With 33-year-old farmer Gusti Koa as its new leader, Fetomone farmers group in Fatutnana, West Timor, is growing and changing. Gusti and his wife are farmers in area near Fatutnana, and the group he now leads was formed by 11 farmers in their hamlet in February 2016. At that time, there was support from government Field Agricultural Extension Officers to form the group; but then it wasn’t very active. They would plant rice and then share the harvest from a small shared property once a year, but that was about it.
In reflecting on the not-too-distant past, Gusti shared this history with CWS field workers, “Although the Fetomone Farmer Group was formed together with government [ag extension workers], we have never received much from them except information about how to use fertilizer to on our rice field. After working with you [CWS] this year, we learned that we could use our rice field during the off season to plant vegetables and corn. And, CWS has helped us with local seed production, too. Here we grow lamuru corn, and we learned that if we got it approved by the Seed Certification Center in Kupang, our group could become a certified corn seeds producer for the district.” And, this they did!
NOTE: CWS works with farmers to help them breed local corn seeds by determining those of superior quality and then supporting proper drying and storage of the seeds for future planting and for sale to increase family income while disseminating quality local corn seed. To complement the high-quality local seeds, CWS staff also teach farmers how to make and use organic fertilizer and pesticides, how to improve soil quality and plant the right vegetables for the right soil and season in modern beds that reduce weeds and maximize irrigation.
For Gusti’s group, which has grown to 17 members, the result of everyone’s efforts is that their certified seeds are available for next planting season. And, since receiving its seed certification, the Fetomone Farmer Group has risen in status from Beginner Farmers Group to Advanced Farmers Group. This means that they are acknowledged by the local government and will have better access for support from ag extension workers – who might, in fact, learn a few things from Gusti’s group! In talking more about his hopes for his group, Gusti notes, “I intend to make the Fetomone Farmer Group an example for other farmer groups in this village and plan to continue corn breeding activities. I also encourage group members to discuss our challenges openly and negotiate to solve group problems and agree on routine issues like determining planting times for vegetables and corn during the dry season.”
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