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Promotio Iustitiae
At the service of Faith that does Justice   

Ecofarming and Green Commerce: A Jesuit Agricultural Training Centre in Indonesia

Greg Soetomo SJ

The greenhouse effect is globally recognized as a leading factor affect­ing climate change and the environmental crisis. The gases responsi­ble for the greenhouse effect are chiefly carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (N2O) and methane (CH4). These gases have varying global warming potentials. The escalation of greenhouse gases is caused by humans and human activity. The responsibility for damage caused must be placed at the door of agriculture (15%, ), depleted rain forests (15%) , activity in the fields of chemistry and physics (20%), and energy use and traffic (50%.)

       CO2 is the most significant gas relating directly to climate, and as such it has 22% responsibility for the greenhouse effect. Agriculture's CO2 emission comes from both direct consumption of oil and fuel and indirect consumption of energy (e.g. fertilizers, and pesticides). On the basis of gross emission estimates, most studies find a lower CO2 emission in organic systems on a per hectare scale.

       In the light of this is there any reason to dream of so-called ecological farming? We believe there is.


        Generally speaking, agriculture has had constructive effects as well as harmful effects on the ecosystem in terms of wildlife management and landscaping. The role played by ecofarming on wildlife maintenance is however only positive, and indeed very promising.

       Ecological farming, which is also called organic farming, may be characterized as a system of managing agricultural holdings without the use of fertilizers and chemical pesticides. A farming system based on the exclusion of these harmful inputs claims to be environmentally sensitive and less damaging than conventional farming.

       Ecofarming systems rely, to the maximum extent feasible, on crop rotations, crop residues, animal manure, legumes, green manure, off-farm organic wastes, and measures of biological pest control to maintain soil productivity, to supply plant nutrients and to control insects, weeds and other pests. Organic farming, deriving from its ideological background, may be defined as farming based on the concept of the farm as an organism in which all components - soil, plant and animal - interact to maintain a stable system.

       A comparative study assessing the environmental and resource use impacts of ecofarming and conventional farming system shows that organic farming performs better than conventional farming according to a majority of the environmental indicators.

 New Power

        Seven hundred years ago religion exercised far more authority than any other force on the planet. Its place was taken two hundred years ago by the state or government. Today the most powerful and influential force is business or commerce. Business is arming itself to lead society towards global oneness. At the same time capitalism is indeed at a crossroads as it faces worldwide environmental change and a growing backlash against globalization. Companies are at a crossroads too: finding new strategies for profitable growth is now more challenging than it has ever been. Both sets of problems are intimately linked.

       In this global situation a few multinational corporations (MNCs) are also engaged in finding solutions to social and environmental problems. More sustainable technologies are being developed to support these efforts. Despite all these innovations, however, about four billion people have been left behind by globalization.

       Our centre, Kursus Pertanian Taman Tani (KPTT ), has a dream of sustainable products and technologies to drive new growth and at the same time help solve today's most crucial social and environmental problems.

 A Response by KPTT

        Kursus Pertanian Taman Tani (KPTT Agricultural Training Center) is a Jesuit-run Agricultural Training Centre with a vision of imparting an integrated organic farming-based training that can sustain entrepreneurial society. Founded in 1965, and located in Salatiga, Central Java, Indonesia, this boarding school, of which Fr. Y Wartaya Winangun, SJ, has been director since 2004, has produced thousands of graduates: 1116 (one-year course); 2399 (3 months course); 269 (short course; 2006 - 2009); 9116 (pre-school and elementary school students' exposure (2004 - 2009).

       The declining interest in agriculture among students is not peculiar to Indonesia; it is worldwide. Why? How can students be made to take an interest in agriculture?

       A case from the Netherlands seems very interesting. The former Agricultural University of Wageningen removes "agriculture" from its name, a decision taken by the. board when the number of students enrolling for the university kept declining year after year. It was noted that this was not the case with the Dutch technical universities. Once the name was changed, the number of students seeking admission increased. Should KPTT (Agricultural Training Course) transform itself to KATT (Agribusiness Training Course)? Change of name is certainly not enough; it should be followed by system, fresh institutional mindset, and transformation of the whole staff. As a matter of fact, KPTT, according to its vision and mission statements, has been trying through its training curriculum to educate young people to be agri-entrepeneurs as well as organic farmers.

       If the environmental problems of the earth are to be solved, harmonizing profit- seeking and sustainability need to go hand in hand. We are convinced that environmental concerns can be alleviated while spreading prosperity to those at the base of the pyramid, the four billion poor thus far ignored by the global market. Our concern is to discover how the poor can also participate, through small to medium agri-commercial enterprises, in environmental-based agricultural business.

       KPTT's raison d'être is to provide an agenda for farming entrepreneurs to harmonize concerns for our planet with moneymaking and it does this by clearly highlighting the connection between the two. This is a turning point in the debate about the emerging role and responsibility of business in society.


 KPTT's curriculum for ecological-based agricultural training in relation with business skill has four bases:

1. Emphasizing the Practical Basis: KPTT provides a strong emphasis on practicalities. The weakness is lack of the theoretical understanding behind the practices.

2. Offering Sustainable Agriculture Principles: The contemporary idea of Indonesian agriculture is "how to create true sustainable agriculture in this country".

3. Stressing the Local Context: The participants, who come from all over Indonesia, learn the local challenges of Indonesian agriculture. This is important in a huge country like Indonesia with its with three time zones and distinct soil types, crops, nature, climates, cultures.

4. Providing a Strategic Focus: KPTT focuses on two training skills : 1. Technical Farming skills; 2. Business Skills


 1. Knowledge of Organic Farming

2. Soil Fertility

3. Designing an Organic Farming Project

4. Producing Organic Pesticide

5. Managing and Maintaining Organic Farming

6. Husbandry

7. Biogas: Alternative Energy

8. Organic-processed Agricultural Products

9. Understanding Nutrition in the Products of Organic Farming

10. Agribusiness Management.

11. Leadership

12. Communication skills

KPTT's Dream: Beyond Greening

         A genuine concern about environmental-friendly agriculture is widely prevalent among Indonesian farmers. 'Greening' is the important first step. But this incremental development will only reduce the speed of environmental damage. The nature of business, however small it might be, invents new forms of 'natural capitalism'. If we want business and environment to go hand in hand, we need something "beyond", something that it is culturally appropri­ate, environmentally sustainable and economically profitable. We are required to turn eco-efficient in order to be eco-effective. We must go beyond greening.

       By moving beyond greening, communities engaged in agribusinesses hope not only to concentrate on de-escalating social and environmental alarms, but also to underpin processes of innovation and growth in the coming decades. This can be done, first, by inventing new and clean technologies that use renewable energy or biomaterials; and second, by chasing and bringing the benefits of capitalism not only to privileged communities at the top but to all human beings, including the four billion people who have been bypassed by market fundamentalism.

 Can innovative technologies become available to the poor?

         Considering the demand for new technologies and markets, the concept of "beyond greening" offers great opportunities, but is also attended by high risks. If that is the case, it is usually the poor who will suffer the most.

       The case of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, however, shows how a dream for a better life is possible for those who have lost out in a market-oriented world. Muhammad Yunus has for decades been driven by the dream of a bank for the poorest of the poor. After many talks with them, he sensed that the poor are tireless workers who know where to go. But they simply don't have any access to funds to better their quality of life. He founded the Grameen Bank to meet that need.

       A similar motivation lies behind KPTT's effort to re-design its course curriculum on ecological agriculture by concentrating on "the production of healthy food without damaging nature and environment for the everyday market and not just for the happy view of those who can afford it."

       That curriculum must train students to use their own imagination concerning green food production. The curriculum will have four dimensions:

1. Offering in-depth knowledge about organic food production.

2. Learning how to make innovative ideas a reality.

3. Forming attitudes of practical respect and love for nature and agriculture

4. Imparting communication skills (written and spoken)

 What we can hope for International Jesuit Networking

 1. With its focus on marketing and business skills is there any comparable Jesuit institution that KPTT might learn from? Networking with Jesuit schools of business and commerce would be very helpful.

2. Making 'natural capitalism' workable in an effective and progressive way, a centre like KPTT should work together with other Jesuit technical schools that produce green and clean technologies.

3. In the area of human resources management, how can we transform the skills and knowledge of our staff as well as their way of thinking to be in line with our new vision and mission, helping to integrate agricultural training and 'beyond green' commerce? So far, KPTT has developed its staff policy according to good social labour standards. Now KPTT wants to work according to human resource management (HRM) principles. That means that KPTT does not see employees merely as costs but as a source of knowledge and as a resource for permanent innovation.

4. Develop possibilities for retraining courses for the staffs and graduates.

 1Greg Soetomo, SJ Editor of Jakarta-based Catholic Weekly Magazine HIDUP and communicator among Jesuit social-apostolates in Indonesia.


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