- Andi Fadly Arifuddin is known to millions of Indonesians as Fadly, the vocalist of alt-rock band Padi, which formed in 1996 and relaunched as Padi Reborn in 2018.
- While many musicians sing of the need to protect the environment, Fadly walks the talk through sustainable agriculture education, urban farming and mangrove conservation.
- In his home district of Sinjai in South Sulawesi province, he’s campaigning to create a mangrove hub in collaboration with local youth and government.
MAKASSAR, Indonesia — Andi Fadly Arifuddin is known to millions of Indonesians simply as Fadly, the vocalist for the alt-rock band Padi that shot to fame in the early 2000s. The band’s popularity has persisted; the relaunched Padi Reborn recently played its 25th anniversary concert to a packed stadium in Jakarta.
Fadly isn’t just a musician. He’s also a champion for the environment, with active involvement in education, urban farming and mangrove conservation initiatives in his home province of South Sulawesi.
Fadly, 48, grew up in the district of Sinjai, about 125 kilometers (78 miles) east of the bustling provincial capital and port city of Makassar. As a child, he and his friends planted mangroves in Tongke-Tongke, a coastal area home to a mangrove forest that now has supporting ecotourism infrastructure. He has fond memories of exploring the forest and family trips to the neighboring district of Bone, where they would catch crabs in the river with a traditional tool called a dakkang.
“The crabs were natural, as were the tools used to catch them,” he told Mongabay in a recent interview. “They were not industrialized and capitalist, we got them all from nature.”
A love for nature runs in the family. From the mid-1980s, during his decade-long tenure as the elected head of Sinjai district, Fadly’s father, Andi Arifuddin Mattotorang, planted many mangroves and raised countless seedlings.
“If you see the big, old palm trees along the roads in South Sulawesi, it can be said that they’re a legacy from Sinjai. They were first planted by my father in 1998,” Fadly said.
“There are many types, from bottle palms and king palms to red palms. From a young age I saw my father raise many seedlings. His curiosity and spirit of conservation were very high.”
His father subscribed to the Indonesian agriculture magazine Trubus, and Fadly has meticulously preserved a bundle of issues going back to 1984 at his home in Jakarta “as a treasure.”
Today, Fadly is campaigning for mangrove conservation in Sinjai in collaboration with local youth and government, with the aim of developing the district into the “lungs” of South Sulawesi. Alongside his childhood memories, Fadly’s interest in mangroves stems from the fact that they are one of the world’s top carbon-capturing ecosystems and that they protect marine and coastal habitats.
“It’s my job to spark the interest and enthusiasm of the younger generation and to help make them feel this is something cool, that planting one mangrove seed means you’ve done something for the Earth,” he said.
Mining is one of South Sulawesi’s primary industries, and through his campaigning Fadly wants to show that the region doesn’t have to rely on extractive industries. He said he believes carbon-financing projects are a potential source for alternative state revenue generation.
“We can simply plant mangroves and offer them to big companies for their carbon credits,” he said. “It is impossible for these companies to plant their own trees, so they will look for places in Asia and Africa where trees can be planted in the context of carbon trading.” He acknowledged that “this is a bit difficult because everything is determined centrally,” but is adamant that “these trees still have to be planted.”
Over the past two decades, Indonesia, which is home to 23% of the world’s mangroves, has lost around 13,000 hectares (32,000 acres) of the coastal forests annually due to land conversion, development, and climate change. The central government is aiming to restore 600,000 hectares (1.48 million acres) of mangroves by 2024, while in May this year, the World Bank approved a five-year, $400 million project to support large-scale mangrove conservation and restoration in selected regions across the country, including South Sulawesi.
Sharing his passion for urban farming
At his home in Jakarta, which has a small yard measuring 5 meters (16 feet) a side, Fadly practices urban farming, particularly aquaponics, which involves growing fish and plants together in the same environment. In this small space he grows vegetables such as kale, bok choy and lettuce, along with several other plants. He also breeds chickens for personal consumption and sells the eggs to neighbors.
“I think those who live in rural areas are safe, as with or without money they can eat, they just need to pull food out of the ground and they’re safe,” he said. “The city’s poorest people don’t have the skills for that. Maybe they have the money but they can’t get the freshest food straight from their yard.”
Eager to share his passion for sustainable agriculture and urban farming, Fadly teaches his methods to government employees approaching retirement and to schoolchildren. In 2014, he toured 30 schools in Makassar to teach students about aquaponics.
Fadly was initially inspired by a community garden in Melbourne, Australia, which he visited in the early 2000s.
“Hydroponics, aquaponics, laboratory classes for schoolchildren … they all have a spot at the community garden,” he said. “It’s for those who have a passion for planting and the atmosphere is so lively. Their products can be sold locally and appreciated. The government supports the garden because it creates high awareness.”
Fadly said he hopes his family’s love of nature will continue to the next generation. He has enrolled his children in a “nature school” in Jakarta. He said he doesn’t want their social lives to be separated from the experience of “feeling” nature, which is starting to be replaced by the digital world.
Banner image: In a narrow plot of land in Daya, Makassar, Fadly has created an avocado nursery. Image courtesy of Andi Fadly Arifuddin.