Bangkit Merbabu Farmers
Welcome to Bangkit Merbabu!
Selamat Datang! Welcome to Bangkit Merbabu. We are the first farmer group in Indonesia to be certified internationally organic for vegetables and fruits! We are one voice, representing 86 farmers in 2 districts, and 7 villages in Central Java. Our mission is to empower farmers to produce the best quality product by respecting the environment. We want to share with you our history, our culture, our mission, and our language!
History of Bangkit Merbabu
It all started in 1998, when the farmers in our area were informed by our local government that they were starting to offer KUT Kredit Usaha Tani or credit for small famer groups, with a lower interest rate via the bank. Farmers in around the villages were excited to jump into this opportunity, and we started to organize ourselves into farmer groups. Being a vegetable farmer with little capital had always been a problem for us. It limits us to plant only vegetables that did not require much capital to grow such as cabbage, and corn. We were grateful that finally, we can grow more varieties that needs more capital to buy the external inputs such as seedlings, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and fungicides.
Unfortunately, this decision turned out to be a disaster, as all of us started to plant and during harvest had overproduction of vegetables. The tengkulak (the middlemen loan shark traders) who were dominating the market were happy making sure that we sell them at a low price, which did not justify the cost of production. It was really hard for us having to pay back with 6% interest rate or 0.5% monthly to the bank. What was even worse was that we noticed our soil quality was declining – it was not healthy and we were faced with more pests and diseases.
In 2005, one of the most experienced farmers in our village, Pak Zaenal, by accident started to take know learn about organic. His friend gave him organic fertilizer, and told Pak Zaenal he should use it to grow his cabbage so the quality can be better. At that time, he did not really comprehend what is ‘organic’, but went along with the friend’s recommendation. When he harvested his cabbage, he noticed a big difference in the quality. The taste of the cabbage is more intense with a natural sweetness that he had not tasted before. This result made him curious to learn more about organic practices.
In 2008, Pak Zaenal was invited by the leaders of the small farmer groups to discuss a problem that was getting from to worse. The soil in the villages were getting sicker, and the plants were getting worse with pests and diseases, and at times, they fail to harvest. At the end of the discussion, we all agree that something drastic and sustainable had to be done to restore the soil fertility. This is when Bangkit Merbabu Farmer Group is born-Bangkit means ‘rise up ‘and Merbabu is the name of the nearby mountain. Bangkit Merbabu started with 10 members and 3.5 hectares of land, and they voted PakZaenal to be the leader.
To revive the soil, we made their own organic fertilizer from manure and leaves. Everyone was supporting each other and it was a beautiful team spirit. During our first harvest, we were shocked that we produce more,AND the quality is also better! The red lettuce we grew was a beautiful red intense in pigment which means more antioxidants, and tasted incredible!Amazingly, the soil was also getting healthier again with the texture getting more aerated, and more soil organisms as sign of life started appearing. That was the defining moment that we knew that organic is the future, and we fully commit ourselves to it!
By 2012, Bangkit Merbabu was proud to implement 100% organic practices, and more farmers were inspired to join the movement. We also took on a new challenge to be organic certified, and with lots of hard work, we passed local organic certification SNI Standar National Indonesia with 20 farmers, and 5.5 hectares of land.
In 2016, we were lucky to have found Bloom Agro, a social enterprise that helps small farmers to go international. We were introduced by a friend who attended a seminar which Bloom Agro was presenting at a speaker. At that time, Bloom Agro was looking to work with vegetables farmers to complement the organic rice that they were already producing with other small-farmers. Intrigued by the kind words and high recommendation of our friend, Bloom Agro contacted us and went to visit our farmer group. Instantly, both parties discovered that we have similar mission and vision, and they have a strong belief and connection. We started to work together and form a partnership with fair trade principles. At the end of 2016 with 45 farmers and over 9 hectares of land, Bangkit Merbabu became the first and only internationally organic certified vegetable producer following the USDA (USA), EEC (EU), and JAS (Japan) standards in Indonesia. With the guidance of Bloom Agro, the product range of Bangkit Merbabu also grew from 20 types of vegetables to more than 70+ types of vegetables and fruits, and we started to export overseas to serve the international market!
We want to be the example that hard work combined with a determination can make this world a better place. If we respect nature and always keep our soil in fertile condition, we can produce the best quality product that will make all of us healthy!
Bangkit Merbabu and Its Culture
Being Javanese, and strongly believing in environmental sustainability have made us a unique bunch. We inherit the Javanese value to be hardworking like ‘ants’, but we also strongly believe in the community spirit that we are one big family. In our village, when someone builds a house, everyone lends a hand to help construct the house – no professionals needed! Our farmers hold meetings every Saturday to ensure that to solve problems and learn new skills, and each week, we take turn to cook for each other. Once a year, everyone in the village venture to the forest and plant trees in the sparse areas to protect the environment and our water resource. We are proud to have planted 2000 trees in the past 5 years!
Our Location - Kopeng
We are a village town of 5000 people in Central Java withare situated high 1350 m above sea level between 4 volcanoes - the famous Mt. Merapi (South), Mt. Merbabu (East), Mt. Temoloyo (North), and Mt. Andong (West). Mt Merapi is the most active volcano in Indonesia, which has the most number of active volcanoes in the world! Every now and then, Mt Merapi erupts and it spread its mineralized volcanic ash into our soil to make it super fertile. Along with our pristine mountain spring water source, and unusual cool climate of 28 degree Celsius in the day and 15 degree Celsius at night, Kopeng is known to be the best location to grow organic vegetable in Java! In fact, we welcome many tourists here appreciating the natural beauty of our location, and the healthy produce we grow!
Our native language is Javanese, which is the indigenous language for Central and West Java. It is characterized by a slower rate of speech and heavy accent, especially in the last syllable of words. We would like to share with you how to say a few words in Javanese:
How are you - pospundi kabari pun
I’m good - kabarin pun sae
My name is… - nami kulo
Have you eaten? – sampun dahar menopo dereng
Did You Know?
- Kopeng is famous for its healthy organic fresh produce, and also fruit and vegetables chips.
- There are more than 10,000 of us and we are ethnically Javanese people.
- There are many tourist attractions such waterpark, camping ground, outbound center, ATV, and flower garden.
- Colder weather makes the vegetables to have more intense taste. In order to withstand effect of morning frost, the plant has to increase its natural sugar production to servive, and therefore intensifying its flavor.
- Tephra (the scientific name for volcanic ash) contains a high amount of nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, and phosphate and it will be released over time to the soil and makes it very fertile!
- We connect pipes to channel the mountain spring water source to both our fields and home. We are so blessed to drink natural mineral water everyday… Oh, and the plants as well!