Tag Archives: YUM Agro Project

Chicken and veggies

One of the many nice things about working of the Agricultural Project of the Yayasan Usaha Mulia (hereinafter just ‘YUM Agro’) is that I get to meet the project participants, and to spend time making photographs in the seven villages in which YUM works. (More about the project here).

The photographic work is a pleasure for me of course. But it’s also useful for YUM to document and report on their progress, for educational materials and to promote their activities. Lately I’ve been photographing the ‘home garden’ and ‘small animal husbandry’ (chicken) projects.


It’s now musim kemarau (the dry season). The rivers are way down, and in many locations there is simply no water available for irrigation, so many of the vegetable gardens are dormant until the rains arrive in November or December. But some other places have permanent (or semi-permanent) water supply, and so gardening is able to continue.

In Marang village, Ibu Nursiah is able to keep her crops of corn, beans, eggplant, chilli, tomatoes thriving due to water from a nearby bore. Her bigger problem is soil quality, as the soils in this region consist of mostly sand or peat – both infertile. To grow vegetables requires a big effort to build the soil up with compost, worms, bokashi, manure, and other sources of organic material.


Ibu Yani in Habaring Hurung village, like all 300 of the families that now have gardens established with YUM support and advice, grows eight different kinds of vegetables. The raised beds are enclosed within a mesh fence, to keep chickens and other ‘pests’  out. When I visited she was harvesting spring onions and pare belut (snake gourd). When I commented on how good the fresh spring onions looked, she insisted that I take a bunch home with me. They were as tasty as they looked.


Ibu Rosali is Ibu Yani’s neighbour in Habaring Hurung. She has just picked some bayam – a green leafy vegetable that is common here. Bayam is usually translated as ‘spinach’, but it’s not closely related (though both are in the Amaranthaceae family). Like (English) spinach, it’s a good source of iron in the diet.


Ibu Rosali has twin daughters, seen here posing with their friend in front of the family plot of rubber trees. Their friend is wearing a blouse with the almost-ubiquitous Hello Kitty design on it. Cute pink saccharine-sweet things (clothing, bags, thongs, pillows, keyrings, toys, stickers, notebooks, cups and plates,…) are highly prized here, and Hello Kitty’s dumb (literally – she’s mouthless!) visage appears on just about everything. According to Wikipedia, the Hello Kitty industry is currently worth around US$7 billion per year. Go figure! But I digress…


In Banturung village, Mama Putri’s daughter appears to be looking very excitedly at a freshly picked eggplant, but the truth is that she was watching some other children playing nearby. Indonesian eggplants are usually that long shape, looking somewhat like a purple cucumber.


Mama Putri’s other children (though at least one might have belonged to a neighbour’s family) followed me around everywhere as I checked out the garden and took photos. Like (almost) all children here, they wanted to be photographed too.


The home vegetable garden program is well established in this district, and YUM is now encouraging the cultivation of fruit trees to further improve and supplement family diets. Here, Mbak Joko keeps a proud and watchful eye on her newly planted manggis (mangosteen) tree.


Recently the YUM Agro project has moved into the promotion of ‘small animal husbandry’ (free-range chickens and fish farming) in order to boost the dietary protein intake of families in the region. The aim is to increase the number of family meals which contain meat (chicken) from the current average of 12 per month to 30. Ibu Nursiah is already a successful gardener in Marang village, but she now also has her hands full with chickens.


For the home gardens, experience has shown that they are much more successful when women have responsibility for them. But men are much more likely to be involved in the rearing of chickens. Pak Mispan lives in Habaring Hurung village, which is one of the new villages established a couple of decades ago to house transmigrasi settlers – in this case Javanese people who have moved to the far less crowded (and less fertile) Kalimantan.


Mama Ema is also a successful gardener and small-scale chicken farmer in Marang village. Like many women, she applies a paste of rice flour (and sometimes including ground medicinal root, bark or leaves) to her face to screen her skin from the darkening effect of the sun, and to prevent skin problems like acne. In Java, apparently women only apply it at nighttime for skincare purposes.


It is expected that families will have the production capacity to also sell around five chickens per month. This will provide valuable supplementation to the families’ very modest incomes. Mama Wendi (from Marang village) appears to have already chosen next month’s chickens for sale.


Two years ago Afandi, the boy in the photo above, was 1.5kg and 16cm below the healthy minimums for his age. Since his mother Ibu Nurhayati joined the YUM home garden program, his growth has improved substantially, though he is still under-sized for his age. The family has now joined the YUM ayam kampung (free-range chicken) program, and it is hoped that the extra protein in his diet will further assist his growth.


Bapak Pendi – Marang village


Ibu Tania from Banturung village has one of those smiles that you can’t resist smiling back at. The chickens – although not actually smiling themselves – certainly appear to be happy in her care.

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 ]