Special Interview with Mr. Utema Silan

Last updated: 29 October 2013  |  14:34
indonesia agriculture north sumatera
Mr. Utema has been working for the Dinas Pertanian Agricultural Service of North Sumatra, Indonesia since 1981. With a wealth of experience in the Plant Protection Division, Mr. Utema is now responsible for developing research on bio-control for staple foods and horticultural crops at the Agricultural Service in North Sumatra.

What kind of services does your organization provide to farmer/smallholder groups?

Normally, our organization performs four key functions. First, we do field observations in farmer’ s fields in order to get current situational data on pests and diseases in the area and this data is then analysed in order to provide the best advice or recommendations to farmers in managing pests and diseases. Secondly, we provide training to farmers, through farmers groups, on pest and disease management with an emphasis on biological control. The training programme started with basic knowledgeabout biological control (theory) up to field practices. Following on from the training initiative, we also established plant clinics in several villages to provide centres of information on pest and disease control, covering the areas of identification, diagnosis and control. Moreover, the organization provides facilities and equipment for farmers, through farmers groups, to produce their own biocontrol agents via Biocontrol Development Centres in several villages.

What is your participation in the ASEAN Biocontrol Project?

As you may know, the ASEAN BiocontrolProject is a regional programme andIndonesia is one of among ten ASEANcountries taking part. Connecting to thefarmers and the transfer of knowledge isvery important. My part is exploiting theexisting agricultural networks andcooperatives to reach directly to farmers inNorth Sumatra. I act as a training resourceperson for the Integrated Public PrivatePartnership (iPPP) and I am involved in theestablishment of a training centre on how togrow horticultural crops in highland areas onan ecological basis by using biological inputat an agro tourism facility; the TamanSimalem Resort. In this respect, the maintasks are to train both staff at the TamanSimalem Resort and farmer groups, and toestablish a laboratory. I will contribute topromote good agronomic practices with anemphasis on using biological pesticides formanaging fruit fly infestation in orange7farms belonging to smallholders. This willhappen at the beginning of 2012 under theiPPP in North Sumatra, Indonesia.

From your perspective, what is the situation on using pesticides in Indonesia and what isthe trend in the use of bio-pesticides?

north sumatra agriculture Farmers’ knowledge about the“ green environment” and green issuesimproved quickly after the Farmers FieldSchools programmes were conducted at thebeginning of the 1990’ s when farmers weretrained in how to grow crops properly withan emphasis on an eco-friendly approach,for example reducing pesticide use andpromoting biocontrol as an alternative. Thefarmers already understood the adverseeffects of pesticides and they also knew thatthere were other alternatives such as biopesticides.However, the accessibility oravailability of this alternative is very limited,unlike chemicals. We still need morecontinuous effort to promote bio-pesticideuse through training courses andgovernment and private sector mediacampaigns. The high demand for pesticidefreeor organic products is a great incentivefor farmers to use bio-pesticides. It benefitsthe farmers economically and indeed someof them realize that it also keeps their farmclean, healthy and keeps the ecosystem inharmony. The potential of bio-pesticides useis high but again more comprehensivesupport is needed from various actors suchas governments, NGOs, the private sectorand buyers/consumers.

In which area do you think the ABC project can support smallholders achievesustainable eco-friendly farming?

This is quite interesting. The project cansupport smallholders directly and indirectly.Directly through technical and non-technicaltraining (community development), mediacampaigns and support in field trials in orderto gain access to bio-pesticides and tostrengthen the knowledge and confidence ofthe farmers in the use of bio-pesticides.Indirectly, it can be achieved throughproviding market access (buyers) for theiragricultural products; and also throughinitiatives that help the private sector (biopesticidescompanies) to produce highquality bio-pesticides at a reasonable price.In terms of crops, I think rice, vegetable andfruit cultivation should be put as a priorityagri-food sector in our area.