Indonesian Rural Economic Development

In the eastern part of Sumba Island in Nusa Tenggara Timur Province, Indonesia, 30 existing agroforestry demonstration trials in seven villages are being assessed by World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) researchers, with corresponding experiments with intercropping fast-growing annual crops. Tree nurseries are being built with farmers to produce thousands of seedlings to restore local farm land. Capacity-building activities are being conducted to facilitate the expertise farmers need to manage those seedlings and the resultant trees under Sumba’s arid conditions. Working with Wahana Visi Indonesia (WVI) as lead of the project, ICRAF is deploying expertise gained in less-severe dryland landscapes in neighbouring Sulawesi island through the Agroforestry and Forestry in Sulawesi project. Phase 1 of the project ended in June 2016. Phase 2 extends from July 2016 to June 2018.

Typical landscape in eastern Sumba. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Robert Finlayson


Sumba’s nine-month-long dry season, rocky and sparsely-treed terrain and remote location on the southern edge of Indonesia’s eastern archipelago present huge challenges for local farmers. Many of the villages in the east of the island face regular, lengthy droughts and famines, alleviated only by outside assistance. Under these conditions, the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) is working with farmers to rapidly assess the best ways of bringing deep-rooted perennials back into the landscapes to improve farmers’ livelihoods and food supply.

The 30 agroforestry demonstration plots, which were planted by community members with WVI’s assistance, are typically located in low-lying areas, such as at the foot of slopes, where soil and water are likely to be more available, or next to a reliable water supply, often in the form of rainwater tanks provided by external agencies. These experimental plots of teak, mahogany, sandalwood, Gmelina and other timber species—such as the indigenous ‘indjuwati’—have been buffeted over the last few years by Sumba’s extreme conditions, with high winds, long dry seasons and frequent droughts, rock layers beneath the thin soil and attack by wandering livestock all taking their toll.

ICRAF scientists inspecting a demoplot. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Robert Finlayson

What is being done?

ICRAF’s researchers are examining each plot tree by tree and talking with the farmer managers to assess exactly what have been the main challenges and how to overcome them. While carrying out the plot assessments, the researchers are identifying annual crops suitable for planting between the rows of trees, such as turmeric, green beans and pineapple. This intercropping is intended to provide more food supply for households, diversifying tree plantings that so far have been primarily timber species.

At the same time as the plot assessments, ICRAF’s technicians have been showing farmers—both women and men—how to produce seedlings and how to build nursery shading to protect them from the harsh sun. Along with this, farmers are being introduced to grafting techniques, especially for fruit trees, that allow more productive varieties to be grafted to stronger local root stock, thereby, providing the basis for higher-yielding, better-quality and longer-lasting trees that will benefit farm households for many years.

Constructing a shade house. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Robert Finlayson

Seeds and seedlings are being provided to farmers based on the results of a ‘priority tree species’ survey which was the first task conducted by ICRAF’s researchers. Each village identified a range of timber and fruit species, with similarities and differences between villages. Each species requires different planting and management techniques to ensure not only that it survives but also flourishes despite the harsh conditions, which, while consistent across the eastern part of the island also vary in intensity or criticality from village to village. Farmers from Sumba are also being taken to neighbouring Sulawesi to witness the success of, and learn techniques from, farmers involved with the Agroforestry and Forestry in Sulawesi project.


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