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Organic farming in Indonesia: eco-influencers make all the difference

Over the past three years, a research team at the University of Passau has investigated whether agriculture in Indonesia can be largely converted to organic farming. One of the results shows that it is important to find influential farmers who promote change.

Can agriculture in the world's largest island state be increasingly converted to organic farming? An interdisciplinary team led by rural sociologist Professor Martina Padmanabhan and development economist Professor Michael Grimm from the University of Passau has analysed the potential of organic farming in Indonesia within the framework of the BMBF (German Federal Ministry for Research and Education) project IndORGANIC. The results were presented by the Passau research team in February 2020 to senior representatives of the Indonesian Ministry of National Development Planning in Jakarta (see first photo in the galery).

The research team's findings at a glance:

  • In a survey of 1200 selected residents of villages around the cities of Tasikmalaya and Yogyakarta, the researchers found a significant lack of information with regard to organic farming. In half of the villages, the Passau research team offered three days of practical training on the use of organic fertilisers and pesticides as well as marketing measures. These measures have had an effect: after the training sessions in these villages, 15 percent more farms used organic fertilisers than in the villages where no training was held.
  • The measure was particularly effective when the knowledge gained from the training of influential farmers was passed on to other farms even after the end of the training.

For the transition to be successful in the long term, comprehensive changes are needed at agricultural, social and political level.

Professor Martina Padmanabhan, Rural sociologist at the University of Passau

"For the transition to be successful in the long term, comprehensive changes are needed at agricultural, social and political level," explains rural sociologist Professor Padmanabhan, who moved to Yogyakarta with her family in 2018 for a year in order to get a local picture of the farmers’ situation. To this end, the research team worked with the Indonesian Organic Alliance (AOI), a body representing the interests of organic farmers. Other local partners were Universitas Atma Jaya Yogyakarta (UAJY) (Atma Jaya University, Yogyakarta) and Institut Pertanian Bogor (IPB University, a state-run agricultural university). “The proportion of organic farming in Indonesia is still negligible. In our pilot experiment, however, we were able to show that targeted training measures could change this,” states development economist Professor Grimm from the University of Passau.

At the meeting in February 2020, the research team therefore advised the Indonesian Ministry of Development on the following steps:

  • The policy should offer targeted practical training on organic farming. It should identify influential farmers and involve them explicitly.
  • The small-scale farming sector is heavily dependent on the informal seed system, where many traditional varieties are still being exchanged. The policy should create storage facilities and ensure access to preserve these varieties.
  • The Ministry of Agriculture should establish guidelines for organic farming at national level together with representatives from academia and industry.
  • It should also create a platform for pooling existing efforts and networking all relevant stakeholders from academia and civil society. The platform should include several ministries – the Ministry of Environment and Commerce in addition to the Ministry of Agriculture.

The Passau-based project team comprised researchers from the fields of sociology, economics and cultural studies. The German Federal Ministry for Research and Education (BMBF) funded the project with a sum of 882,910 euros over a three-year period.

Professor Martina Padmanabhan

researches sustainable institutions

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Professor Martina Padmanabhan has held the Chair of ComparativeDevelopment and Cultural Studies with a focus on Southeast Asia since 2012, where she implements new methodologies for interdiciplinarity.

Prof. Dr. Michael Grimm, Inhaber des Lehrstuhls für Development Economics

Professor Michael Grimm

studies technological change in developing countries, among other topics

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Professor Michael Grimm has held the Chair of Development Economics of the University of Passau since 2012. He is also one of the Principal Investigators of the DFG Research Training Group 2720 "Digital Platform Ecosystems (DPE)". Prior to this, he held the posts of Professor of Applied Development Economics at Erasmus University Rotterdam, Visiting Professor at Paris School of Economics and Advisor for the World Bank in Washington, D.C. (United States).

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