From Loggers to Community Champions through Organic Farming

By Wendy Tamariska, GPOCP Sustainable Livelihoods Manager
With the success and expansion of the organic farming group, Meteor Garden, we wish to introduce some of our proud farmers to our readers and supporters! The group was recently awarded an Improving Climate Initiative award from the Bupati of Kayong Utara and we celebrate this outstanding achievement.
Pak Ishak (above) is 34 years old and is one of the farmers supported by GPOCP. He lives in Pampang Harapan Village with his wife and two daughters.
Pak Zakaria is one of the younger members of the Meteor Garden farming group. He is 29 years old and comes from the same village as Pak Ishak. Pak Zakaria is married and has two children, one boy and one girl.
Both Pak Ishak and Pak Zakaria started out as loggers in order to provide for their families. They had few other alternative sources of income at the time. The demand for the wood came from the community around the village and was used for local needs such as building houses and developing village infrastructure. Usually logs collected were those that have fallen naturally, but the loggers would also specifically target certain trees including, Octomeles sumatrana, for furniture making, and, Artocarpus odoratissimus, for building material.
In 2017, Pak Ishak was arrested twice by forest security officers. He was let off with a warning as he was only cutting wood to meet the basic needs of his village. He was worried that if caught a third time he would not be let off so easy. So, Pak Ishak decided to talk to GPOCP’s Sustainable Livelihood team and helped form  a group of farmers, now called Meteor Garden (where he is currently the Chair!). His alternative livelihood  project is now cultivating organic vegetables on the 0.5 hectare plot behind his house. Here he grows eggplant, green beans and other delicious vegetables.
Meteor Garden members working together as an organic farming cooperative. Photos © GPOCP.
Pak Zakaria used logging to finance his studies as well as provide for his family. In 2010, Zakaria decided to stop logging due to the increased Forest Police patrols in the area. He decided to become a vegetable farmer using his family’s land in Pampang village.  Pak Zakaria used his savings from his previous work to start his vegetable garden. However, over the years, Pak Zakaria grew more and more frustrated by the increasing price of fertilizers every year. In October 2017, Pak Zakaria joined Meteor Garden with the hope of finding a solution. Pak Zakaria felt that Meteor Garden was the best opportunity for him to gain experience, develop agricultural techniques alongside fellow peers and find viable solutions to the agricultural problems he faced. Therefore, when GPOCP made a Compost House and trained farmers how to make compost from cow dung, Pak Zakaria was thrilled that his frustrations with fertilizer prices were already being addressed! Now, Pak Zakaria uses organic compost to cultivate his land and no longer buys expensive chemical fertilizers at the market.
Pak Ishak and Pak Zakaria are only two of our many success stories of how community capacity building and developing alternative (and sustainable) livelihoods best serves conservation. Pak Ishak and Pak Zakaria have become valuable members of the community and are consistently striving to develop not only the organic farming group but the community and conservation efforts across the region through new ideas workshops, and collaborations. Since joining Meteor Garden, each of our farmers has made a personal commitment to never log again! We are proud and grateful for their hard work and to all of our supporters who helped enable these programs!