Secretary of North Gorontalo Government, representatives of PT RAJA, Farmers group, Cooperative, and Bumdes participated in big harvest monitoring in the village of Mebongo and Motihulemo, August 2020. Photo: NSLIC/NSELRED project
Corn is a national crop in Indonesia, second only to rice in terms of contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country. However, production levels and the productivity of the corn fields is less than optimal (up to 12 ton/ha1), with average productivity in Gorontalo around 3.5-4 tons/ha2.
In 2018, NSLIC, working closely with the local governments of Boalemo, North Gorontalo, and Gorontalo facilitated an economic study of the corn value chain which presented two main reasons for the cause of the low income of corn farmers, namely 1) low corn productivity and 2) low sales price which below the standardized price. Low corn productivity is caused by the lack of knowledge of Good Agricultural Practices and limited access of farmers to good production input. On the other hand, low price of corn is because the harvested corn still contains a lot of water due to incomplete drying process.
The farmers cannot do the drying completely because the absence of post-harvest facilities such as dryers and appropriate drying facilities. Most of the corn sold still have water containment of more than 22%.
The market price of corns is determined by three types of water content level, namely classification A (water content of 14-17%), classification B (water content of 18-20%), and moisture (water content above 20%).
To address these challenges, NSLIC supported two strategies working with local government to a) provide innovative technical assistance in the production and post-harvest by using good agricultural practices (GAP) and b) establish a model of business cooperation with government, investors/buyers of corn, agri-input company, and traders.
The first pilot began in 2018 through a cooperation with corn farmers group on a plot of 2 hectares of land in Botuombato Village, North Gorontalo. This pilot was carried out in two plots in an adjacent location. In the first plot, the farmers used their traditional cultivation practices, and in the second plot they applied the new GAP cultivation practices, good quality of inputs, and they received intensive coaching. At harvest time, the impact of the two cultivation practices was significant – in the first plot they produced 5.9 tons of corn, while the second plot produced 9.3 tons. This practice, which is deliberately carried out on two adjacent fields with two different approaches, has provided evidence as well as meaningful learning for the corn farmers in Botuombato Village, North Gorontalo District.
This positive result has attracted other farmers to learn these new methods of cultivation, and so NSLIC build a cooperation with the local government of North Gorontalo and an off taker known as PT Restu Agropro Jayamas (RAJA) with an MoU signed in September 2019. Through this cooperation, the Project and partners developed a corn farm area of 45.5 hectares involving 42 farmers (9 women farmers) and 11 farmers groups in 6 villages across 3 sub-districts in North Gorontalo Regency. The off-taker, PT RAJA, played a key role in developing more innovation cultivation techniques, including the use of superior seeds, and agreed to purchase the yield at favorable prices for farmers. The local government supported through the allocation of village funds for infrastructure development and post harvest processing, including to provide 27 UV dryer plastic to be installed in the dryer houses. NSLIC also supported the organisational strengthening of the farmer’s group and provided technical support to assist them to develop business cooperation amongst the farmers group/women group, BUMDES, Cooperative, PT RAJA and the national Bank. This first replication was a success, where productivity of the crop reaching average 8.7 tons/hectare.
This first replication received a positive response from the parties and during the next growing season, the second replication covered an area of 262.5 hectares involving 181 farmers (30 women farmers) and 40 farmers groups in 15 villages and 6 sub-districts. With larger plots and limitation on reaching larger corn farmers, prompted the NSLIC project to initiate the production of video tutorials on corn cultivation practices. This is to overcome constraints on the affordability of time and location as well as limitations on physical interaction during the COVID 19 pandemic. This video tutorial was made by the NSLIC project in collaboration with PT. RAJA as an agronomy tutor provider. Made very simple, easy for farmers to understand, and easily accessible with a mobile phone (Whatsapp). As a result, the second replication saw the average productivity increase around 9.7 tons/ha.
The success of this intensive system of corn cultivation is also inseparable from efforts to encourage women’s group participation. In the cultivation process chain, women’s involvement is very important and determines the success of the harvest. Especially in the planting and harvesting process which requires patience and consistency. For example, to plant corn in 1 hectare requires 15 kg of seeds. If in 1 kg there are 4000 kernels, then in 1 Ha there are 60,000 corn kernels that must be planted one seed per hole which must be done consistently, especially consistent with planting time which starts from 07 am to 12 noon. Therefore, in applying the intensive corn farming system approach, the NSLIC project also supports capacity building for the Women’s Farmers Group / KWT in each pilot village.
At the end of 2020, the third stage of replication was carried out by the local government and PT RAJA with an area of 2,166 hectares. This replication was carried out through the involvement of 1,037 farmers (225 women farmers) in 24 villages and 8 sub-districts with more than 25.5 tons of quality seeds. The local government of North Gorontalo supported the provision of quality seeds for farmers worth IDR 1.7 billion.
NSLIC and the local government of North Gorontalo believe that the sustainable use of corn farming lands needs to be further promoted in order to maintain environmental stability and to ensure the fertility of the land. Critical land with a slope of more than 15% will need to be protected with policy approaches and guidelines in place for cultivation to ensure the sustainability of the land. NSLIC, working with the local government facilitated an academic study and developed a recommendation document with title “Document on the main ideas: Draft of Local Regulation of North Gorontalo District on Protection, Control, and Management of Environmentally Friendly Agricultural Land”. This document was submitted to the Regency of North Gorontalo on December 6, 2020 and was included in the official agenda of the local legislation program (Prolegda) of 2021.
In addition, several replication efforts are also being carried out in other districts and provinces, including: 1) replication in North Bolomongondo, North Sulawesi Province; 2) replication in several districts around North Gorontalo, such as Gorontalo, Pohuwato and Boalemo; d) the Gorontalo Provincial Government also welcomed the successful approach and provide further support to develop downstream sector of corn (processed products), and to replicate pilots in Bonebolango District.
1 Study within Ministry of Agriculture, http://repository.pertanian.go.id/handle/123456789/7260
2 Corn Value Chain Analysis in Gorontalo, NSLIC (2018)