted and let leftovers go to waste," she said. "Now I only take what I can finish."

Suhri said he hoped SMPN 209's Bucket Rice Club would become a model for the food security solution in Indonesia.

"In the future, I hope this club can grow to the point that we can provide enough rice for SMPN 209 students," he said. "Other schools interested in bringing the Bucket Rice Project to their yards are more than welcome to come and learn from us."

Source: Jakarta Globe
Grace Susetyo | March 11, 2012

Keywords: Indonesia, organic, rice, Growing Organic Rice a Bucket at a Time in East Jakarta,Jakarta Globe
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