Stories of Change

Arkilaus and Yunten with their second child, 2-year-old Sastri.

CWS programs in Indonesia reached more than 25,000 people last year.

Fresh, nutritious vegetables for eight families through drip irrigation

Poverty isn’t fair.

It just isn’t. So many families around the world are doing everything right and still don’t have enough food on the table or a way to meet their basic needs. They work hard, day after day, but something larger prevents them from making progress.

That was the situation that Arkilaus Leku and his wife Yunten Betty were in early last year. They are subsistence farmers like most of their neighbors. “I used to plant several types of greens and tomatoes,” Arkilaus explains.

So why weren’t they making progress? It’s the same plague that affects far too many families: a lack of information.

“Since we didn’t know to fertilize or eliminate pests properly, we had frequent crop failures that have made our situation worse,” said Arkilaus. Crops would fail, and that meant that the family couldn’t afford to buy new seeds to plant. It was a worsening spiral of poverty.

Despite their poverty, though, this was a couple that was going to work hard to provide for their family. That’s why they were invited to join our Timor Zero Hunger program last July. They joined lots of lessons and workshops to get that vital missing ingredient in their farming: new information. They learned about how to keep a home garden going with scarce water. They learned about organic pesticide and fertilizer use. They learned about how to raise chickens to improve their family’s diet – for eggs and meat. They received the information that they need along with the assets to get started, like chickens. With these new food sources in place, Yunten also joined some cooking classes and information sessions about health and nutrition. In October, she joined her community’s women’s savings group, which CWS also supports.

Arkilaus and Yunten represent one of eight families in their newly-formed home gardening group. Six months after getting involved in the Timor Zero Hunger program, the families launched their gardening group so that they could work together on a community garden. First, they had a discussion about how feasible it would be to start a community garden with a drip irrigation system, given the limited availability of water. They decided to move ahead, and agreed on how the land would be divided up among them for cultivation. Their work began in earnest in May when they cleared the land and prepared beds for chili, tomatoes, cabbage, bitter melon and watermelon and for a seed nursery. Then, they built a reservoir, added irrigation pipes and installed the drip hose. And finally, it was time to plant and then harvest!

The group’s first harvest was in September. All eight families are now enjoying a supply of fresh, nutritious vegetables. So far, the families have eaten all of the vegetables, but once they are more established they will begin to sell extra vegetables for profit.

“With assistance from CWS we learned about many new things, especially drip irrigation. We now know how to make proper vegetable beds, how to install plastic mulch, which is a new thing for us in this village and maybe even for the whole sub-district community,” says Arkilaus. [As noted on Wikipedia, plastic mulch “is a product used, in a similar fashion to mulch, to suppress weeds and conserve water in crop production and landscaping.”] “With plastic mulch and drip irrigation, we don’t need to water the plants ourselves. That saves us a lot of time and effort while saving a lot of our scarce water, too. Because of the plastic mulch we have practically no weeds at all, so we don’t need to weed the plots much.”

Arkilaus went on to talk about what he learned about picking good seeds, creating a nursery and increasing production. Then he said, “My family and others in the group will continue working hard to make sure our drip irrigation pilot succeeds [and that all of our hard work is productive] toward a better future for all of us.”