First of all, please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Ilham Akbar and I am a 35-year-old from Gowa, a region in South Sulawesi Province in the eastern part of Indonesia.
Before I proceed, please allow me to express how truly honored I am to stand here today to share a story of transformation; of me and my parents; of our farmers; of how our lives have tremendously and positively changed through our will and drive to be part of the innovative and modern farming community in Indonesia.
What started off as an interest in the Sidenuk paddy rice variety — a breakthrough in mutation breeding research from BATAN — evolved into a life-changing journey, one with a promising future not just for our family but also for the farmers within our region.
Truth be told, my parents and I are not by any sense, farmers by tradition. But the agricultural development has always been a subject close to our heart, especially when it concerns farmers staying / making a living within Gowa region. Despite working hard day and night, despite being blessed with top-grade soil fertility, a majority of our farmers still live below the poverty line / socially acceptable standard of living, and far from a higher quality of life they truly deserve. For one, the farmers do not have sufficient supply of good quality paddy seeds that would ensure not only the return on investment, but return on effort on their part.
Thus, having witnessed this condition firsthand, I could not help but question, how can these farmers — who are at the heart of Indonesia’s agriculture — progress and ultimately, not denied a better quality of life?
As fate would have it, we found out about a partnership between National Nuclear Energy Agency of Indonesia (BATAN) and Muhammadiyah, a community development institution, on the socialization of superior paddy variety named Sidenuk to the farming communities at South Sulawesi. It was then we learnt about a great breakthrough in the paddy industry — Sidenuk has much higher yield potential compared to the existing paddy variety at Sulawesi. Indeed, it was a defining moment for me and my parents — we knew that was the breakthrough we needed for our dream — to transform our paddy varieties and in doing so, our farmers’ lives.
I then decided to join the program, and I acquired 5 kilograms of Sidenuk seed and started my project in a rice field rented from a relative. In a short period of time, my project began to bear fruit — our first Sidenuk seed produced higher yield compared to other varieties sowed at the same period. This paddy variety is truly a game changer — not only it is of superior quality, its eco-friendly organic farming will enable the farmers to increase their productivity, eventually, giving them a chance at a better life. At this point, I was excited that my dream was no longer a dream; it has now blossomed into a reality.
Now, two years have passed since our project took off and without a doubt, has soared to new heights. Our farmers and partners who have been on board this exciting journey with us, are now able to produce superior quality seed with high yield, reaching 10 tons/hectare, or reaching 150% raise of productivity compared to conventional paddy seed.
As I observe the transformation in the farmers, I now understand when people say there is a positive correlation between productivity and competitiveness. When there is increased productivity, there is increased efficiency, resulting in a higher level of competitiveness among the farmers. If I may add, another positive outcome from this humble effort is the opportunities for the farmers to have a higher quality of life, and to empower them as local seed breeder to facilitate other farmers to also produce good quality seed.
Under this cooperative partnership scheme, a new breed of farmers is born — ones who are independent, and with renewed and heightened passion towards agriculture. Credit is also due to the Centre for Seed Control and Certification, whose support and guidance has helped us to produce high quality seeds which meet the standards/requirements for certification.
On the same note, I wish to reiterate that our initiative is starting to translate into the development of our province. In 2016, our farmers have produced 20 tons of paddy seed, equivalent to 3% of seed demand for the whole province. Furthermore, in the wake of our initiative, we have inadvertently created a spectacular ripple effect of inspiration in the lives other farmers who now aspire to follow in our footsteps. With that, we have established our commercial business with the farmers, Salewangang Seed Producer Company, where I hold the position of Operational Manager. Our core business is not just limited to further develop Sidenuk seed, but also but also other mutation breeding seed namely Diah Suci and Mira-1 — two of the farmers’ favorites due to their excellent specifications. This business has also helped to facilitate mutual cooperation among farmers within this region, in which farmers dont have to go through all the trouble to find good quality seed.
Admittedly, the journey is far from over and it is one that is not without its challenges. To help more farmers to thrive in agriculture and be more economically prosperous requires a continuous and unwavering support from everyone involved.
Through sustainable partnership with BATAN and farmers, we hope to be able to disseminate the potentials of these superior seeds to a much larger farming communities. We are also committed to educate the farmers on the economic benefits of Sidenuk seed combined with its eco-friendly organic farming style. In addition, we hope to train more farmers on the business of modern seed cultivation, with the aim to raise their standard from being traditional farmers, to instead, farmers with strong entrepreneurial skills in agriculture.
Having said that, we remain firm in achieving our overarching goal with the farmers — to produce high quality and certified paddy seed stock, widen the spirit and positive partnership scheme to other farming communities at South Sulawesi and ultimately, help our farming partners to progress and achieve better life standards and brighter future.
Strong mutual partnership with farmers’ groups and other stakeholders in utilizing mutation breeding paddy seed is the main key to reach our dreams and our goals.