Hendra Afaandi - From Night Life to a Bright Life

Two things that I am well known for is my "kribo" or "big curly hair", and my passion for cultivating organic rice. I am an advocate for sustainability, and I set up a mini field school in my village to help teach other farmers how to preserve the health of our soil using organic System of Rice Intensification (SRI). Respecting Mother Nature, and being part of Sunria's fair trade system has given me a better livelihood. I am now able to afford a higher education for my oldest child, Fitri, who is the first in my family to study in a university.

Hendra Afandi probably one of the most outgoing, funny, and expressive person you will ever meet. The first time you see him, what will strike you the most is his hair! Yes, the biggest and curliest hair in Tasikmalaya! Just like his personality, his hair definitely makes a statement “I’m here!”

His talent to make others laugh is the reason why he decided during his younger days when he was 30s to be a tour guide in Bali. He showed the wonders of Bali to its many international tourists. At night, he partied hard with them, and unfortunately, enjoying himself too much alcohol. Many times he came back drunk, and after 12 years, he realized the damage that alcohol did to his body. “I was sick of night life. There were too many temptations, and my body cannot take the abuse of chemicals anymore,” he explained. He decided to go back to his hometown, Tasikmalaya, to help his family with their rice farming and be united with nature.

After years of conventional farming, in 2002, he heard about a new course, Sekolah Lapangan Pembelajaran Ecology Tanah, or field school for soil ecology. Here, he learned that about the negative impact of chemicals and how they destroy the health of the soil and how SRI can improve the conditions. He immediately implemented it on his land of 1 hectare in size, becoming a pioneer in SRI in Indonesia. The first harvest, he put in a lot of manual labor to make organic compost and weeding. The productivity remains the same. The second season, his usual yield of 3.5 tons/hectare increased to 4 tons/hectare. In the third season, it went up to 5 tons. Currently, his field is producing on the average 7 tons/hectares.

In 2008, he joined Simpatik and by 2009, he passed international certification for organic and fair trade. He commented that,” I feel proud, not only for me but for my nation, because international certification is not easy. “ With the premium, for the certification, he managed to put his first daughter, Fitri, through university. It is unconventional for farmers to be able to afford university education for their children. The government gives free education only up to high school. “FItri is now majoring in Agriculture in UNSIL (Universitas Siliwangi), and I hope that my other three daughters Nada, primary 6, Nafa, primary 2, and Kaila, kindergarten 1, will be able to at least achieve her level of education,” Kribo said with a big smile.

He believes that education is the key, as that is why he recently started his own field school for poor farmers. He chuckled when explaining, ” many people give me the nickname “kribo” (curly in English) because of my Afro hair. But since I have learned SRI, I tell them that yes, my name is Kribo, but it stands for Kunci Rahasia Innovasi Bahan Organik (or The Key Secret to Innovative Organic Ingredients)! Usually people laugh when they heard it, and they always remember it!”

He is sad that Indonesia has fertile soil, but is behind Thailand and Brazil when it comes to exporting. He believes that Indonesian farmers must realize and cultivate the potential of Indonesia rich natural resources together. Changing his naturally funny face to be more serious, Hendra asserted,” farmers must be up to date for two reasons. First is to assure the livelihood of future generations, and second is to contribute to the prosperity of other farmers. Farmers must unite and remember the power in strength: bersatu kita teguh, bercerai kita runtuh (or united we stand, divided we fall in English)!”

How does he convince other farmers to be organic and learn about SRI? Kribo humored them by asking,” you know Bob Marley’s song ‘No Woman No Cry’? For us, it’s ‘No Paddy No Money’! So lets make good paddy!”

There is no doubt that if one day you meet this guy on the street, you would never think he is a farmer. A comedian? More likely!