- Kamil Ishak is one of the few organic farmers on the island of Ternate in Indonesia’s North Maluku province, part of the legendary Spice Islands.
- These organic farmers are moving away from agrochemicals and turning to organic fertilizers and pesticides, often making it themselves.
- Local authorities are supporting the organic farming initiative and encouraging more farmers to adopt the method.
TERNATE, Indonesia — It’s a sunny day in January in Indonesia’s North Maluku province, and Kamil Ishak is looking at the crops on his organic farm.
“I was introduced to organic fertilizer when I received training from a community empowerment group,” Kamil, who started farming in 2013, tells Mongabay Indonesia.
Kamil is one of the few farmers in Ternate, the largest town and main island in the archipelago that makes up North Maluku, to have abandoned chemical fertilizers and pesticides in favor of organic ones.
The use of pesticides in developing countries grew by 7-8% annually between 1970 and 1990, while the application of chemical fertilizers surged almost fourfold during that period, according to the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization. But these chemicals aren’t always efficient, and their excessive use pollutes the surrounding environment.
By the early 2000s, around a million Indonesian farmers had received training in organic farming from field schools that became models for other countries, according to the Pesticide Action Network, which campaigns to phase out the use of chemical pesticides in agriculture.
Kamil says he makes his own organic fertilizer when he can, but otherwise buys it from a local producer. Since going organic, his harvests have been consistent and profitable, without any major pest problem, he says.
Kamil also receives support from the Ternate Department of Agriculture in getting seeds, water, and marketing services for his produce. He’s currently working with other farmers from neighboring districts on a plot owned by the municipal government and dedicated to organic farming.
“Whoever wants to do [organic] farming, they will enjoy the results,” says Thamrin Marsaoly, who heads the Ternate Department of Agriculture. “If they do it, the government will fully support them for the farmers’ wealth.”
Thamrin says his office plans to adopt urban farming in the town and promote it as a tourism attraction in the future. Ternate and the other Maluku islands are famous as the legendary Spice Islands, with a farming tradition that goes back centuries and is closely tied to the volcanoes that make up many of the islands. The town of Ternate itself sits at the foot of Mount Gamalama, an active volcano whose frequent ejections of ash provide the minerals that keeps the soil here so productive, according to Thamrin.
For now, Kamil is helping promote organic agriculture to more farmers from across Ternate.
“By practicing organic farming, we hope to use what’s available in nature to improve the soil and protect people’s health,” he says.
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