Adaptation Strategies of Transmigrant Farmers

Pak Ramin is a successful farmer who grows a variety of vegetable crops on his 1.5 hectare farm. Having relocated from Java to Kalimantan, he says that he now leads a more prosperous life than he did in his hometown. But, he had to struggle for decades just to get to this point.

Ramin grows vegetables in both sandy soils and peat soils

In late 1991, Ramin and his wife arrived in Habaring Hurung, a peatlands village 30 kilometers north of the capital city of Central Kalimantan. The residents of the village were all sponsored to move here as part of a transmigration program offered during the Soeharto regime. When he arrived, he found that both his land and his house were inundated with water up to his thighs.

“We lived in the forest for the first five years because the land was still unplantable. Fortunately, we found that we could make money by harvesting gemor wood (Nothaphoebe coriacea) and jelutung (Dyera costulata) from the wild” Ramin explained.

“Our hope of cultivating the land arose after the government drained the land and built canals. Even though the land could not be planted immediately, the water at least began to recede.”

Once drained, he found his land to be composed only of shallow peat and sand. He realised he would have to alter the farming methods he had learned in Java.

Planting techniques

When planting, Ramin sometimes sows seeds directly into the ground, but he also plants them into raised-beds or polybags. He uses all three planting methods to ensure a good harvest.

The polybags are filled with a mixture of peat and goat manure

He primarily uses polybags when planting vegetables such as tomatoes and eggplant, celery, and kale. He also uses polybags to sprout woody plants like cashew trees.

“The plants may overheat if the polybag is not mixed with peat soil.  In addition, when they are moved, they can more easily adapt to the soil,” he explained. “I apply lime to the soil before applying manure and NPK to the beds. Urea is not appropriate for this area,” he added.

Ramin uses labour-intensive methods to ensure success

High input costs and low farm-gate prices

Ramin’s ability to cultivate his land is hampered by a lack of capital. He cannot produce seeds himself because the results are poor. He usually spends IDR 150,000 to IDR 175,000 on a package of seeds. But as he lives close to Palangka Raya, he can easily access seeds.

The rise in fertilizer prices concerns him. The average cost for 50 kg of cheap fertilizer is around IDR 1 million. Not to mention the price of lime at IDR  55,000 per sack (50kg) nor the organic manure he needs from goats and chickens, which he has to purchase from a nearby village.

Corn is his most profitable crop, with a fairly stable market price at IDR 2,500 per cob. He can produce 150 pieces of corn in a single harvest. While for long beans, prices can range widely from IDR 1,000 to IDR 7,000 per kg. The lower prices cannot provide a return on investment.

Nonetheless, Ramin says that there is high demand for vegetables in town, and his farm income has allowed him to support his four children all the way through senior high school. He has also managed to purchase a variety of vehicles; allowing him to get better prices for his fresh produce by transporting it himself, rather than going through middlemen.

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