Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Promoting sustainable learning for cacao farmers

Concept of farmers' labs

Many provinces could be turned into major cacao producing areas through an intensification program. However, a sustainable agriculture concept should be adopted so that the intensification program would not harm the environment.
Sustainable practices are applied by some farmer groups in Indonesia. Yet many farmers still use the traditional approach to agriculture, which harms the environment and brings little benefit. Immediately after harvesting, they strive to sell their cacao beans to middlemen in order to get quick money, without considering the sustainable market for their product and enhancing their own income.
The main barrier to pro-environmental and sustainable practices is the personal attitude of the farmers. They do not put much effort into gaining knowledge about the negative impacts of their agricultural practices, which can result in a more vulnerable situation for their livelihood. The mind-set of the farmers makes them act and react based on the experiences of their forefathers, not based on knowledge and science. This value creates perceptions among the farmers that their forefathers who used old farming practices for a long time are more reliable than the knowledge that comes from external actors.

Environmental and sustainable development education is needed to tackle such an issue. It is also essential for the deeper understanding of environmental issues in the agriculture sector. Mixed strategies can be implemented in order to accomplish the goal of an intensification program: instrumental and emancipatory approaches. Instrumental strategy presumes to learn under the guidance of experts, with goals and objectives set in advance.
          Knowledge is provided through the direct flow of information to the well-known and previously investigated addressee, to assure the positive effect of the education process. An emancipatory strategy is an approach in which receivers are involved and engaged in active discussion to determine goals and objectives together. In this strategy,farmers are self-determined and aware of the empowerment role, they establish what objectives they want to achieve in cooperation with other stakeholders. During the collaboration, goals may change according to the situation reached by the process. The emancipatory approach is based on discursion and self-reflection, which leads to critical thinking and consciousness. The promotion of sustainable farming management and changes in pro-environmental behavior are outcomes in terms of social learning in theory. This theory supports the idea of interaction with others in social situations. Learning may cause behavioral changes.
          The aforementioned theories can be implemented through the creation of a new area setting, adapted as an agriculture laboratory or farmer field school, to place mixed strategies of environmental education and learning for sustainability. The strategies are also combined with the whole system approach for cooperation among stakeholders. The area existence can be derived from the government or financial institution support, as part of an NGO program and cooperation with existing farms.
The system within the area could be managed by the NGO, with active participation on the part of the farmers, to shape and blend flexible goals. This idea is a win-win method, to work with the farmers' cooperation, due to the fact that many projects are met with rejection from the farmers when the whole project management is owned by an external actor. On the other hand, the farmers are not able, without sufficient ability, to manage the whole project. To merge the proposed concept, farmers should be to commit to implementing the economic incentives strategy.
The project area could include farming areas, processing facilities and learning space. The learning space would use the concept of an open building without walls that provides an opportunity for possible changes during its lifetime. This would let the farmers be able to quickly connect knowledge from training with practice on the farms. The farms can include one sustainable farm to be used as a collective farm using a profit-sharing system.
The NGO can manage shared ownership of this farm with the farmer group. The system aims to make both sustainable farmers and unsustainable farmers work together as peers in learning capacity building. This situation is expected to make the unsustainable farmers, through the social learning process, sustainable farmers in the area.
The content of the training and social learning can be based on the component of climate-smart agricultural practices. It can be delivered in three stages: (1) increasing productivity by following certified cacao farming practices, (2) utilizing agricultural waste in the circular economy model and (3) having climate-agriculture insurance to deal with extreme weather to increase economic resilience. The design of the contents should be adjusted with the mission to internalize value of transition and system thinking for the farmers. Meanwhile, the processing facility can be a place to learn and conduct post-harvesting processes such as fermentation.

The pilot area can be located in the middle of a concentrated farming area, next to a farmer’s house. The model of this area would then be imitated in the surrounding neighborhood to spread the impact. The design should adjust the pattern of existing farms that are already practicing sustainable farming methods and others that practice unsustainable farming methods. The expansion plan can be connected with an existing farmer group. This idea could be used to overcome the problem about the location of processing facilities, which are usually far from cacao farms.

This article was written with Marta T, Durdana B and Liu Cheng, and it was published in The Jakarta Post :  http://www.thejakartapost.com/academia/2017/08/10/promoting-sustainable-learning-for-cacao-farmers.html

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