Indonesian Street Kids Find Rescue in Organic Farming
Last modified: 2010-03-18 20:42:40
Susanto, a 17-year-old former street kid weeds the fields of The Learning Farm in the hills of Puncak, Indonesia
Sulkhan treads carefully past shacks where goats are busy digesting the next batch of eco-friendly fertilizer. A group of around 40 young men is gathered down the path, at the entrance of a greenhouse. They wear muddy rubber boots, which clash somewhat with their tattoos, long silver chains and body piercings.
"For a lot of these youths, in their lives, there's been very little in the way of expectations and accountability," he said. "So the discipline that we insist on is a way of saying that we value your potential, just as Nature holds us all accountable. If you don't apply good farming methods, if we don't apply good techniques, and we don't follow up on a daily basis, the crops tell the story to the youths".
Susanto, a gruff and bulky 17-year-old, has had a lot to learn. At 14, he says he could no longer tolerate his parents' beatings, so he fled and joined a group of street kids in the city of Jogjakarta. He says he did everything people do when they live on the streets - stole, used drugs. Susanto says he liked street life, where no one could tell him what to do.
A former street kid works in the fields at The Learning Farm
It is not easy to coax young men into going to the countryside. Even though Indonesia remains very much a rural country, city dwellers sneer at the ways of rural residents. Jiway Tung, however, insists that Indonesians are not really cut off from their rural roots.
Organic produce sells at a higher price than conventionally farmed vegetables. And Jiway says, since organic farming does not require costly fertilizers or pesticides, it can generate a better income for farmers. Although the Indonesian market for organic produce is still small, there are opportunities; the Learning Farm is talking with a large supermarket chain about selling its produce.
This type of project motivates the students, like Sofian.
He says that he did not stand a chance to improve his life in the city: he lacked the money and the education to make it in Jakarta. He says here at the farm he feels at home and he can grab the chance to live a better life. Now, he could become a businessman farmer.
It is lunchtime. The boys tidy up their tools, dust off their hands and knees, and head toward the kitchen, petting the goats as they walk by. Many have no family, and only vague dreams about a modest future. But walking along the green slopes of Java's volcanoes, they have a chance to build new lives.
08 February 2010 Solenn Honorine - Cianjur, Indonesia
Keywords: Java, Indonesia, organik, organic, local programs, farming, rescue, Learning Farm