05/23/2018, 15.22
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Diocese of Ruteng and Caritas back a sustainable agriculture programme

by Mathias Hariyadi

Delegations from different countries take part in workshop that confronted them with local communities and humanitarian issues. Local government officials also took part in the event. The emigration of husbands allowed local women to become key players in local business endeavours. The Church has human and spiritual development programmes for them.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - In the "Catholic" province of East Nusa Tenggara (Nusa Tenggara Timur, NTT), southern Indonesia, 34 Caritas representatives from 13 Asian nations took part in a four-day workshop in the remote diocese of Ruteng, centred on the topic of ‘Sustainable agriculture, visit and learning’.

Fr Martin Chen, a diocesan priest and member of the organising committee, told AsiaNews that the decision to hold the forum in Ruteng was dictated by a number of factors.

One of them was the possibility for participants to learn from the local population the best practices available in organic farming and the opportunity to understand the area’s humanitarian problems so as to involve interested parties in finding a solution.

Among the various participants, the Cambodian Caritas delegation illustrated how microorganisms can be used to produce organic fertilisers. Its members also showcased the best practices adopted by Cambodian farmers to maintain good prices for organic products.

"It's a good thing that some local government officials attended the sessions, since they too expressed the same concerns,” said Fr Chen.  “As organiser, the Diocese of Ruteng showed off the best work undertaken by the various commissions in addressing these issues,” such as organic farming, training and community outreach.

For four days, participants were able to have direct contact with old farming techniques used by local women, especially in the village of Akel.

Many of them are married to men who work abroad. Countering the widespread stereotype that depicts them as "widows", these women have worked hard on certain business propositions.

Emigration from the province is mass phenomenon. Every year, thousands of local men leave for Malaysia or Borneo to become underpaid workers in oil palm plantations.

The second village that the delegates visited was Lengor, in Beokin parish. Here, the wives of migrants talked about the hardships they face every day such as late money transfer from husbands working abroad and high tuition fees for their children’s education.

In light of the situation, the Diocese of Ruteng two years ago began various human and spiritual outreach programmes to help these women.

"Training and assistance activities undertaken by the diocese in the agricultural sector only started nine months ago,” Father Chen explained. Yet, “they (the women) have managed to produce natural fertilisers and devote themselves to organic agriculture".

For Ms Elen, the head of a local basic ecclesial community who has benefitted from the Church outreach programme, "Our dignity is now being exploited to our advantage".

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