Farming again after years of conflict and neglect
The efforts of ACIAR’s agricultural projects in Aceh have assisted conflict-affected villages to start farming again, in some cases after 20 years. While the impact of the 2004 tsunami was all too evident, less was known about the impact on farmers of the decades-long conflict between the Acehnese Independence movement known as GAM and the Indonesian military. The conflict reintensified in the early 1990s, impacting especially on communities in rural areas where GAM strongholds lay.
As a result of the conflict, many villages have been isolated, cut off from any extension support for farming, and fields have been abandoned for many years. Seed varieties and crop knowledge have been lost, making a return to farming all the more difficult. One of the aims of ACIAR project field activities in Aceh is to motivate farmers in these villages to start farming again.
In Desa Teuladan the establishment of a demonstration peanut crop has motivated villagers to clear 15 years of regrowth and plant a range of crops for sale and home consumption. Their efforts have sparked interest from two neighbouring villages.
Many members of these villages originally migrated from Java and did not feel safe in their fields once the conflict escalated. Many worked in the rubber plantations whilst their rice fields lay abandoned. Now there is the opportunity to continue working in the plantations and to farm their crops, increasing their incomes.
Meunasah Tunong is a village better known for fish farming. More recently, most men in the village worked in the towns on post-tsunami construction projects. As construction slowed, villagers returned to Meunasah Tunong and their interest in farming has been rekindled.
A farmer-constructed irrigation network allows villagers to grow productive organic rice crops. Organic fertiliser and compost is readily available and although applying it is labour intensive, farmers avoid the high cost of purchasing fertilisers like urea, and can maximise their net profits.