26 December 2020
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DPI research helping Indonesian farmers after 2004 Boxing Day tsunami

Sixteen years on, NSW DPI research and knowledge is still providing a helping hand for Indonesian farmers recovering from the devastating 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami.

As a scientist, educator and mentor, DPI Research Officer Dr Malem McLeod established women’s farming groups through the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).

The groups provided a safe, supportive environment for women in Aceh to learn new farming skills like converting waste into compost, biochar and organic liquid fertiliser to grow vegetables in their backyards and vacant village land.

Working in groups allowed women to share their ideas, their hopes, their grief and their success, while learning new skills and developing long-lasting friendships.

Malem worked as part of a NSW DPI research team from 2005 to 2019, focused on rebuilding agriculture and livelihoods after the tsunami in Aceh in partnership with agricultural agencies, universities, and scientists in Indonesia.

As in many developing countries, employment opportunities for women are limited in Aceh, and most women are highly dependent on their husbands.

The ACIAR project invested small amounts of funding to support rural women in building their own farming operations to support their families.

“When we build the capacity of women, their children, their extended family and the wider community all benefit,” said Malem.

“Some women were even able to generate enough additional income to shift from financial dependency to becoming self-reliant entrepreneurs growing high value vegetable crops for sale.”

While this ACIAR project ended in 2019, the skills gained by farmers, agriculture scientists and academics in Aceh will continue to be utilised for years to come.

And Malem’s research will again be promoted in Aceh as part of Tsunami commemorations on Boxing Day 2020, including the ACIAR Guide Book, ‘Restoring agriculture after a tsunami’.