The man walked slowly past several gamal tree stands covered with vanilla plants in the garden behind the house. He then stacked the coconut husks he had brought with him, circling the other gamal tree stands on the 50 x 30 meter plot. “I planted 100 vanilla trees,” he said (20/2). He is Yehuda Kmur, a 38 year-old Head of Warlef Village, Senggi District, Keerom Regency. His age is relatively young for village heads in Papua, who are mostly over 50 years old.
Yehuda was one among 14 village heads who participated in the 3-day Village Head Workshop (Workshop Kepala Kampung / WKK), back in October 2022 in Wambes Village, Keerom District, Papua. The Village Head Workshop is a series of School of Eco-Involvement (SEI) activities aimed for improving village resilience. The program was held by EcoNusa Foundation together with the Keerom Regency Government, the Intsia Foundation, and PTPPMA (Perkumpulan Terbatas untuk Pengkajian dan Pemberdayaan Masyarakat Adat Papua). After this workshop, a Social Transformation School (STS) is planned for the same villages.
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When the other participants left, Yehuda chose to stay and attend STS. He was motivated to take part in the vanilla cultivation science lesson which was given during STS, as he’s also a novice vanilla farmer. As the head of the village, Yehuda is committed to encourage local communities in his village to consistently apply this cultivation method. According to him, vanilla can be an alternative for income, to improve people’s living standards in the future. He also committed to allocate some of the village funds to facilitate vanilla cultivation.
After attending the STS, the cadres from Warlef Village then held a Village School to pass on their knowledge to the village community. There were 15 Warlef residents who joined the vanilla cultivation method. One of the residents who took part in learning vanilla cultivation was Yonathan Wambaliau. Even though he is 65 years old and has a disability, he is still passionate about vanilla farming. He has planted 100-150 vanilla plants in a 100 x 30 square meter area behind his house. The village school initiated by EcoNusa has added to his knowledge of farming vanilla even better.
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As for Yehuda, he also practices vanilla cultivation behind his house. He bought vanilla seeds from a friend in the Waris District for Rp 10,000 per stick. Before planting, he first planted a gamal tree trunk as high as an adult’s chest to become a shade or protector tree for the vanilla plants. Then put the coconut coir around the gamal stem. He then tied the vanilla seeds to the gamal stem and placed a pile of coconut husks on the rootstock.
“These coconut husks aim to avoid root rot, due to wet soil,” he said. The hundred vanilla trees he planted are still in treatment. He is sure that in the next 3 years, his vanilla can be harvested and marketed.
With a good example on vanilla cultivation, he believes the 300 heads of families in his village can have positive impacts on their economy. Not only for the 600 people in Warlef Village, but also the people from surrounding villages in Senggi District.
Editor: Nur Alfiyah