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Project report

Improve farming opportunities in remote Indonesia Indonesia , RUN BY: SurfAid | STATUS: COMPLETED

Nusatani Sumba Demonstration Farm Wetana Village

This project is 100% Funded



AUD 20,003

Raised from 6,371 people

Project background

Sumba island, in eastern Indonesia, is an amazing tourist destination. It lies far off the beaten track, with rich unique culture, world-class surf breaks, and one of the best-rated hotels in the world.

But it also has extremely high rates of poverty and stunting. Stunting is one of the most extreme indicators of malnutrition, resulting from long-term nutritional deprivation. Poverty and stunting in Sumba are driven and exacerbated by low agricultural productivity that is further impacted by an eight-month dry season.

The poverty rate for Laboya Barat sub-district is 63%. A further 20% of the population are ‘near-poor’ and extremely vulnerable to shocks.

This poverty and vulnerability to economic and environmental shocks causes a negative cycle where poor farmers are less able, and less willing, to invest much of their limited funds into their agriculture activities, as they consider it too risky.

Low productivity means there are less food crops available for consumption, which contributes to poor diet, poor health and malnutrition. At the same time, less cash crops are available for sale, contributing to low income, which also reduces economic access to food.

Although the communities rely heavily on agriculture, their farming is highly dependent on rainfall. Unfortunately the dry season lasts at least 8 months, and with climate change, rainfall patterns have become very unpredictable.

This project has helped communities to start breaking these vicious cycles.

Project activities and results

The $20,013 raised by the Footprints Network for this project was used to:

  • Provide training on good agriculture practice;
  • Develop and produce materials in local language;
  • Set up a new drip irrigation system; and
  • Provide coaching by SurfAid’s horticultural specialist.

SurfAid always adapts our projects to local contexts, so it was important to first identify the communities’ existing avenues to access food and earn money. Agriculture is the main source of food and income for the remote target communities in Sumba, where approximately 90% of the population are farmers. Within this context, improved agriculture production can help to improve nutrition by providing access to diverse, nutritious crops, and also by improving purchasing power so that families can buy nutritious food.

This project introduced new agriculture technologies and techniques to local farmers through training sessions at the SurfAid-established demonstration farm. Demonstration farms provide crucial opportunities for farmers to test new methods against traditional methods, removing a major barrier to trying things on their own farms first. This is an important component of the project, since poor farmers living in remote locations are extremely risk averse. They are often skeptical about the effectiveness of new practices, and are reluctant to adopt them. From their perspective, with their limited resources, if they try a new approach and the crops fail, they are left with nothing. This demonstration farm increased farmers’ participation by reducing the perceived risk.

Through this project, SurfAid used this new demonstration farm to provide 4 structured workshops for farmers, on new agriculture technologies and techniques, allowing them to try them for themselves, and providing them with ongoing support to answer questions that arise. 19 training sessions in each of the local villages provided local farmers with important information on improving land preparation and using organic fertiliser. Positive uptake of this training has flowed on to farmers inviting SurfAid to provide further coaching at their own farms, reaching a total of 277 farmers across the communities of Sumba. These farmers are now increasingly able to implement the good agriculture practice techniques that they have learned from this project.

This project contributed to the establishment of a new drip irrigation system in the remote areas, to increase access to water, as well as increasing the efficiency of water use, and improving crop yields. This irrigation system has been implemented at the demonstration farm, to give farmers and village leaders the opportunity to see it used in practice, before they consider applying it themselves. The first harvests of the demonstration farms have been so successful that the local communities have said they intend to implement similar systems using their own funds.

This will help to ensure year-round access to water for irrigation of currently-unusable arid land, making an important change for these communities that still experience an 8-month ‘hungry season’ each year.

The success of this project is also showing farmers that vegetables may be easier to grow, and more profitable, than they traditionally believed.

Project partners and community involvement

This project was delivered using SurfAid’s ‘accompaniment’ approach to development: SurfAid staff lived and worked alongside community members for the duration of the project. This ensured the community’s training and learning needs were continuously addressed through direct coaching and mentorship. It also meant that the community members were active stakeholders and participants in this project. 

SurfAid specifically worked with farmers groups, women’s community groups and local kaders (‘community health volunteers’), to deliver this project.

We used our proven approach of working together with the local government to ensure enough extension staff are available, adequately trained, and with sufficient budget to travel as required to ensure sustainability. Local government extension workers were involved in the good agriculture practice training sessions, which increased government capacity and ownership of the project’s outcomes, and also increases the chances of sustainability.

Part of a larger strategy

SurfAid works in remote islands in Indonesia, where access to basic services is very low, contributing to high maternal and child mortality, and low mother and child health status. Indonesia is one of ten countries with the highest number of under-five deaths

This project is part of SurfAid’s overarching six-year program called NusaTani (meaning ‘Farming Islands’ in Bahasa Indonesia). The NusaTani program focuses on increasing income and decreasing malnutrition for 19,202 people in Laboya Barat, Sumba and Parado, Sumbawa in Indonesia. Both areas have extremely high rates of poverty and stunting. To combat this, SurfAid is implementing activities to strengthen agricultural production, stimulate income generation, promote healthcare practices and gender equity.

SurfAid uses a Nutrition Sensitive Agriculture approach (NSA) which aims to address underlying determinants of malnutrition by focusing on agriculture and behavior change.

This project is one of many smaller projects that all contribute to supporting food security and resilience for remote Indonesian communities.

Thank you for your support!

How was it this funded?

Thanks to hundreds of tiny donations from these online businesses and their customers.

World Nomads USA
World Nomads Canada
Travel Insurance Direct AU
Travel Insurance Direct NZ
World Nomads Australia
World Nomads NZ
World Nomads UK
World Nomads Global
World Nomads Europe
World Nomads Ireland

SurfAid International is a non-profit humanitarian organisation that works to improve the health, wellbeing and self-reliance of people living in isolated regions connected to us through surfing.