Usin - Love Conquers All
On my wedding day, I promised my wife, Mimin, that even though I was just a humble rice farmer, we would always have enough food on our table. Unfortunately soon after our marriage, I had to sell our belongings to survive because the soil became sick, and our harvests decreased, I decided to abandon chemicals, and embraced a more sustainable organic method, System of Rice Intensification (SRI), whice made the soil more fertile. The harvests kept on increasing, and together with Sunria's fair trade system. I am able to provide much more than enough food on our table - I turned my wife's dream into a reality by surprising her with the house she has always wanted!
If you see Usin, he would appear to be an ordinary man in his fifties, blending into the crowd. However, in a second, something magical takes over him: his eyes are light so bright, and his posture is more upright, and his facial expressions softened. He suddenly has a charismatic presence about him, full of positivity and hope. And that is the moment that he sees his wife, his true love.
Usin met Mimin Ratna Mintorsih, during 5th grade of primary school. He was instantly taken in by her, and they dated throughout and in 1979 when he was 14 years old, he went to look better opportunities to farm in the fields of another province, Lampung. He could not forget her; she was constantly on his mind. 3 years later, he married Mimin, and he promised her that,” even though I was was just a poor farmer, I will always make sure that we have enough food on the table.”
The “tengkulak” or loan shark middle men, were ruling his world then. This is a common system in Indonesia. At the beginning of the harvest, the tengkulak would lend him money, which is equivalent to half of the price for the market value of the harvest. During the harvest, they will take away all the harvest, and if there is not enough harvest due to climate, pests, or diseases, the farmers would now owe the tengkulak money, and is charged double the interest and growing continuously.
He remembered his desperate aunt trying to pay the tengkulak by selling him whats left of her property, her plate. “They took all the harvests from her, the mattress and the sofa, and she had to sell her plate for me for Rp 20,000 (USD $1.5) to get more money for the tengkulak,” he said with a quivering voice.
His own conditions were also getting worse, after the government introduced the green revolution, which advocates the use of chemical fertilizers, and pesticides. His harvests were getting less and less, and he was not happy. “ All we can afford is a really small space. We sleep there, we cook there, and when we want to go toilet, we go outside,” he explained.
In 1995, he heard the possibility of increasing productivity, by using SRI method. He went to the fields to see it for himself, and was fascinated by the conditions of the rice field. He was surprised that the paddy has fuller grains, and everything was very healthy. After trying this method, and his production increased. Later on, he heard about a social project that wants to help certify the rice to be organic, so farmers are able to export and get a better price. He instantly signed up and became one of the first Sunria farmers. He said,”in the conventional system, the farmers are sadly just an object. In organic farming, farmers are now the subject. That's the difference.”
Becoming part of a fair trade system, Usin is using his extra income to show his appreciation to his wife. He is happy that now put quality food from his own harvests on the table, but he is able to give her the life that she deserves. “ I gave her the biggest surprise of all, I presented her with a new house! I build this house by myself part by part. We now have our own bedroom, living room, toilet, and most importantly, Mimin has a proper kitchen space to cook now,” he beamed with a smile. He added, “ I love her so much and I will do what I can to make her happy”
Watch the video here.