Biogas Reactor and Integrated Farming are the True Manifestation of Farmers’ Love to the Earth

It looks like that there are many of us who are not aware that we celebrate the Earth Day every April 22nd.  Earth Day is a reminder to us all, that we have to save our natural environment, we love our earth, for the earth has been generous to us, provide us a foothold and a living space.  On the other hand, whether deliberately or not, humankind tend to somehow compound the environmental destruction, environmental pollution, ecosystem damage, waste of energy, and other actions which signify our lack of concerns on our earth.

Steadily warmer temperature, unpredictable climate, high intensity and frequency of precipitation, extended dry season, and so forth are symptoms of deteriorating and destabilising of natural environments and earth.  Flood, landslide, harvest failures, and so forth are the subsequent impacts of such conditions.  Are we comfortable to live under such conditions? Are we going to ignore such things to take place and go on forever?

Of course not!  Let us be aware, that our natural environments and earth, must be preserved.  We have to lead a healthy life, maintain a good sanitation and a balance life, as well as uphold our dignity.  This earth is the greatest legacy for our future generations, let us proudly pass on the legacy to them.  This is the manifestation of our gratitude to the Lord the Almighty that our earth and nature have been very accomodating to let we live and achieve our happiness in this world.

Are we not ashame to the farmers, who have demonstrated a true movement to save our earth?  Many farmers have gained awareness to restore the natural environment, rice paddy fields.  Farmers live in rural areas, nonetheless they have the progressive minds.  They wish to pass on the earth and its wealth as the legacy to their future generations.

Speaking about the earth, certainly includes the universe and everything within.  For me personally, the awareness to show greater concern on earth have in fact been acquired from the farmers.  Throughout these times the efforts to care about the enviroments normally include tree planting movements, save electricity (save the energy) and dispose all the wastes properly.  Moreover, if such awareness have been deeply instilled in our minds, we will automatically sort the organic wastes from the inorganic ones.  Normally those are the extent of the awareness.  Such things as thinking more deeply on how to restore the ecosystem, ecology, healthy and balance life, as well as thinking about passing the legacy to the future generations have not crossed our minds.

BIRU (Domestic Biogas) Programme is a programme offered by Yayasan Rumah Energi to farmers.  BIRU Programme is closely related to farmers and cattle farmers.  Majority of the beneficiaries are farmers and cattle farmes living in the rural areas.  It is expected that these farmers and cattle farmers, will demonstrate a true example which may serve as a model, that the community have started to gain some awareness, that earth and environmental sustainability have been exposed to destructive practices, and some efforts to eliminate those destructive practices have begun to take place.

When we hear the word “farmers,” what would be the first thing that crosses our minds?  Certainly it must be tree planting activities.  It is true, farmers grow plants.  Of course, agricultural activities concern with plant cultivation.  Farmers grow rice paddy, corns, cassava, vegetables, fruit, and so forth depending on the conditions and needs.  Some of them are seasonal plants while others are perennial plants.  By planting the trees, farmers have contributed in nature conservation while plants themselves produce the food.

Growing trees (plants) are good.  Methods which meet the rules of appropriate cutivation, will in fact provide positive impact to the environment.  Other than maintaining the soil conditions (retain soil moisture and its nutrient content) by coursing water and erosion, trees too will sequester carbon dioxides and various substances which may pollute the environments.  There are certainly various other functions of the trees (vegetation), for example as habitat for the habitat of living organism, for trees may serve as shelter for animals.

Since the last few months, there is an interesting issue namely organic farming.  Throughout these times, conventional farming using chemical substances have been more popular.  While organic farming use only natural compounds, for example organic fertilizers (e.g. compost, manures), organic pesticides, and so forth.  These naturat compounds are easily degradable within the soil, maintain its fertilility, while preventing environmental pollution.

Discussions on organic farming started from BIRU Programme, initiated by socialisation activities, or tracing and proving the benefits of biogas reactor and bio slurry sludge, as well as exposing the success stories of users who have successfully put biogas reactor to use in their daily life.  The utilisation includes biogas for cooking, lighting purposes, and use bio slurry fertiliser for agriculture and plantation crops.

During various occassions, it turned out that the introduction of bio slurry has been very well appreciated by organic farmers.  Bio slurry may be utilised as fertilisers and pesticides without incurring additional costs.  Therefore, it would be possible to save the costs associated with acquiring fertilsers for they are readily available without the hassles of processing.  In addition, more and more farmers are convinced that organic farming is the best solution, for they produce healthy and natural foods.  Moreover, it will enable us to save the earth and pass it on to the future generations.

Farmers confess that throughout these times they have damaged the natural environment, by using chemical substances in agriculture.  These actions gradually deteriorate the soil structure and pollute the environments.  The effect of soil destroyed by chemical substances includes deteriorating content of nutrients, thus reduce the productivity level of the land.  Soil becomes unhealthy.  Often time, human are not aware about these issues. They become complacent amidst destructive practices which may endanger the life on earth and the natural conservation.  Therefore, it is necessary to have a solid movement to overcome all of these issues, starting from each individual.

The supporters of organic farming are convinced that healthy and balanced lifestyle will enable us to save the earth.  When our body desires for healthy and natural foods, we of course have to select healthy and natural foods.  We will be able to obtain healthy and natural food, provided that our natural environments and earth are healthy and their sustainabilities are preserved.  Healthy and natural foods will be produced through healthy and natural agriculture.  Healthy and balance natural cycles and undisrupted cycle will provide safe and conducive living for all living things within.

Observe the cycle of biogas reactor and integrated organic farming (natural farming) below as illustrated by Chart 1.  Provided that it is properly applied, all cycles shall proceed flawlessly without any interruption.  We can eventually find out that the final outcome are family health and prosperity.  Healthy and prosperous conditions will enable human beings to carry on their activities in a better way, including such activities as farming, raising cattle, and so forth.  Children will grow and develop properly, they will be able to pursue their educations, become more civilised and dignified human beings.

Starting from the bottom part of the eco-friendly domestic biogas reactor of BIRU Programme, in which the raw materials of this reactor are provided through manures without any air pollution.  It is very useful for the household as a source of energy for cooking and lighting purposes.  The residue produced by the biogas (called bio-slurry fertiliser) may be put to use as fertiser in agriculture and plantation activities.  The residues of agriculture and plantation activities in the forms of hays, leaves, tree lumps and so forth may be put to use for cattle and fish feeds.  Meanwhile, manures may be put to use as the raw materials of biogas reactor.

Unless, manures are properly utilised, they will pollute the environment.  The presence of domestic biogas reactor has helped the communities.  In addition to producing renewable energy, biogas reactor may lead to cleaner environment for the manures have been properly utilised.  In the mean time, the harvest of agriculture commodities, plantation, fish cultures, and cattle farming will be beneficial for the household.  The commodities produced may be for self-consumption as well as for sale.  Similar to the benefits of biogas reactor which are for cooking and lighting purposes.

During the last two years, we may directly witness the evidences that in Lampung Province region, there are members of communities, specifically farmers who receive the benefits from BIRU Programme.  They have applied integrated organic farming in their daily life.  One of them is Subroto (50 years old) with a plant ID No. HBP 0029.  He resides in Sukaraja Nuban Village, RT16/RW006, Hamlet IV, Batanghari Nuban Subdistrict, East Lampung District.  Mr. Subroto (fondly referred as Pak Broto) has utilised biogas reactor for one year.  He was not hesitate to utilise bio-slurry in his entire farming activities in his house.

Within a 3-hectare land area surrounding his house, Pak Broto manages agricultural, plantation, fish farming, and cattle farming activities.  It is indeed some achievements that people can look up to as a model especially for those living in rural areas.  This is the real example that Pak Broto has a progressive mind, did not hesitate to take a bold move, ready to absorb the risks, and face extraordinary challenges.

He has known organic farming since his childhood and now it is part of his life.  He even let people who think that he is “insane” for wallowing with manures everyday.  However, slowly but surely, his persistence has led him to a success and proved that organic farming is the best solution, other than to conserve the natural environment, healthy and balance lifestyle, as well as fairness for the nature.

Integrated organic farming, that is unified enterprises consisting of plantation, aquaculture, and cattle farming may preserve the environment.  Below is an illustration of what Pak Broto has accomplished as a true manifestation of his love to earth.

When we visit Pak Broto’s home, he and his family will warmly welcome us.  He will be pleased to share his knowledge and experience on integrated farming activities in his own land.  In fact, often time, that friendly and warm welcome will be complemented with a treat comprising specific menus produced by his own land, which is free from chemical susbstances for sure.  To name a few these produce include natural rice, green vegetable and delicious shrimp paste chilli in addition to the crispy catfish ready to tantalise your taste buds.  All of those menus are humble yet delicious.

Pak Fatah Yasin, a leader at CPO YLPMD Lampung, is right when he said,”Foods cooked by organic (natural) ingredients taste good in your mouth, and easily digestible, and makes you feel good.”  It is unknown as to what the causes are, whether they are merely a sensation somehow.  But obviously I have expereinced the feelings.

Pak Broto started his story by saying that he has known organic farming since his childhood as taught by his late father.  Therefore, he rarely passed on any issue and information on organic farming.  Luckily, when he finally married, he decided to earn his livelihood by becoming a farmer.  Pak Broto started to apply his passion.  It has been more than three years, and Pak Broto has issued a bold statement that his farming activities are free from chemical substances.

Pak Broto is convinced that, natural ingredients are better to keep the body healthy, and natural ingredients are better to maintain soil fertility and enviornments.  Pak Broto has applied what is known as an integrated farming.  He is fully aware that integrated farming within an area, will be far less hassle for him to manage.  The cycle of food and energy supplies will flow relatively smooth.  And of course the natural balance and ecology will be preserved.

Starting from the agriculture and plantation, which of course the agricultural products will be very beneficial to support family food supplies.  Rice paddy and various existing crops found in the field, namely vegetables and fruits, will be available for family consumptions.  Pak Broto has started to grow various types of vegetable, some of them are cultured using polybags, while others are grown in the fields.  A variety of vegetables identifiable include long bean, chilli pepper, sweet leafbush, and eggplant.  Meanwhile for fruits are guava, papaya, and durian.

Meanwhile residues of agricultural and plantation activities include leaves, tree lumps, hays, and dregs may be put to used for his cattle feed.  Pak Broto engages in goats and cattle farming.  He has also planned to expand his duck farming.  He has just started farming the goats in recent months, while his cattle farming has been started for quite sometime.  Othan than using his animals to pilling his paddy fields, he also utilises the manures as the raw materials for manure fertilisers.  As he has now installed the biogas reactor, he uses the manures as the raw materials for the biogas.  He raises his cattles also for their meats and family consumption.  Occassionallly he sells his cattles when he needs a quite substantial amount of money.

While he uses manures generated by the cows and goats as the materials for producing domestic biogas, the biogas produced may be used for his household needs, such as for cooking and lighting purposes.  Biogas slurry is used to fertilise the plants, including rice paddy and vegetables grown in his own yard.

During the recent months, Pak Broto has also grown white ginger and red ginger, in an area occupying 3 parcels of land (1 parcel of land approximately is equivalent to 3m2).  Initially the plants were fertilised with factory-manufactured organic fertilisers based on the recommendation of a company which produces organic fertilisers.  However, as he was aware that bio-slurry fertilisers are readily available in while he was more convinced about the quality, Pak Broto then decided to replace the factory-produced fertilisers with bio-slurry.  Using bio-slurry allows him to save some money, too.

Pak Broto has also reared some catfish in a 32m2 pond, filled with as much as 4,500 seeds of catfish.  Initially those catfish were fed with taro’s leaves fertilised with bio-slurry.  However, presently a mixture of fish feed with pellet and bio slurry were fed to the catfish.  The harvested catfish may either be consumed by the family or sold in the market.  And today, Pak Broto has started to harvest his catfish after 2.5 months of rearing period. The yield was 150 kgs.  The price of catfish in his area is Rp 15,000/kg.

As for estate crops, Pak Broto has grown rubber trees in a land occupying a 1.5-hectare area planted by a PB-235 variety of approximately 1,000 stems.  Presently, the rubber trees have been fertilised by bio-slurry.  During the last one year, Pak Broto has been carrying 4 jerry cans or sometime 1 cart of bio-slurry to the field with a distance of almost 500 meters from his home.

According to Pak Broto, there are tangible differences following the fertilising of rubber trees by bio-slurry, that they look sturdy, the leaves look greener, and more rubber latexis produced.  Changes to the soil are apparent by more friable soil, soil crumbs as the place for earthworms’ breeding ground.  Falling leaves will quickly absorbed and degraded into the soil, unlike any other fertilisers, where it is slow for the falling leaves to decompose.

As for the rubber yields, out of a 1-hectare land, he can harvest a 300 kgs of rubber latex once a month.  Today the market price of the rubber latex is Rp 7,000/kg.  Meanwhile, he has not been able to harvest the white and red gingers, as the plants are only 5 months old.  In the meantime, the rice paddies which were planted between the rubber trees and house yards, have been harvested approximately 1.5 months ago and yielded around 1.6 tons out of a land occupying an area of 0.25 hectare.  Most of the rice paddy harvested were intended for family consumption, as the price of organic rice paddy is equal to a non-organic ones that is Rp 7,000/kg.  This is the primary reason why Pak Broto did not sell his rice, and use them up for his family consumption as part of the healthy food.

With regard to the workforce, members of Pak Broto’s family involve in the agricultural activities namely the father, mother, eldest daughter who has graduated from high school.  It happens that Pak Broto is blessed with two daughters, who have begun to be accustomed with and start to consider agriculture as part of their lives.  At times when Pak Broto is not home or travelling out of the town, his daughter and wife automatically take over the integrated farming activities in their home.  Additional workforces are necessary only during harvest time.

To be considered as purely 100 percent organic farming will be difficult and are beyond the affordability of our community.  As the requirements to be considered as organic farming, other than free from chemical substances of minimal between 2-3 years, the purity of source of water shall be free from any other contaminants.  Seeds and seedlings shall be free from chemical treatments.  What is equally important is to maintain the agricultural surrounding by controlling the pest and pathogens in a natural manner and keeping the impact of the surrounding environment which may still be affected by chemical residues.

This is about everything that the article on the biogas reactor and integrated farming in conjunction with the celebration of Earth Day.  Hopefully, the happy story of Pak Broto Family may inspire other families, especially farmer families in line with bringing the natural conservation, family health, and family prosperity to come true.  Let us show our love to our earth.

(Gayuh Tri Upayani, Lampung)

30 May 2016