Anang Maghfur, a Farmer-cum-Event Photographer

“Sir, this training aims at widening our horizon. A real education is actually available on a rice field itself.  So, if you find any new thing, be it a problem or a solution, do not forget to let us know,” said Anang Maghfur,34, a trainer and an SRI consultant facilitator,  in front of members of a farmer group Mitra Tani in Girimukti Village.

When found at the site that day, Anang, as he is popularly called, was busy providing guidance to farmers he met along the way. It was not something rare to find Anang get out into any rice fields. What makes him uneasy is only when he has to make sure that the camera he always carries wherever he goes will not be dirtied by the soil.

“To me, this camera is like the plow and hoe, which serve as tools to earn a living,” he said while showing off his camera. When not teaching and training people for SRI rice, or when not travelling throughout Indonesia to spread his knowledge about rice, or not attending to his own rice fields in Cilame Village, Anang works as a photographer for various events such as weddings, school graduations, family gatherings and others.

Initially, Anang, who hails from Kediri in East Java, was an electrician who came to Jakarta in 1995 to try his luck. After finding no suitable job, he decided to change direction by becoming an operator of photo printing machine in a photo studio in Bandung. In order to cover his daily living expenses, he spent his after office hours, from afternoon until evening, on running a street food business in a tent, selling fried catfish or locally called pecel lele and a Makassar’s signature dessert called es pisang ijo (bananas wrapped in green batter served with syrup and ice). “I could sell anything as long as it helps me to earn a living and is halal (lawful in Islam),” he recalled. A ten-year period of doing two kinds of work had eventually provided him another skill, that is, photography which he acquired through a learning-by-doing method when he worked as a photo printing machine operator.

Anang is no stranger to agriculture as his father owns rice fields in Kediri. Being all too familiar with the up and down of a farmer’s life, previously Anang was not attracted to be a farmer. However, later on in 2006, Anang attended a training on SRI organic rice. The training was held by BBWS Citarum. He and other fellow trainees also managed to sit in some lectures held in the faculty of agriculture at the Padjajaran University (UNPAD) in Jatinagor.

“In my opinion, this organic SRI method is different from conventional methods. I am interested in learning more about this due to a number of its positive aspects such as the relatively high price of the rice crop that gives more income to farmers, the use of natural pesticide and fertilizers which are made of vegetables and animal matter, a shorter crop cycle and more rice yield. These are the things that attract me to learn more about the method” said Anang. Another interesting aspect of the method is that its organic planting method is so environmentally friendly and done in a sustainable way right from its upstream to downstream elements.

“Because of the use of compost fertilizer, it creates a business opportunity in compost making and farmers could be trained to do so or even to make animal manure. As a result, the soil can be kept healthy and less prone to erosion,” he said enthusiastically. According to Anang, this SRI method also needs less water. It has a shorter planting period, that is, 8 days. While, using a conventional method takes as long as 25 days.

Anang’s involvement did not stop there. As he decided to add another profession to his job list by becoming a farmer like his father and also due to his persistent and enthusiastic character, Anang was asked by a farmer facilitation consultant to become an SRI trainer and facilitator.  He is also active in farmer facilitating works especially under BBWS’ working areas around West Java.

“Being relatively new is a weakness of the SRI method as it makes farmers doubtful in applying the method,” said Anang. Only after seeing the success of the method application achieved by their neighbors will farmers be usually attracted to try. “The SRI method requires farmers’ meticulousness and persistency. Even the planting could not be done carelessly.

For instance, plant spacing should be at the minimum of 25 cm x 25 cm, and sometimes the organic fertilizer should be made by the farmers themselves. In brief, this SRI method indirectly contributes to efforts to better educate farmers”. Becoming a trainer and facilitator provides Anang with a new opportunity to explore Indonesian archipelago, locally called Nusantara. After West Java, he expanded to Central and East Java, and then to Aceh, Jambi, Palembang and even Kalimantan. “Indonesian farmers are no less capable. Many of them are not only persistent but also creative. All they need is only to be facilitated and motivated,” he said proudly.

Anang recently found out that farmers from one of the villages he facilitates were successful in developing black and green rice seeds. He then produced the samples of organic paddy and rice.  “This one already got an international certification so that some areas including Tasikmalaya get their crops exported to the United States. While in many other areas, the crops are still good enough for personal or local consumption only.”

Having a double profession continues to boost Anang’s spirit and motivation. Now his colleagues eye him for the position of the deputy chairman of SRI Farmers Communication Forum whose establishment is still underway. “By having a communication forum, it will enable its members to share their knowledge and learn together. And this kind of forum will hopefully lead to various innovations,” he said optimistically.

It is not impossible, under a modern agricultural system, to see young generation being interested in agriculture. Within a rural context, rather than leaving a village for a city to seek for employments, rural youths can find their livelihoods in their own villages while develop the villages’ potentials through agriculture.