01/21/2011, 00.00
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East Java, Indonesian bishops promote organic farming projects

by Mathias Hariyadi
Expert agronomists teach natural farming techniques, without pesticides or additives. The goal is twofold: to protect consumers and enhance the living standards of farmers. The bishops socio-economic Commission supports the initiative with "moral and financial" help.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - The Indonesian Bishops Conference (KWI) has launched a project dedicated to the farmers of the province of East Java, to educate them in organic farming techniques. The aim of plan - backed "morally and financially" by the Socio-Economic Commission of the Bishops Conference - is to extend the practice to other parts of the country, to improve product quality and protect the health of consumers. Antonius Nurdianto, coordinator of the initiative, explains to AsiaNews that the goal is "to promote a new method of cultivation" and train farmers to be "pioneers" of organic farming.

In Indonesia, most people living from agriculture, but millions of workers are not familiar with modern techniques of cultivation. Organic food experts and financial resources are lacking, despite the fact that the demand for fruits, vegetables and "natural" products is constantly increasing. Most requests came from big cities like Jakarta and Surabaya (East Java provincial capital), where wealth is concentrated and people are more attentive to the quality of products and to health problems.

The first project sponsored by the Church in Indonesia was launched last week in Ngrambe Mojorejo, two sub-districts of the parish of St. Joseph, in the regency of Ngawi (East Java). The program involves a group of farmers dubbed Mulyo Tani, and the choice fell on the area because there were "plenty of available land." The local priests have enthusiastically joined the initiative, so much so that they celebrated Mass in the fields as a "spiritual tool" that may be of assistance to farmers and crops.

Fr. Agus Pr, parish priest of Mojorejo invites Catholic farmers to abandon chemical fertilizers, "toxic" and "fatal" for every living creature. The local response has been very positive, they "have shown enthusiasm in starting this new type of cultivation," said Antonius Nuriando.

The project coordinator, graduated from Catholic University of Atmajaya Yogyakarta, has a dream: to raise the incomes of farmers with new farming techniques. "The workers of the land are encouraged to produce fertilizer from waste materials - concludes agronomist - and put aside any kind of pesticide."

The first part of the project promoted by the Indonesian bishops will take at least six months.

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