In October 2010, Mount Merapi, a volcano situated on the Indonesian island of Java, started erupting. The eruption lasted until February of the following year. This natural disaster had dramatic consequences: 100,000 people fled the area, and over 350 were killed and 150 injured. Overall, the cost of the damage was evaluated at over €500m; agriculture alone, a dominant activity in the area, suffered damage worth $100m.
The slopes of Mount Merapi are traditionally intensively farmed, with rice the dominant crop: the South slopes were damaged by the eruption, affecting local people’s livelihoods.
More than 2,500 farmers lost all or part of their income. The local dairy industry was also hit: a dairy farm business, which had started in the 1980s, was completely destroyed; two dairy cooperatives had to shut down; and a third saw its production fall by some 40%. Over 2,670 dairy cows died or were sold in the aftermath of the catastrophe.
Restoring the farmers’ environment
In July 2012, the Danone Ecosystem Fund launched a project to address both agricultural and dairy-related issues in the Merapi area. In partnership with infant and child nutrition company Sari Husada, Danone’s subsidiary in Indonesia, the Fund developed its programme on two fronts: reconstructing farming and supporting the dairy industry.
To achieve this, the Merapi Project set up a new interdependent farming business model bringing together local farmers.
It built on the expertise of the Temali Foundation, the project’s non-profit partner. Temali specialises in assisting and empowering communities through education programmes, training and project design. They helped organise local farmers and communities into Self Help Groups and Farmers’ Associations to share their issues and solutions. In addition, in five different villages, five collaboratively-managed Agricultural Services Centres provide services and training to isolated farmers in need of support. Suratijo, a beneficiary of the programme, values the team spirit that drives the project: “When we join the Self Help Group, we embrace values that will help us to work together.” Prapti, another beneficiary, names as shared values mutual assistance, patience and togetherness and says that these are powerful foundations which help all the farmers run their activities.
Last but not least, the programme supports the development of other income-generating activities in order to reduce the producers’ dependency on Sari Husada, through integrated agriculture and good livestock management practices. This has already helped not only rebuild local farming activities but also create new ones, based on ideas from the communities such as breeding chickens, eels, goats and worms, and growing medicinal plants.
The Merapi project uses a unique community development approach named “Appreciative Inquiry”, where all inputs are decided by the communities, based on their own and their villages’ visions and dreams, using participatory methods. The approach empowers the communities and guarantees project sustainability.
On the dairy front, there are now more cows producing more better-quality milk: the fresh milk supply chain is in the process of being rebuilt, with positive consequences for Sari Husada’s brands. The development of dairy farming in Yogyakarta and Central Java is considered to be slightly delayed, behind West Java and East Java, due to disasters, the economic crisis, and a certain lack of knowledge. The Merapi Project’s inputs for Integrated Farming and Dairy Farming are thus reinforcing the industry in Yogyakarta and Central Java. Studies estimate that reinforcing the technical efficiency and increasing the number of dairy cows and/or the scale of farms will make it possible to build a larger fresh milk supply chain. The stakes are high, as domestic demand for fresh milk is increasing. In fact, the dairy industry in Indonesia has benefited from government support since the early 1980s, with dairy cows imported on a massive scale.
Along with the business impacts come social benefits for the people of the region. The project allows them to build their skills and feel empowered to increase their income and improve their lifestyles. Prapti explains: “I gained knowledge and became a braver person, with more self-confidence.” The project’s presentation video says that the programme has been created “for the good of the land and its people.” Restoring the farmers’ environment and implementing new farming models and practices will help them build sustainability for their own futures.
The Merapi Project inaugurates a new facility
In October 2013, Merapi Project facilities were inaugurated in the Agricultural Service Centre, in the village of Plosokerep (Sleman-Yogyakarta Province). The Governor of Yogyakarta, Sri Sultan Hamengku Buwono X , the Regent of Sleman, Sri Purnomo, and the General Manager of Sari Husada, Olivier Pierredon attended the event.
« The social facilities funded by the Danone Ecosystem Fund have provided the communities with learning facilities for farmers, as well as an integrated organic farming, fisheries and small livestock farms area.
The main aim of the Merapi Project is to increase the quality of life, empowerment, health and nutrition of farmers in the Merapi slopes area, » explained Olivier Pierredon.
« The technical and non-technical intensive assistance provided by the Merapi Project represents comprehensive community development support. These methods will result in self-reliant farmers, » stated Hari Susanto, Former Head of Human Resources Development Bureau, Ministry of Agriculture of the Republic of Indonesia/Board of Temali.
« This is a form of trust between Danone-Sari Husada and the local government, facilitated by Temali for the benefit of the communities whose recovery is being supported. I can assure you that the communities are well aware that Temali’s assistance is temporary. The inputs which they have received and will receive are the best possible capital to help them achieve and sustain self-reliance, » added Ruhyana, Former Head of International Relations Bureau, Ministry of Agriculture of the Republic of Indonesia /Board of Temali.
« I dream that someday the Agriculture Service Centre could be developed into a Learning Centre for Dairy Farmers and Integrated Farming, » concluded The Governor of Yogyakarta Province in his opening speech, encouraging Danone Ecosysteme and Sari Husada to develop and carry an even broader vision for the communities of Central Java.
N.B. You can watch more pictures of the inauguration here.