Maya's Practice of Organic Farming Promotes Economic Opportunity for Villagers in Mojokerto

Following the story of Maya Stolastika Boleng reminds me of a book I once read titled Menciptakan Kesempatan Rakyat Berusaha. The book is written by Pak Bus, a nickname for Dr. B.S. Kusmuljono who is an expert in microfinance, financial management, and sustainable development. One of the chapters in the book highlights the advantages of organic farming.  Organic farming tends to be ignored due to the assumption that natural wealth is so abundant that humans can adopt limitless consumption.

The fact is that there is no such thing as unlimited natural resources. As the population increases, immediate measures have to be taken to save the earth in order to continually serve our needs properly. If we opt for being greedy and exploitative, then destruction is inevitable. The UN estimates that the world population today amounts to 8 billion people and the number is expected to increase to 9.8 billion by 2050. What will likely occur if the natural resources are not commensurate with the growing population?

Organic vegetables are healthier for consumption and higher profit for farmers. (Personal doc)

That makes organic farming a logical preference. Pak Bus further suggests in his book that organic farming cultivation is more economical because it uses local seeds, compost, and natural pesticides. This type of farming also saves water and helps maintain the soil nutrients. Quite the opposite, inorganic farming comes with high production costs due to the need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides in order that crop production levels be maintained but with an increasingly high risk of agricultural land damage.

From English learning to organic farming

Maya Stolastika Boleng is a truly inspiring person. This young woman from East Flores has dedicated herself to helping local farmers in Claket, a village in Pacet, Mojokerto, East Java. Through her passion for organic farming, she decided to venture into eco-farming which generates income for the people where she lives.

Purwati is a name worth mentioning. The 42-year-old woman is a happy member of Kelompok Tani Madani as she confessed to receiving huge benefits from joining the farmers' group under Maya’s assistance. In addition to gaining knowledge on organic farming, Purwati has the opportunity to earn extra money from what she does.

She said that the money she collects from selling organic vegetables has helped with her family's economy. “I can use the money for daily expenses as well as my kid’s allowance.”

She also claimed to have practiced organic farming at home. She grows a number of vegetables organically in her yard so that her neighbors would join her in organic farming that proves to be productive. The more people who follow the movement, the merrier Maya have been.

Always enthusiastic about helping local farmers and saving the planet (Doc. Maya Stolatsika Boleng)

But her journey was clearly not an odyssey of celebrated heroines normally found in dramatized movies. Neither was it an instant success one could easily dream of. Maya had to struggle for years to promote organic farming before local people were willing to join her all along. She confidently informed them that this type of farming would be able to save the planet while providing economic significance.

Back then, Maya was actually studying English literature at Universitas Negeri Surabaya (Unesa). She started to develop an affinity for organic farming when she was taking a yoga class on campus. The session left her to realize the importance of life balance.

When resistance was met with persistence

Her penchant for healthier farming grew even stronger when she met a nun in Claket. The nun voluntarily taught her about organic farming which made Maya determined to farm organically since 2008. It was not until 2017 that she began to encourage people in the village. She was speaking to 40 local farmers about organic farming but only five of them were enthusiastic about the newly introduced way of farming. 

Despite the negative response, she wouldn’t give up hope. Instead of feeling discouraged, she continued to teach about organic farming as a way to improve the agricultural land that has long been dependent on chemical fertilizers and pesticides. She simply understood that their resistance is due to a lack of understanding about the benefits of organic farming both from economic and health perspectives.

“I want to contribute to the environmental improvement. This way I can have healthier agricultural lands,” said she with self-assurance.

She would not stop just because she was met with resistance. Her commitment to organic farming has made Maya let go of a job offer from a German company of organic products soon after her graduation in 2011. While living in a rural area over the fancy life of Surabaya was quite challenging, standing before her parents on her decision was even harder. Luckily, they agreed to let her work on what she loves instead of taking a job in line with her college major.

Her persistence finally paid off. From one group named Kelompok Tani Madani founded in 2017, Maya could have two more groups including Kelompok Tani Swadaya and Kelompok Mia Tani. While Kelompok Tani Madani is the first group that practiced organic farming in the village, the other two are assigned to grow different produce.

Kelompok Tani Swadaya will be working on blackberry and raspberry whereas Kelompok Mia Tani on strawberry. More to the point, the produce by these groups is free from pesticides and chemical fertilizers. The vegetables grown in the local fields are cultivated using eco-friendly fertilizers, i.e. manure and compost. Farmers in the village are also trained to grow particular flowers to keep pests away.

Longer but more profitable 

Maya recounted that organic farming is absent from intervention in terms of growth acceleration and harvest time. This results in a longer time to harvest for organic farming as compared to conventional type. Carrots, for instance, that are grown conventionally will be ready for harvest in three months. In contrast, similar plants grown organically will need six months before they are ready for harvest.

Maya chose to sell her products directly to consumers (Doc.

Since local farmers under Maya’s guidance have produced quality vegetables, the sale is lucrative. In preference to middlemen, Maya and her groups chose to bypass the chain of distribution by founding Twelve’s Organic to sell their products. Farmers only grow and sort their vegetables. As for packaging and distributing the products to the consumers, there will be a marketing team in charge. Young farmers are assigned to assist her in marketing and distribution.

Most sales are made directly through WhatsApp. In addition to serving 90 loyal consumers, Twelve’s Organic also supplies organic vegetables to two supermarkets and two restaurants in Surabaya. Harvested twice a week, the vegetables collected amount to 20 kilograms of various types. As for the price, they are relatively costlier than those grown conventionally. The cost of organic products is three times more than conventional farming would make for one kilogram.

With this method of selling, higher profit can be made. Farmers will collect different amounts of money based on how much vegetables they can harvest and sell. To make it more appealing, consumers are invited to feel the garden fresh market experience. In this regard, they are offered to pick the vegetables they desire right in the garden. They may come and get Twelve’s Organic products as they please. The vegetables are then cleaned, weighed, and paid for.

Astra’s appreciation for outstanding dedication

The concept of a fresh market has turned out to be favorable to the consumers. While enjoying organic vegetables, they also have the opportunity to learn organic farming in Twelve’s Organic which proves to be healthier. No wonder students of various universities come to become interns on the premises.

In honor of Maya’s contribution to the economic opportunity for local farmers as well as her passion for environmental protection, PT Astra International, Tbk awarded her SATU Indonesia Awards in 2019. She was named one of the recipients of the prestigious awards for the environmental category.

From Maya’s incredible story, we can deduce that hard work never fails to reward us. No matter how trivial a work may be, what matters is that we carry on despite any refusals or oppositions. A popular English idiom might be perfect to end this article. No pain no gain, that’s what we should focus on. There is no easy way to succeed. In order to make progress, we must be ready to suffer and work hard. 

Maya Stolastika Boleng has made it clear that every struggle will finally pay off. With her practice of organic farming, local farmers are improved economically and the environment is protected so that we can live on a safer planet and eat healthier food. Indonesian youngsters should look up to Maya and dare to embrace a similar journey for a better Indonesia in the future.   


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