United Nation Ambassador Visits IRED Project in East Sumba

12 Jun 2019

Team of Wahana Visi Indonesia with UN Ambassador, ICRAF World Agroforestry Centre team and delegation of World Vision Australia. The visit is to see the palotang technic which has been implementing in East Sumba.

Everyone in East Sumba knows sandalwood tree. It was popular until the ‘90s. Because of its enchantment, the island of Sumba, East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia was nicknamed as sandalwood's island. There was a high demand for sandalwood trees because of the quality of the wood which is desirable for the furniture industry and can also be processed for expensive perfume materials. It made many people cut and sell it. As a result, the number of sandalwood trees in its own home has dropped dramatically.

The existence of myths among the Sumba people that sandalwood trees are the trees of the gods. It confined people to plant them. They assume, if they continue to insist on planting it, then disaster will befall on them and their grandchildren. In addition, not many people know proper sandalwood farming techniques. Sandalwood is a parasite plant, so it needs a host to grow bigger. However, it is rarely known by farmers and causes them to be reluctant to plant because they have failed in many times. In fact, according to plant experts, sandalwood is suitable if planted in areas in East Sumba which are generally rocky soils.

It was also confirmed by the UN Ambassador for Dry Land, Dennis Philip Garity (6-9 May 2019) in a courtesy meeting with the regional government led by East Sumba Regent Bupati, Umbu Lili Pekuwali.

"Sandalwood on Sumba is one of the best sandalwoods in the world, but now there are few sandalwoods found. I encourage the government to be able to see this potential and convince the community to plant sandalwood. For instance, by raising a policy from the government to plant 50-100 trees per household, "he said.

Dennis visited East Sumba for he heard that the island of Sumba is a dry area because of limited rainfall (3-4 months) and rocky land, therefore, people have difficulty cultivating it. Moreover, the interesting impression he wanted to witness was the movement of greening savannas and maintaining springs and land use to improve the economy of farmers by planting trees and maintaining wild trees with the technique of palotang (the language of East Sumba which means caring for and cleaning).

This Palotang activity received assistance and support from the Indonesian Rural Economic Development (IRED) project initiated by Wahana Visi Indonesia Area Program of Sumba Timur and funded by the Australian Government.

After visiting five villages, he concluded that the Palotang movement should have the full support of the government and all parties so that the problems caused by droughts such as lack of clean water, crop failure, wildfires, and hunger can be overcome. From his observations during a visit in the village, planting Gliricidia sepium and Leucaena leucocephala trees and preserving wild trees in the savanna area will increase the volume of soil (which was originally thin due to rocks) so it increases the soil to fertile agricultural land. In addition, he gave advice on planting mangoes because mango is one of the plants that are suitable for dry areas.

The UN Ambassador for Dry Land also compared his visit to other dry regions in the world. He said that East Sumba still has a lot of potentials to be developed, one of which is its extensive land. He also commented that savanna burning activities that harm the environment often occur in East Sumba.

"Savanna burning because of the lack of animal fodder can be overcome by providing animal feed banks that can be provided by doing palotang in all villages," he continued.

Responding to the description of the UN Ambassador to Dry Land, East Sumba Deputy Regent, Umbu Lili Pekuwali expressed his gratitude.

"The regional government has also worked well with WVI and continues to support the Palotang activities in the assisted villages of WVI. Together with the Environmental Agency, we have also formed the Fire Brigade in District and Village level,"

Furthermore, he hopes the IRED program keep on continuing. Moreover, he appreciated the success of the Palotang activities which have begun to show results in turning barren land into fertile.

Together at the visit of the inventor of the Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) concept, Anthony Rinaudo, ICRAF World Agroforestry Center Team and World Vision Australia.


Written by: Uliyasi Simanjuntak, staf Area Program Sumba Timur Wahana Visi Indonesia

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