29 January 2013

Permaculture in Indonesia

Indonesian: Jadi, aku sudah kembali di Indonesia... 
English: So, I am back Indonesia... 

I've returned to Yogyakarta, the bustling student and artists city in Central Java, where I will be learning bahasa Indonesian and tapping into the local Permaculture community.

Java is an island covered in active volcanoes, rice fields and 140 million Indonesian people.

Photo by Tony Allison on our walk up Merapi, an active Volcano within site of Yogyakarta.

Sometimes I can't help but feel that introducing the concept of Permaculture to the people in Indonesian is like trying to teach the Chinese business skills or the Irish how to drink Guinness...

The essence of Permaculture (from the root words 'Permanent Culture') is based on designing living systems based on the life-sustaining patterns found in nature. A big part of this is re-localizing our agriculture systems and working to rebuild soil fertility and diversity in your own backyards and local communities.

It's not just organic food production, Permaculture can cover anything from sustainable building design, developing economic systems that enhance social capital or the facilitation of natural eco-system regeneration.

So if you explore many of the 18,000 islands across the Indonesian archipelago, from the inner suburbs of Yogyakarta to the remote villages of West Kalimantan, you are basically walking through an amazing and diverse food forest with chickens, goats and pigs rummaging about in the under-story.

The trees in these systems don't just provide oxygen, shade or aesthetic appeal but energy available for the human body, plant proteins, anti-oxidants and the deliciously sweet nature of simple carbohydrates.

A canopy of Mango, Jakfruit, Rambutan, Langsat, Longon, Jambu, Coconut... with an under-story of Bananas, Papaya and Cassava .. even in the middle of the city most of the trees will be edible and the majority of fresh produce available will be grown within 100km.

from left to right; Mango, Salak, Mangosteen, Passionfruit

For someone like myself who loves to create abundant and edible landscapes, exploring this land leaves me continually in awe and excitement as I spot the various fruits coming into season and sample fruits such as Mangosteen, Salak or Langsat that just will not grow in the 'sometimes-freezing' sub-tropical Australia.

The Rambutan fruit is now in season, selling for as little as 30 cents a kilogram

A few months back I did my first PDC (Permaculture Design Certificate) in Bali with world-renowned Australian Permaculture teacher Robyn Francis. It was a 13 day intensive hands-on training course in a village 20 minutes south of  Ubud where the 'Taman Petanu Eco-Neighborhood' is being created.

Such a diverse and inspiring group of people doing all kinds of work across the Indonesian Archipelago, from local Balinese farmers to urban jungle cats applying rooftop gardens in Jakarta to forestry and agricultural professionals working in West Papua.

Photo by Gogon Journey

Immersing myself in this PDC course has re-inspired my permie-roots, and the connections formed equally as valuable and inspiring as the training itself.

A couple of the younger crew helping run the course, Krishna and Tantra, grew up in Yogyakarta where their father, Pak Iskander, established an educational farm based on Permaculture principles called the 'Bumi Langit' Institute (Bumi is Earth and Langit is Sky in Bahasa Indonesian).

So on the weekend I traveled up there with some friends from Jogja; Salas, Dalih, Astrid and Bhumy (Astrids' 4 year old son) to catch up with Krishna and finally explore his families Permaculture farm.

Astrid and Dali are feature writers for 'Indonesian Travel Bloggers' by far Indonesia's best collection of bilingual blogs on life and travels across the Indonesia archipelago. Check'em out!

Bumi Langit It's located about an hour motorbike ride out of Jogja, up in the lush green hills where the Earth touches the Sky.

It's an incredibly beautiful place containing abundant examples of permaculture in practice where school children and local farmers alike come learn and experiment with different ways to design and implement sustainable food production systems.

Krishna giving us a tour of the no-dig garden section.

Although most Indonesian farmers are expert food producers, the Green Revolution (Industrial Agriculture pushed by big Agri-business transnational companies such as Monsanto) has seen a massive decrease in soil sustainability and an increases in production costs related to use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, expensive machinery and fossil fuels.

Permaculture as a design science, is playing a critical role in helping communities find long-term solutions to food security and self-reliance by integrating holistic and ecological design into the already existing wisdom being applied by traditional subsistence cultures who can still be found across much of south east Asia.

A lot of the inspiration for Permaculture comes from observations made in these traditional societies.

Collecting manure from farm animals, they make Bio-Gas from the methane that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere with a potency 23 times higher then Carbon Dioxide. 

Krishna showing Bhumy the friendly goats. From one kid to another.

Cows, Ducks, Geese, Goats, Chickens, Humans, Insects.... integrated animal systems

Bhumy checking out the Amaranth stash, an ancient grain that comes from the mountains of south America and has  one of the highest protein contents of any seed on the planet.

We end up staying all day and watching sunset over south-central Java. Plans are being hatched to start a PermaBlitz program in Yogyakarta, greening the city and reconnecting people to their food and the Earth and each other.

Sounds like a plan!

We finish our adventure with a delicious meal cooked by Astrid and Dalih made from Bumi Langit produce.

Enak banget!!! (really yummy!!)

I'll be blogging a lot more now, inspired by the Indonesian Travel Bloggers and so I can keep friends and family around the world updated on adventures in Indonesia.

Lots of people have also been asking about the situation in Kalimantan, I'll update in a blog post really soon.

Sampai jumpa lagi! (See you later!)