Innovative Farming Technique Shows Promise
Sceptical residents of a village in Muara Tiga subdistrict, Pidie placed some seeds into a couple of steel gravel instead of soil and, to their amazement, water spinach emerged in just two weeks.
The village is participating in a pilot project of IOM's livelihood support unit to introduce the advantages of an aquaponics system, a technique for food production that combines two existing proven methods hydroponics for plants and aquaculture for seafood.
Steve Moon, an IOM consultant for this USAID-funded project, is confident the villages in Muara Tiga will benefit from this self-contained ecosystem which is not only cheap to set up but provides farmers with an alternative means of cultivating crops in areas where the soil could be high in salt or may have chemical imbalances.
"Aquaponics allows you to plant anything that grows above ground," Moon said. "The materials used are simple and are all available in and around the village. This pilot project costs only 15 million rupiah (about US$1,700)."
The village has been unable to grow anything since the December 2004 tsunami due to the high salinity level of the soil but under this new system, it has the potential to produce 100 kilograms of vegetables over a six-month period in an area covering 32 square metres. The aquaponics system consists of four grow beds, steel tanks filled with gravel, and a tank with 200 small goldfish. The steel tanks are placed on coconut logs. Seeds are placed in the grow beds and sprinkled with water supplied from the fish tank every 20 minutes to keep the gravel moist. The water, which is rich in nutrient from the fish droppings, is later drained back into the fish tank. This cycle continues around the clock and it usually takes 10 to 14 day before plants emerge. Occasionally water is added to the fish tank due to evaporation.
This pilot project is the first of its kind in Pidie and perhaps in Indonesia according to Moon who says that aquaponics was only recently tried and tested by Joel Malcolm, an Australian garden enthusiast.
Plans are afoot to launch a similar project this month, also in a village in Muara Tiga, where IOM is involved in other livelihood projects. Similar systems can be integrated into existing shrimp and fish farms to dramatically improve yields and produce excellent organic fertilizers for use locally and sale to other communities, generating new income streams and weaning communities off their reliance on chemical fertilizers.
"The tsunami has produced certain logistical challenges and in some areas reduced the capacity of the people. Convincing the villagers in remote areas of how they can use materials around them to create such farms will not be difficult once they see the product. This is a system which the community will be able to run easily," Moon said.
Goods Aboard Last IOM Convoys Reflect Progress in Aceh
Cargo manifests from IOM's final truck convoy into Aceh province on 20 April reveal the enormous changes that have occurred in the 16 months since the devastating tsunami stuck Indonesia's northernmost province.
The first IOM trucks left Jakarta in late Dec. 2004 loaded with tons of diesel, food and water, medicine and tents in response to the emerging humanitarian crisis in Aceh. While IOM continued to carry significant quantities of food in the intervening months, the last convoy of Banda Aceh-bound 10-wheelers leaving Medan was loaded with office furniture, building bricks, window frames and fishing equipment on behalf of more than a dozen different agencies.
"It is a measure of just how far recovery efforts have progressed," says IOM Chief of Mission Steve Cook. "We're proud to have been able to provide this free overland logistics service (OLS) with the assistance of our many donors."
The Organization announced in late March that it will cease its transport and logistics operations effective 30 April following an assessment of needs and services.
One of the very few agencies with a presence in Aceh prior to the 26 December tsunami, IOM was uniquely suited to spearhead the extraordinary logistics of delivering tens of thousands of tons of humanitarian aid to Aceh.
Drawing on decades of experience in emergency response, the Organization acquired a 300-strong fleet of leased trucks, and created a logistics support centre in Medan to facilitate the movement of goods into Aceh.
By the time the OLS ceased operations at the end of April, roughly 7,900 trucks had delivered 81,000 metric tonnes of supplies to Banda Aceh, Meulaboh and the islands of Nias and Simeulue on behalf of more than 100 agencies and government departments.
In March 2005, IOM provided similar expertise to the relief efforts in Nias, setting up a tracking system at the government's request and assisting in the distribution of aid to warehouses in the capital Gunung Sitoli in the wake of a devastating 8.7 magnitude earthquake.
Three months later, the Organization leased a 400 ton vessel large enough to carry two dozen trucks, easing the transportation bottleneck at the North Sumatran port of Sibolga. The World Food Program assumed the lease in early March.
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