Dutch farmers help Indonesian farmers
Practical training and advice for farmers in Indonesia
In 2011 the local Rabobank Alblasserwaard Noord en Oost adopted a Rabobank Foundation project that fits seamlessly with its own area of operations. Operating at the heart of the Dutch dairy farming sector itself, the bank and its board of members supports Tandangsari, a small Indonesian dairy cooperative. Members of the bank recently visited ‘their’ cooperative on West Java island for the second time, to train farmers and offer practical advice.
Rabobank Foundation’s aid to Tandangsari includes a loan to finance biogas plants and training and consultancy to further the cooperative’s development. The project was adopted by Rabobank Alblasserwaard as part of the Foundation’s adoption programme. Part of the so-called technical assistance is given by bank customers and members themselves and that has forged a strong bond between the bank and its project. Last year dairy farmer Cees de Jong from Alblasserwaard travelled to Indonesia to train and advise the farmers. Dairy farmers Arie van der Wel and Teunis Jacob Slob have recently returned from a second visit to the cooperative. They are impressed by the Indonesian farmers’ can-do attitude: “It’s really far from easy being a dairy farmer over there. The whole day the farmers have to milk by hand, as well as fetching feedstuffs, transporting milk and so on and so on. And in spite of that they’re always welcoming and cheerful and always helping one another.”
The biggest problem the farmers on West Java face is land scarcity. The majority of smallholders own no more than a couple of cows, but lack sufficient grass to feed them. Sometimes they are forced to sell stock to buy feed for the remaining animals. But the visiting Dutch farmers were able to spot some ‘quick wins’ in this regard. “We offered a range of practical tips that can be applied straight away. The biggest eye-opener as far as that goes was the festive way in which they celebrate the birth of a new calf: the family drinks the colostrum. The Indonesian farmers were unaware that the first milk after the birth is highly nutritious and packed with antibodies. As such it’s very important in ensuring that the calf gets a good start.”
At the level of the cooperative there’s also room for improvement. Joining forces with other cooperatives will give them more clout in dealing with local authorities, and neighbouring cooperatives can also learn a lot from another. The necessary contacts to bring this about have since been made. The Dutch farmers have also appealed to the local council authority for more grassland for Tandangsari members, but that will prove difficult to realise. City expansion and rice cultivation are competitors for scarce land resources.
Arie en Teunis are happy with how their trip turned out. ‘Rabobank Foundation can really make a difference here. Not only through practical advice and training like we gave, but also through its way of working. The Foundation ensures a healthy balance is maintained between self-generated initiatives and outside help.’ They were also pleased with how the farmers cooperate with one another. Teunis: “It was really positive to work together as fellow farmers. I saw that as extremely valuable and enriching, also for us.”