The Alternative Livelihood Programme (now known as the Integrated Ecological Farming Programme), introduced by Golden Agri-Resources (GAR) in 2016, teaches villages sustainable agriculture practices without using intensive chemicals and fire for land clearing. In addition, to improve food self-sufficiency, the programme helps these villages to grow their own and more varied food crops, and sell the excess in local markets to generate additional income.
It is widely known that forest fires are often started in order to clear land for agriculture. Villages do so because they are heavily dependent on farming the land for survival, and are unaware of, or lack access to, alternative methods to fire to open up land for farming. Efforts to encourage a move away from burning must be centred on offering farmers alternative, sustainable methods of land preparation, which at the same time guarantee food security for their families. The Alternative Livelihood Programme is conducted with communities and applied during our Participatory Conservation Planning, before development or conservation of land.
How is the programme run?
- Education on the impact of forest and land fire
We teach the communities about the importance of natural habitats and the unfavourable impacts of fire. Working closely with village chiefs, we gather villagers together and illustrate how the food chain works through talks and games, to allow villagers to discover how one action (in this case burning land) could lead to the loss of certain animals or soil deterioration that would eventually impact their own well-being.
- Sustainable Livelihood Assessment (SLA)
In this stage, we set aside three to four weeks to help communities prioritise their land development plans. We work with the villagers to determine how to maximise existing resources to reduce expenses. Producing their own food such as vegetables, livestock and fish can help a family to save up to IDR 300,000 per month in household expenditure.
- Capacity building in field school
30 farmers are selected in each village to be trained to implement ecologically-integrated agriculture. Facilitated by our expert farmers, they learn how to plan land use ; make solid/liquid compost, vegetable pesticides, local micro-organisms, plant growth regulators; cultivate livestock; and manage pests. Training takes between three to six months depending on the type of crops and land conditions. Once the first harvest in their learning gardens is sold, the village then allocates money earned to these 30 farmers to replicate the environmentally friendly agriculture methods on their own land.
- Ecological farmers network
We try to cultivate a group working environment from the early stages of farmer training because we believe it helps to motivate each other and influence other farmers around them to learn and carry out eco-practices in their own farms. Once we have run this programme in enough villages, our goal is to facilitate the setting up of a space for the communities to exchange ideas to expand their work on cultivation techniques and marketing. This cross-village farmers network has the potential to help farmers gain access to more resources from institutions or governments.
- Improving market access
We increase farmers’ access to other communities at district and regional level by allowing them to sell their excess crop in GAR-owned concessions, so that they can be sold at higher sales margins.
- Monitoring and evaluation
After going through the process, the farmers will evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the programme and share their observations and learnings with the GAR teams.
Benefits and impact
The Alternative Livelihood Programme benefits villages through an increased knowledge of alternative methods of farming. They are also exposed to new crops that they can use for their own consumption or sell at the markets to earn an income. With the avoidance of using fire to clear land, forests can be conserved and the likelihood of haze is minimised.
To date, we have reached out to the Nanga Bian sub-Village with home gardens and launched an organic farming pilot project in the Lembah Hijau 2 Village. We are in the midst of carrying out the programme in Tajok Kayong village and three other concessions in West Kalimantan.
The Alternative Livelihood Programme is one the ways we approach food security for communities under our Desa Makmur Peduli Api initiative. Learn more about it here.