Farmers Reap Rewards

Article | 31 May 2009

A reliable source of irrigated water has helped farmers raise the living standards of their families.

The life of a rice farmer in Indonesia is one of backbreaking routine. Early mornings, long grueling days in the equatorial sun, and a meager income are but a few of the hardships endured by farmers.

Despite the daily trials of the rice fields, Suradiyo, a 68-year old farmer and father of three, still considers himself lucky. Before an ADB-supported irrigation project was introduced in his village of Bojong, outside of Yogyakarta, he could only harvest one crop of rice each year, making it difficult to take care of his family's basic needs.

Fivefold Harvest Returns

Today, he's able to reap two annual rice crops from his one-third hectare plot of land, and the yield of each crop has dramatically increased as well, raising his overall production fivefold. Along with corn, papaya, and chili pepper crops, he has significantly bolstered his family's standard of living, and assured his children a better future.

"When the project first came along my children were in school, and we needed help with their education," Mr. Suradiyo says. "They were all able to graduate from high school because of the extra money we earned."

Because of decentralization, the local water users' associations now manage local water allocation, maintain canals, and collect fees themselves

And all because of a dam. The 58-meter Sermo Dam, a key component of the ADB supported Integrated Irrigation Sector Project, provides water for a rehabilitated and upgraded irrigation system feeding 7,000 hectares of cropland, and benefiting 18,000 farming families.

The overall project, which includes the dam, covers 110,000 hectares and benefits about 260,000 poor and near-poor farm families by accelerating agricultural development in major rice-producing provinces. The project has increased farm productivity, created employment opportunities, and improved the living standards of poor farmers.

In the past, water management in Indonesia was centrally controlled. Because of decentralization efforts, the operation and maintenance of irrigation projects was transferred from central to provincial agencies, as well as community water users' associations such as that of Mr. Suradiyo.

The local water users' associations manage local water allocation, maintain canals, and collect fees themselves. The result has been higher crop yields, and greater income for farmers.

Sharing Responsibilities

"By sharing responsibilities and authority, the government lessens the burdens for all parties," says water users' association leader Nuryanto Kamisan. "And when problems arise, it's easier to manage because it's clear who's in charge."

Even with his dramatically higher annual rice yield, Mr. Suradiyo still lives humbly. The days are still long, and he still must process his rice crops one handful at a time, with a rickety, pedal-powered thresher. Rising costs for rice seedlings, fertilizer, and other agricultural inputs are also cutting into his modest profits.

"We don't live a luxury life. We can't even afford a motorcycle," he says. Still, Mr. Suradiyo is optimistic.

"Now we have enough money to get by, and we don't have to take out loans for the things we need," he says. "I'm happier now. Life is easier."

The dam provides water for a rehabilitated and upgraded irrigation system, feeding 7,000 hectares of cropland and benefiting 18,000 families.