Analyzing Farmers' Learning Process in Sustainable Development: The Case of Organic Paddy Farmers in North Sumatra, Indonesia

Analyzing Farmers' Learning Process in Sustainable Development: The Case of Organic Paddy Farmers in North Sumatra, Indonesia

Diana Chalil
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5856-1.ch027
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Rice is the staple food grain for Indonesians. With the increasing population, Indonesia has tried to improve its rice production by using high yielding varieties (HYV) and more chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Initially the program was quite successful, but later production began to stagnate with subsequent environmental and health issues. As an alternative, Indonesia embarked on wide scale promotion of organic rice farming. However, success seems unlikely. One of the first barriers to successful implementation was that not many rice crop (paddy) farmers converted their farms to the organic system. In fact, this chapter relates that the early stages of farmers' learning process actually went smoothly but did not continue in the final stages. Lack of time, labor, and funds to cover extra activities of the first years of the conversion mainly explain the barriers for farmers to complete the learning process. The barriers need to be understood and addressed in order to improve the sustainable integration of organic rice farming into Indonesian cultural practices.
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Organization Background

Indonesia is the 3rd largest rice producer in the world. During the 1980s Indonesia was successfully self-sufficient in rice production. These results were achieved by utilizing HYV in conjunction with increasing quantities of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Also almost all rice farmers adapted that rice production model. However, with a continued increase in population, the production cannot keep pace with the needs of the domestic rice consumption. In 2008-2012, Indonesia was recorded as the world's 7th largest rice importer—requiring on average over 1.1 million tons of imports per year.

Rice farmers in Indonesia are accounted for approximately 77% of all farmers in the country. One of the paddy production centers is Desa Lubuk Bayas. Farmer groups in this village can be seen as one of the more developed and received the best group award in 2003. The average farm size is very small at less than 1 hectare, with the majority of farmers cultivating landholdings between 0.1-0.5 hectares in size (USDA, 2012). Most of these farmers are engaged in groups that were formed by the government. Each group has three administrators: the leader, the secretary and the treasurer. At first, the group division was based on the farmers' house location, but eventually they were divided based on their paddy field locations. Decisions and coordination are made through group discussions and include routine activities such as schedules and cropping patterns, pest and diseases crop prevention, and water conservation (Nuryanti and Swastika, 2011). In Lubuk Bayas, farmer groups conduct meetings at least twice a year for discussing the planting schedule. There are a number of villages that conduct meetings once every 2-3 months, even every week. Farmers know the importance of planting crops simultaneously, but this can be complicated when one “paving” contains both organic and conventional paddy (Figure 1).

Figure 1.

Location semi-organic rice and organic rice contiguous


Farmer groups are often used as means to disseminate new technology. In the 1970s and 1980s the farming intensification program that used HYV, chemical fertilizers and pesticides was introduced and implemented through farmer groups in every village in Indonesia. Currently, organic farming is also being introduced through the farmer group. Therefore, in general farmers that have started organic farming were conventional farmers that have been accustomed to using chemical fertilizers and pesticides intensively.

Farmers generally admit to taking part in almost every activity that is conducted by the group, because the activities are relevant and fulfill their farming needs (Tubene & Holder, 2001 in Franz et al., 2010). Lubuk Bayas has six farmer groups. Of those six groups, only Subur Group makes the claim to be an organic farmer group. Subur Group appears to have the least number of members with 63 farmers, while others ranged from 75 to 172 farmers. In reality, only 9 farmers from all of the Subur Group members have consistently and fully used the organic systems of rice production. However, the Subur Group’s rice has not been certified as organic. One of the main constraints to being certified stems from the irrigation channels currently supplying water to conventional, organic and semi-organic pavings or paddies and have not yet been segregated. Even in areas listed as organic acreage, for example, semi-organic and conventional farming still exist (Figure 2).

Figure 2.

Map of Lubuk Bayas Village


Key Terms in this Chapter

High Yielding Varieties (HYV): Hybrid seeds that have been selected and developed to give high productivity with using more chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Learning Process: A process that people pass through to acquire new knowledge and skills and ultimately influence their attitudes, decisions and actions.

Organic Paddy: Rice paddy that is produced using free chemical seeds, fertilizers and pesticides.

Champion Farmers: Farmers who have extensive experience in farming and mastered the knowledge and skills, and diffused them to other farmers.

Intensification: An effort to increase agricultural production without expanding the planting area, but by increasing the land productivity (for example by using HYV seeds, closer planting spaces or more chemical fertilizers.

Sustainable Development: A development in utilizing natural resources that can meet the peoples’ needs in the present without precluding the opportunities of others to utilize the resources to meet their needs in the future.

Level of Adoption: The level of acceptance of an innovation, which consists of five stages namely knowledge, persuasion, decision, implementation and confirmation.

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