Indonesians return to roots by farming during pandemic

Special Indonesians return to roots by farming during pandemic
Farmers harvesting potatoes at a plantation in Dieng plateau, Wonosobo, central Java, Indonesia. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 09 November 2020

Indonesians return to roots by farming during pandemic

Indonesians return to roots by farming during pandemic
  • People who lost their jobs in the cities returned to their villages and became farmers

JAKARTA: When Galih Ainun Najib was fired from his job as a staff member at a hostel in Central Java’s Dieng Plateau in late March due to a drop in tourism numbers triggered by the coronavirus outbreak, he turned to farming to make ends meet.

Today, the 27-year-old Indonesian is a full-time farmer earning up to 15 million rupiahs ($1,055) by harvesting potatoes on his parents’ farming plots, across an area of 0.5 hectares, in the Kepakisan village of the Banjarnegara district.

“I became a full-time farmer in April, growing potatoes and carrots on my parents’ lands. I earn up to 15 million rupiahs from harvesting potatoes every three months,” Najib told Arab News on Tuesday.

It is a tedious process with a 30 to 40-day harvesting break between each plot.

“While waiting for the next planting season on our land, I also work as a farmworker on a daily basis on other people’s farmlands before their harvest,” Najib said. The main reason, he says, is because farming and agriculture have not been “much affected during the pandemic.”

“We are still producing and harvesting as there are still demands for our produce. People would still need to eat, anyway, and Dieng potato is among the best quality in the market,” he said.

While other sectors were battered by the pandemic — which struck Indonesia in March — agricultural activities were able to contribute about 15 percent growth to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in the second quarter of this year, an increase from the average 12 percent growth reported in 2019, Nunung Nuryartono, dean of School of Economics and Management at Bogor Agricultural University said.

“People who lost their jobs in the cities returned to their villages and became farmers. Even in the cities, people turned to urban farming too, when they had to isolate during the social restrictions, while demand for agriculture and farming produce, such as fish, vegetables, or herbal plants to boost immunity was on the rise,” he told Arab News.

The sector’s resilience during the pandemic was the main point of focus in Agriculture Minister Syahrul Yasin Limpo’s address during the virtual G20 Agriculture Ministers’ Meeting hosted by Saudi Arabia on Sept. 12.

“I called on fellow G20 agriculture ministers to collaborate in mitigating the impact of the pandemic on the global food security,” Limpo said.

He added that the sector was able to provide jobs for almost half of Indonesia’s workforce during the pandemic as it was “able to create jobs in rural areas, provide social security, increase farmers’ earnings, and ensure national food security.”

With farming acting as a “solace for burnt-out young urban workers” during the pandemic, the Agriculture Ministry has shifted focus to the occupation by setting up a program to boost the number of millennial farmers to 2.5 million people, its spokesman Kuntoro Boga Andri told Arab News.

“It is part of the ministry’s long term program to ensure a sustainable development in the agriculture sector,” Andri said.