Indonesia - Eunike Widhi Wardhani – 2014 Graduate
Eunike (Nike) Widhi Wardhani
submitted March 2022
Network e-Bulletin No. 10, March 2022
Tropical Biodynamic Agriculture in Community Development
Nike at ARI in 2014
Seven years ago, I returned from ARI to my sending body, Yayasan Kristen Trukajaya, and the farmer communities we serve. I brought home a dream to which I am committed - food sovereignty for farmers. In the past 7 years, I have been engaged in community development with partners in the farmers’ movement, providing assistance in production activities, strengthening the organization, and marketing organic products.
Soil pollution and environmental damage due to industrial activities is of great concern to us. Dependency on manufactured seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides continues in our country. It makes the soil, the earth, to lose its natural life force. So, we are learning together about Biodynamic Agriculture particularly in tropical areas, like Indonesia. Biodynamics is one of the aspects of sustainable agriculture that has the power to heal the "sick" soil.
Soil balls containing tropical biodynamic bacteria culture 500 (BD 500)
We know from ARI learning about Masanobu Fukuoka and natural agriculture. Rudolf Steiner from Austria first taught the concept of biodynamics in subtropical climates, to heal “sick” soils by taking advantage of certain minerals and of the presence of natural microorganisms in the soil. One important point of biodynamics is that it is very spiritual in nature and respects local ancestral culture. We are all spiritual beings who occupy a body/physic. Some people think it is mystical, even though all of it can be explained by science and metaphysical logic. Biodynamics restores soil life.
About Tropical Biodynamic Agriculture and community development
ARI learning has a strong foundation in maintaining the spirit of sustainable agriculture. In year 7 (2021), after I came back from ARI, a new energy appeared in our efforts toward sustainable agriculture. This is due to a study based on the potential of local villages in our tropical climate, and the introduction of tropical biodynamic agriculture by an Indonesian researcher named Yos Suprapto in 2010.
Nike and the staff of Trukajaya are reunited with Yos Suprapto, who develops and promotes Tropical Biodynamic Agriculture throughout Indonesia
Luckily after 11 years we have been reunited with Yos Suprapto through a Rudolf Steiner Indonesia community, which is part of a biodynamic WhatsApp group with members from all over Indonesia. This moment gave Trukajaya the confidence to develop the tropical biodynamic concept as a new force. Presently, we are at the stage of testing the bacterial culture. It takes 4-6 months before it can be applied. I am committed to continuing the work of organic agriculture at the grassroots.
In this paper I will introduce the special characteristics of biodynamics, which is a subject in the agricultural movement, how biodynamics began to raise the issue of community development as part of a universal system and how the closeness between biodynamics and community development leads to spiritual growth.
The starting step is simply small
In the past, sometimes our projects faced challenges when we just wanted to show something big in the early stages. As a result, many things were not studied in detail, and the programs did not last, because the basic philosophy could not be learned well in the community. As ARI taught me about the values of locality, it will be a good idea to start small and then develop it into a main program.
Yos Suprapto's brief profile
Students of tropical biodynamics, under the direct supervision of Yos Suprapto, spread across several regions in Indonesia – Aceh, Batam, Banten, West Java, Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta, Central Java, East Java and Bali. Tropical biodynamic agricultural activities have become a very dynamic school in these various places.
Yos holding a BD 500 soil ball
The biodynamic community exchanges experiences, visits each other, and conducts joint practices and discussions about the world of agroecology. Yos Suprapto also invites his students to understand environmental issues that cannot be separated from global issues that have an impact on agriculture activities at the local level. In addition to being a painter and musical artist, Yos Suprapto was also an activist in the people's movement in his youth. Together with his friends, Yos criticized various programs in the elite national level of policy that caused environmental damage in several places in the country during the Orde Baru regime of government. I was very excited to listen to Yos's stories, one of which was the struggle with his friends against a company that planned to establish the biggest tissue factory in the world. This company would encroach on 800,000 hectares of forest in Merauke Papua. His courage was not without risk, and Yos, who was living in Australia at that time, had difficulty returning to Indonesia.
Through his paintings and songs of the people’s movement, Yos expresses his love for his Indonesian homeland. After 27 years in Australia, this professor born in 1952 was able to return home and devote his knowledge to the Indonesian nation. He was asked to lecture at several universities and teach about appropriate technologies in rural communities in Aceh, West Java, Yogyakarta, East Java and the Papuans. His life continues to inspire many people's movements and activists, from the national level to the very local and rural levels, in collaboration with both government and non-government institutions. Trukajaya was lucky to be able to learn directly from him.
Harvesting biodynamic bacteria culture 501 (BD 501)
Tropical biodynamics is one learning of many that Yos has developed. It is enough that a handful of the tropical biodynamic bacteria culture, which is familiarly called BD 500, is applied to an area of 1,000 square meters. These bacteria will grow rapidly to improve the soil structure, soil texture, and soil organic material content in the land. Changes in soil conditions that are improving, and "healing," can be recognized from the physical characteristics and yields of the plants cultivated on the land. Damaged land, land that has lost its fertility, will return to its health and fertility. On lands that are not productive, damaged due to industrial activities with high chemical inputs, microorganisms will be restored to life, fertile again.
From Yos Suprapto I learned about strength and motivation to bring out the potential from within the farming community. It will never stop, from generation to generation. As a Javanese, Yos takes cultural approaches, art combined with science. Yos believes these things are not separated, that art is one with science. In his book Appropriate Technology in the Aesthetic Context. Yos focuses on discussing farming philosophies, practices and observations in the communities of his students, while communicating with his friends in Australia to continue to develop his research related to biodynamics.
Tropical biodynamic learning in Trukajaya
Biodynamics can be an entry point and even become the main program in community development which is the core competence of Trukajaya. The BD 500 culture process requires a total of 6 months to be stored in the soil at a depth of 50 cm covered with a covering material which preserves aerobic conditions but does not allow exposure to direct sunlight or rain. At 4 months, the cultures are checked, evaluated, and provided bacterial feed ingredients until the time of completion at 6 months. Currently, Trukajaya in Salatiga is conducting preliminary research related to biodynamics, by culturing BD 500 starter in two different places brought by Yos. One is in a farming community in Bantul Yogyakarta, and the other is in a Baduy farming community in Kanekes Banten.
Putting straw mulching on a field treated with BD 500
The BD 500 from Bantul was cultured at the Puspapari Trukajaya Training Center location on November 29, 2021. Normally it would be evaluated at the end of March 2022 (4 months old) and finished at the end of May 2022 (6 months old), but a failure occurred. The BD 500 culture was submerged, not because of rainwater from above, but because of rainwater seepage from the ground. The lesson is that we have to improve the drainage of the BD 500 culture site. Although it is certain to fail, the results will still be observed for comparison.
Based on that experience, Yos recommended to re-culture the BD 500 from Baduy. For that we chose a place in the Trukajaya garden which was safe from puddles of water and direct sunlight. The bacterial culture started on January 3, 2022, so it will reach 4 months for evaluation in early May 2022 and will be completed at 6 months in early July 2022.
For the application to the land, we also carried out experimental cultivation of several vegetables before and after being given BD 500. Both will also be observed, and comparisons will be documented. We hope that this simple research will be learning material for the farming communities assisted by Trukajaya. In the future, we will study BD 501, and there are many more biodynamic learning series.
According to Yos, tropical biodynamics is very applicable, and frees farmers from dependence on chemical inputs in farming, because it is enough to use local materials around the farmers' homes and has a tremendous impact on improving soil quality.
Biodynamics for the ARI community
Our beloved ARI community, which is spread out in various places, is the right medium for learning about biodynamics in the sub-tropics and tropical biodynamics, especially in answering the problems of environmental destruction, water purity, and food crises. I think this lesson will be very relevant to reach out to ARI communities spread all over the world who are facing almost the same issue – environmental damage and loss of soil fertility. Therefore, in my opinion, this good learning can also someday be practiced on the ARI campus.
In Trukajaya, we are not done yet. We are still in the process of learning about Tropical Biodynamic Agriculture. Hopefully this simple article will be useful for ARI community friends everywhere.
We at Trukajaya are not done yet. There is still much to learn about Tropical Biodynamic Agriculture! (Nike is in the front left.)