Image for Rediscovering native crops in Indonesia

Rediscovering native crops in Indonesia

Meet the woman who mobilised other women to plant 30 acres of crop from hardy heritage varieties

Meet the woman who mobilised other women to plant 30 acres of crop from hardy heritage varieties

People, not production lines. Farms, not factories. Agriculture, not agri-business. From ice covered northern Sweden to the depths of the Amazon rainforest, the following stories tell of the men, women and families who supply 70 per cent of the world’s food. They challenge the myth that we need industrial agriculture to feed an increasing population. Could small-scale farming offer solutions to the planetary crises we face – from climate disruption to species mass extinction? 

Reproduced from We Feed the World, an exhibition by the Gaia Foundation.

Maria Loretha spent months travelling from village to village, talking to the elders, before she eventually found the ancient sorghum seed varieties that used to grow prolifically in this region of Indonesia. The native crop – now known in the west for its superfood qualities – had all but died out on the island of East Flores after successive governments encouraged farmers to grow commercial white rice varieties instead. They dubbed sorghum an inferior crop that should be fed to animals.

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Loretha set about mobilising the women of the Likotuden area to plant 30 acres of sorghum from the heritage varieties she had collected. The crop is more labour intensive, but requires less water – critical in a changing climate – and is more nutritious than other grains. For these women, sorghum has proved to be a route to independence, allowing them to break free from a reliance on chemical fertilisers and pesticides, from the devastating impact of drought and from a cycle of poverty.

Image: highly chemical-dependent plants struggled in this part of Indonesia. As successive crops failed, families were left hungry and in debt. By preserving ancient varieties, Loretha has helped to break this cycle

In photos: rediscovering native crops in Indonesia

Photography by Martin Westlake

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