11/19/2009, 00.00
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Indonesian Catholics helping farmers and labourers

by Mathias Hariyadi
Farmers are powerless in the face of shrinking farmland and foreign competition. KPTT, an organisation founded by a Dutch Jesuit, holds a two-day workshop in Central Java to discuss the matter.
Jakarta (AsiaNews) – In Indonesia farmers and labourers are powerless, living on the edges of society. Farmers have also lost a lot of farmland to large-scale industrial development.

“The problems of everyday life are getting worse,” Fr Winangun said. “On the market, the price of wheat is low, but the cost of seeds is rising sharply.”

However, sharing these problems tends to sharpen a sense of solidarity among those involved. People are forced to come up with solutions to common problems, protecting their rights and improving their quality of life, this according to a two-day workshop organised by an Indonesian Catholic NGO that brought together 34 farmers and workers in Salatiga, a town in Central Java.

“Our mission is to improve farmers’ morale,” said Fr John Wartaya Winangun SJ, director of KPTT, an organisation founded in 1964 by a Dutch Jesuit, Fr Callens.

The meeting, which took place last week, saw farmers and labourers (pictured) come from Jakarta, Central Java and East Java.

Those present talked about their “experiences and problems,” Fr Winangun said. They also tried to develop common solutions to “improve their quality of life.”

Networking in support of workers is an essential part of that because it enables members to “promote their products” and “exchange ideas and opinions,” the priest said.

Farm workers face the same challenges. Not only are they paid low wages but they are also subject to haphazard working conditions, increasingly at the mercy of outside businesses that penalises local production.

Boosting solidarity to help local farmers develop the country’s agriculture go hand in hand with a better quality of life, the KPTT director said.

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