Tag Archives: Yayasan Usaha Mulia

YUM photos (Part 2)

Here’s a second set of photos from my time at the Yayasan Usaha Mulia (YUM – the ‘Foundation for Noble Work’). The previous set of photos were mostly about the home garden (Kebun Rumah) and associated projects of YUM Agro. This second set looks at some of the education and health activities of YUM Kalimantan, including the response to the 2015 smoke haze emergency.


One of the primary aims of the home gardens project of YUM Agro is to improve the nutritional quality of family diets through a regular supply of fresh organic vegetables. As an adjunct to this, a series of training modules have been prepared to encourage good cooking habits (e.g. reduced use of salt, MSG and oil), and the provision of balanced diets, especially for expectant mothers, babies and young children.

Classes have been held in all of the many posyandus (local health posts) in the district, with an entertaining and instructive presentation followed by hands-on cooking classes and distribution of booklets with information and recipes. There’s been dozens of these presentations so far, and all have been well attended (by women and children) and also successful.

In the photo above, Ibu Andarini is leading the discussion at the posyandu in Tumbang Tahai village.


Everyone pitches in for the group cooking session – and gets to share in the meal at the end.


The YUM sessions also provide an opportunity for district health staff to check on the health of babies, monitoring their weight and growth, and to administer vaccination shots.


YUM operates at three locations in Bukit Batu district of Central Kalimantan. Two of these are used for the Agro project. But at the third (and main) centre, in Suka Mulya village, there are vocational training facilities and a spacious and well-stocked library and after-school activity centre. There are storytime book readings, and sessions for crafts, drawing and painting, traditional dance training and games.


Towards the end of each afternoon session, the kids line up to each receive a glass of milk. This is an unusual treat for them, and they love it – and they get the benefit of a valuable protein and calcium supplement at the same time.


The after-school sessions are also an opportunity to instil some good lessons about health and hygiene – such as the best technique for cleaning your teeth!


Older kids and adults attend the many classes conducted in the various classrooms of the Vocational Training Centre. Students in the computer classes learn how to perform basic Windows tasks, as well as use of Word, Excel and even Photoshop. Students who successfully complete their courses are awarded a (much-prized!) certificate.


The sewing classes, using classic Singer machines, are also popular. Attendees learn to produce a range of items (including dresses, table, napkins, bags and purses) which are suitable for personal use or sale.


As always, children are also welcome to attend – but perhaps they do so with a little less enthusiasm than their mothers…


Other classes are held in English language tuition, hairdressing and beauty salon techniques, and job-seeking skills. Ibu Litha (above, standing) is leading a class in business and employment skills.


In September and October of last year, the Kalimantan smoke haze emergency caused a halt in all of the ongoing YUM activities. The provincial capital of Palangkaraya had (by far) the worst air quality in the world throughout this period, and there was a massive increase in respiratory diseases, including acute and chronic coughing, throat and chest infections and asthma.

The response of YUM to this crisis was swift, multifaceted and substantial. One strategy entailed the preparation and distribution of ‘care packages’ to many hundreds of the most needy families in the district. Included in each package were N95 face masks, mini oxygen tanks for emergency use, cough medicines, vitamins, milk powder, eye drops and medicines to combat respiratory infection (known in Indonesia as ISPA). Also included were some specially prepared pamphlets about home remedies for ISPA, use of oxygen inhalers, and general advice about the health consequences of long-term exposure to smoke haze (and the importance of wearing face masks). In the photo above, YUM staff stand proudly behind another batch of freshly assembled packages, ready for distribution.


A series of free clinics were conducted in the villages of the district, where doctors from Kalimantan and Java, supported by YUM staff, worked to rapidly diagnose and prescribe treatment for an almost endless line of people suffering from the effects of the smoke haze. The distressed toddler in the photo above is asthmatic, and is being given a Ventolin inhalation to provide some temporary relief. YUM staff member Nana (on the right of the photo) holds her hand and helps to console her.


Clinics were held in all villages, in conjunction with the NGO Dompet Dhuafa, the University of Palangkaraya and the Politeknik Kementerian Kesehatan (POLTEKKES) Palangka Raya. They even made it to Kanarakan village which is only accessible by klotok canoes. In the above photo, the doctor examines a patient in a clinic held in the home of Pak Anden, Kepala Desa (Village Head) of Kanarakan.


Much effort, which continues to this day, was put into education – about the dangers of exposure to the toxic smoke haze from burning peat, about how to minimise the health impact of exposure, and (most importantly) about how the community may work to reduce burning of Kalimantan lands and prevent a recurrence of the horrific smoke haze of the 2015 dry season.

The children in the above photo are posing in their newly received face masks at the end of a puppet show in the YUM Library, during which they were entertained and taught about the importance of wearing face masks in the smoke haze.


There was lots more photography: macro photography, events, studio portraits, product photography, landscapes, botanical documentation etc. During my time at YUM I was given a huge number of photographic assignments and challenges, and I will be always grateful for the opportunities I received.


But, after almost two years, that’s that. Time to get on my bike and ride off into the sunset…

YUM photos (Part I)

As I approach the end of my time working at the Yayasan Usaha Mulia (YUM – ‘Foundation for Noble Work’) I’d like to share a selection of the photos produced in the course of my work there since September 2014. Over that time I’ve made many thousands of photos over 72 separate ‘shoots’ for YUM Kalimantan – but ‘only’ 2729 (at last count) of these have made it into the archive.

Here are some personal favourites, selected because… well I just like them, for a variety of different reasons. Hope you like some of them too. (Note that I haven’t included photos of my wonderful workmates – I’ll save them for another time)

My warm, sincere and profound thanks go to YUM for giving me the opportunity to have these experiences, and to capture these images.


Commuting, Kalimantan-style. This was one of my first days of work at ‘the office’. We went to check on the conditions of home gardens established in the village of Kanarakan, an hour upriver, and only accessible by boat. As we navigated up the Rungan River in our two little klotok canoes through the thick smoke haze, past watchful orangutans in the trees on the river bank, I knew that this job was going to be… different.


So here’s the ‘office’, RC30 (Rural Centre 30), so-called because it is 30km from the centre of the provincial capital of Palangka Raya It is the centre of operations for the YUM AGRO Project. All the field staff and trainers are based there, but they are out-and-about much of the time, so on any given day I will have between zero and ten workmates there.

The site includes ‘model’ organic gardens, chicken hatcheries and coops, a training hall, a modest laboratory, areas for trial of new organic gardening techniques and plant varieties, a seed garden, and ponds for fish farming and production of azolla.

Infrastructure and utilities can be a challenge in Kalimantan. The office is equipped with a generator because of the daily mains power outages, so it usually has electricity. It often has some mobile phone signal, but (sadly) it rarely has internet connectivity. RC30 is a seven kilometre excitement-prone motorbike ride from where we have been living at Rungan Sari (part of Sei Gohong village).


This is the seed garden at RC30, where seed-saving techniques are practised and developed. YUM supplies seeds (all non-hybrid, non-GM) to the almost 500 families in the district who now maintain home gardens under the YUM organic model.


Seeds are beautiful. Wonderful shapes, textures and colours, and all almost bursting with life potential. Here are some from the YUM ‘Seed Bank’, including corn, melons, chili, and varieties of bayam and beans.


The YUM laboratory at RC30 is used to identify, develop and trial treatments for a variety of plant diseases.


And to develop repellents and non-chemical insecticides.


The success and productivity of the YUM-assisted organic home gardens is pretty impressive.

A great deal of effort goes into soil improvement, because the soil in this part of Kalimantan is very poor – mostly consisting of peat or sand. No rich Java-like volcanic soils here! So, under the YUM model, a number of techniques may be used in combination to prepare the soil for vegetable cultivation: compost, bokashi, beneficial fungi (trichoderma and mycorrhiza ), EM4 (effective micoorganisms), worms, biochar, and others.


In all seven of the villages in which YUM works, and across all of the communities, (mostly Dayak, Banjar and Javanese), it is always the women who are the most enthusiastic and diligent gardeners. This is probably because they best appreciate the value of having fresh healthy vegetables for the family to consume.


Some of the more successful home gardeners are able to produce more than they need for home consumption, and want to expand into small-scale commercial agriculture. They are establishing larger gardens, and YUM is assisting by providing advice, accountancy training, distribution and marketing services to assist them.

KM30_Sayuran_dipanen_20160610_002 copy

This new project is just taking off now, and a pilot is under way with around 20 households signed up to receive weekly supplies of fresh organic vegetables delivered direct to their homes. Speaking as one of those customer households, we can say that the early results are very promising!


As well as the home delivery service, several warung sales points are in the process of being established for direct sales to the local community. Mama Aziz at Tumbang Tahai village operates the first of these. (The banner above her is a JBM design).


A lot of time and effort goes into the development and delivery of comprehensive training for project participants. The training is usually delivered through a series of half-day sessions for newly signed up participants, as well as ‘refresher’ training and advice about new techniques for the ‘experienced gardeners’. They are relaxed and informal affairs, which everyone (trainers and participants) seems to enjoy immensely.


Sometimes there are nearly as many children as adults in attendance at the training sessions!


And while the training goes on, the kids (being kids) enjoy playing in the grounds of RC30.


While his mother was learning how to construct new garden beds, this young fellow seemed a little pensive.


As well as home gardens for the production of vegetables, a new project has started, at the request of project participants, to develop gardens of medicinal plants, known locally as an Apotik Hidup (literally, a ‘Living Pharmacy’). Each garden in the pilot project has been supported by YUM Agro, and supplied with 12 species of medicinal plants.


There is a well-developed project for ‘small animal husbandry’. It’s currently about fish farming and chicken production; an attempt was made with goat farming, but the goats (being goats) didn’t behave themselves, and the project didn’t continue after the pilot.

Fish farming is quite common in this region, with fish raised in purpose-built ponds. In part, it’s a sad response to the declining fish population in the massive river systems of Kalimantan, and the mercury contamination (the result of illegal gold mining activities) of those fish that remain alive. The main fish species produced are Ikan Nila (Nile tilapia – Oreochromis niloticus), Ikan Lele (Catfish – Clarias batrachus) and Ikan Patin (Shark Catfish – Pangasius pangasius).


Most of the chickens sold in the markets here are ayam potong – chickens raised en masse in big ‘factory farm’ sheds. Much more highly regarded are free range village chickens – ayam kampung. They are easy (and kind of fun) to hold in your hands when they are little.


They are more of a handful when they grow to full size, but it is still possible!


Everyone in the family can help with raising chickens!


Azolla is a an aquatic fern with some remarkable properties. In particular, under favourable conditions it can double its biomass within a week, and it is an excellent source of protein. In areas where wet rice cultivation is possible (i.e. not here!) it is often grown as a companion plant to the rice in the flooded paddy because of its nitrogen-fixing properties, YUM has been trialling production of azolla for use as a rich fertiliser, and also as feed for stock. Chickens love it.


Kids outside the posyandu at Tangkiling village. More about posyandus (and other health-related YUM work) and photos of YUM’s educational activities to come in Part II of the YUMmy Photos

YUM village at Cipanas

We were disappointed to have to (temporarily) leave Kalimantan when the smoke from this year’s dry season fires became intolerable. But it did mean that, while living as ‘environmental refugees’ in Java, we had the opportunity to visit the Cipanas site of my host organisation, the Yayasan Usaha Mulia (or ‘YUM’ – The Foundation for Noble Work).


Cipanas is located up in the hills, 87km to the southeast of Jakarta, between the cities of Bogor and Bandung. At an elevation of just over 1000 metres, the air is fresh and clear, and it gave us wonderful respite from the thick smoke haze of Palangkaraya. There’s fertile volcanic soil, good water supply, and it’s a perfect place for agriculture.

Around the YUM site there are terraced rice fields, market gardens and flower nurseries, and on the higher slopes (up near the 1440 metre pass at Puncak) there are tea plantations. It’s a very attractive landscape. The Dutch had health resorts there, and the Governors (and later President Sukarno) were frequent visitors.


The YUM Cipanas Village was originally (1976) built and operated as a tuberculosis sanatorium, then as an orphanage, but it now functions as a very active community centre. It offers a range of services to low-income families from around the region, in the areas of health, education and community development.

Facilities include a large organic garden, a vocational training centre, preschool, library (the only one in the district), a hall, playgrounds and dormitory-style accommodation. It’s all very neat and tidy, nicely laid out, and well-maintained (which is not always the case in Indonesia!)


The veggie gardens, covering an area of a couple hectares, are sensational. The gardening practices are 100% organic, with companion planting, seed-saving of non-hybrid plant varieties, and no use of chemical fertilisers or pesticides. But the plants are luxuriantly healthy, with no pests! The soil, which was already rich, volcanic and alluvial, has been further improved through the application of lots of compost and animal manure, the use of ‘effective microorganisms’, and careful crop rotation practices. The results are pretty impressive.


Produce from the gardens is sold locally, and to a number of regular customers (individuals and restaurants) in Jakarta, who get their orders delivered twice a week. Income from these sales helps to make YUM’s charitable activities more sustainable, and reduces, to some extent, their reliance on external donors.


Before sorting, packing and dispatching by van to Jakarta, the freshly harvested vegetables are trimmed, washed twice, and examined for any imperfections. The discarded outer leaves etc get thrown into the fishponds, where the ikan nila (Nile Perch) hungrily devour them.


But the organic farm is not just a commercial operation; it is also a major teaching institution, with a busy program of workshops to teach organic gardening principles and techniques. A very successful ‘edu-tourism’ program sees groups of students from Jakarta and overseas schools come for multi-day residential learning experiences.

And, locally, students from the nearby agricultural high school (SMK Negeri Pertanian Pembangunan Cianjur) undertake a three month internship program, and seem to be really enthusiastic and diligent about their studies. In the photo above, the students are constructing new garden beds. The end result was a model of precision, with the wet clayey loam moulded by hand to form crisp laser-sharp edges on each bed.


The students work happily and energetically – in spite of the heat. Like many people in this climate they start early (7:00am) to avoid the worst of the heat.


Overseeing and managing all of the organic gardening activities is Oleh, who I had previously met in Kalimantan when he came over to run a week-long workshop on seed-saving and other plant propagation techniques. The success of the Cipanas gardens is in no small part due to his knowledge, experience, project and people management skills. And he’s a really nice guy, too.


As well as producing a wide variety of the ‘standard’ local vegetables (including lettuce, tomatoes, zucchini, cauliflower, bayam spinach, beans, chilis, spring onions, brown onions, garlic, bok choy, carrots, sweet potatoes, corn… et cetera), a number of herbs are also produced in commercial quantities. In the photo above, Dian poses with some freshly harvested and rinsed mint leaves.

When she’s not being active in the gardens, Dian handles the twice-weekly deliveries of produce to Jakarta – a 14-hour day each time. Plus she runs the dance and music classes. And she found time to look after us and guide us around. We thought there must have been three of her.


Big quantities of compost are produced, and fast-tracked by adding home-produced microorganisms in a liquid brew. Luckily there’s no shortage of suitable vegetable matter, including from plants grown on top of the fish ponds.


As well as horticulture, the farm also undertakes ‘small animal husbandry, chiefly with goats, fish farming and geese. The geese would emit a raucous cacophony whenever we walked past – but they seemed to largely ignore everyone else!


Association with YUM has given many young people life-changing opportunities that would otherwise almost certainly have eluded them. This is especially so for those gifted but underprivileged kids who have benefited from the sponsorship and scholarship program.

Ita is a very smart (and very personable) young lady. Despite her good grades and enthusiasm, her family simply couldn’t afford to send her on to study at university. But she has just found out that, through YUM, a generous donor has agreed to fund her studies right through to graduation. She’s pretty chuffed!


The YUM Cipanas Preschool has recently won awards as the best preschool across the three districts of the region. Teachers Desy and Heti keep the kids engaged and interested, and stop them from drawing on each others’ faces with crayons when necessary!


We attended an after-school traditional music class led by Dian (amongst her many other responsibilities!) A lucky visitor might be invited to join in playing with the angklung orchestra!


Maybe its not entirely traditional, but an empty Aqua water bottle makes an excellent addition to the orchestra’s rhythm section.


In the Vocational Training Centre (VTC), the English language classes are well attended, and very popular with senior high school students wanting to supplement their school lessons. We sat in on three classes, with the STRONG encouragement of the teachers who were delighted to have ‘native’ English speakers in attendance (even ones with strange Aussie accents).

The kids were a lovely bunch (just look at them!) and, between lots of laughter, we learnt a little about their lives, dreams and attitudes. And in return we had to answer the inevitable questions about kangaroos and “What do you think about Indonesia (people, weather, culture, food, dangdut music etc…)?”


In the sewing classes, a mixed class of students were learning the basics of dressmaking and tailoring, using “Typical” brand sewing machines.


In the crowded computer training room, an all-male class of students were learning how to create and edit tables in MS Word 2010. Where were the girl nerds?

(L to R): Hamdan, Oleh, Heti, Agnes, Karen, Desy, Ibu Tarkiyah, Dian, Pak Samsul, Ita

(L to R): Hamdan, Oleh, Heti, Agnes, Karen, Desy, Ibu Tarkiyah, Dian, Pak Samsul, Ita

Our thanks to all at the YUM HQ in Jakarta and the YUM Cipanas Village for organising our visit, and taking such good care of us during the days we were there. We have nothing but praise for the professionalism and positive attitudes of the staff, and the obvious value of the work that they are doing there.

It’s an impressive operation, and they should be very proud!


More photos from the YUM Cipanas Village can be viewed on my website.

The YUM Agro Project

Some of you asked to know more about YUM (the ‘Yayasan Usaha Mulia’), which is the Indonesian charitable foundation that I am working for here. Here is an article I wrote for publication in the Jakarta Globe about the work of YUM Agro. It doesn’t describe my particular role, but gives a reasonable overview of the valuable work being done by YUM on the ‘Agro’ Project here in Central Kalimantan. Note that only one of the photos (the last one!) is mine – and all are ©2014 YUM.

Planting the Seed in Central Kalimantan: The YUM Agro Project

Bukit Batu, Central Kalimantan. Central Kalimantan may be better known for depressing reports about the loss of its forests, but there are also some good news stories. For one, the Yayasan Usaha Mulia (‘YUM’– the ‘Foundation for Noble Work’) is working with local communities in the Bukit Batu district to establish hundreds of home vegetable gardens, providing a year-round supply of tasty and nutritious produce for local families.

Home gardens provide a rich bounty of fresh produce

Home gardens provide a rich bounty of fresh produce

YUM has been working to improve the lives of people in some of the poorest communities in Indonesia since 1975, and in Central Kalimantan since 2000, with targeted and highly successful projects to combat malaria, provide clean water and improved sanitation, and to support early childhood education. It became increasingly clear that lack of access to fresh and high quality vegetables and fruit was undermining the nutrition and basic health of people in the district’s seven villages. So, in mid-2011, with support from Susila Dharma International and the German Government, the ‘YUM Agro Project’ was born.

The district suffers from poor soil fertility, with acidic soils of sand and peat, and the equatorial climate is rather challenging. The environment has been compromised by logging and burning of forests, drainage of wetlands, siltation and mercury contamination of the rivers. Most vegetables and fruit are imported, rarely fresh, and often contain high levels of chemical residues.

The YUM Agro Project aims to help by facilitating the establishment of home gardens, delivering a continuous supply of clean, fresh, healthy and delicious vegetables. “I worry about pesticides in the imported produce”, says Ibu Khoiratun from the village of Suka Mulia. “But thanks to YUM I can now plant and grow my own organic vegetables – and reduce my spending at the market”.

Preparing to make compost

Preparing to make compost

Prior to working with the local Dayak and ‘transmigrasi’ (mostly Javanese) communities, YUM established two Rural Centres. These incorporate model gardens to demonstrate what can be achieved, and a small laboratory and other facilities for research and trial of ‘best practice’ techniques (adapted to local conditions) – before their use in the field. The focus was on developing a successful Homegarden Model, using sustainable organic practices and permaculture principles. Newer techniques such as bokashi, biochar and beneficial bacteria are employed – indeed, any techniques to improve soil quality which are proven to be effective, practical to implement, and sustainable over time.

Entrance to the YUM Kalimantan complex

Entrance to the YUM Kalimantan complex

YUM hasn’t tried to ‘reinvent the wheel’, but has worked closely with a range of external organisations with relevant expertise. These have included the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Tropical Biology, Bogor Agricultural University, the Indonesian Research Institute for Animal Production, the Indonesian Development of Education and Permaculture and Sukabumi Freshwater Aquaculture Development Centre, amongst others.

YUM employs a young team of agriculture graduates, all with enthusiasm, local knowledge and connections to the communities. Their technical skills, and their ability to deliver training in culturally appropriate ways, have been critical to the project’s success. They provide training to new participants over a total of 15 days, broken into stages to coincide with key milestones such as bed preparation, planting, Integrated Pest Managment, Seed Saving and harvesting. This is backed up by ongoing monitoring, assessment and support.

 Fresh from garden to kitchen

Fresh from garden to kitchen

Small groups of (mostly) women go through the training together. After contractually committing to the project, they are provisioned with basic equipment to get them started (a hoe, watering can, a bucket, fencing materials and seeds). Within three months, each home gardener has prepared eight garden beds, and is already harvesting and enjoying their first crops of legumes, leafy vegetables, tomatoes, eggplants, chilli and tubers.

Three-and-a-half years after inception, 300 active family gardens are established and supported by monthly visits from YUM field staff. Feedback from mothers is that their home-grown vegetables are tastier and stay fresh longer, and that their children are eating (and enjoying) more healthy fresh food. As Ibu Yanti from Habaring Hurung village said: “I’m so happy that I can now do this gardening work that is useful for my family. And the vegetables – so fresh and sweet!”

From its focus on home gardens, the project has expanded into small animal husbandry, with village participants raising poultry and commencing small pond fish farming, to supplement existing protein sources. And secondly, YUM conducts a popular program of cooking classes at each of the local community health centres (posyandu) promoting good nutrition and healthy cooking practices to local women.

Cooking and nutrition classes are enjoyed by mothers and children alike

Cooking and nutrition classes are enjoyed by mothers and children alike

The Project involves a complex web of culture, technology, botany and local sensitivities. The program has been continuously evaluated and refined, and has had to overcome many challenges and obstacles. Future plans for the YUM Agro Project include expanding selected home gardens into small scale farms, improving food sources for chicken and fish, and further development of the nutrition program.

[More information at www.yumindonesia.org ]