The history of agricultural development in Indonesia is a history of the exploitation against farmers, a history of defeated farmers. First by the feudalistic and colonial forces (the Dutch and the Japanese) who systematically suppressed the farmers to maintain their power over them, and later by the Proclamation Republic Government of Indonesia and the ORBA (New Order) government that took a more pragmatic approach (placing the farmer as subordinate in a program) but still with the ultimate goal of maintaining and strengthening their own power. This was followed by the political parties trying to win votes, by farmers’ organizations hoping to gain a good position, and Non Government Organizations seeking funds.
Such condition can only be changed if the farmers themselves are more independent. One of the efforts that has been quite successful in helping to make farmers more self-supporting is by encouraging them to be more critical and capable assessing the social and environment impact of various intervention on their communities and in understanding and shaping policies and practices related to farmers’ right.
YDA’s experience with ISDP farmers (Integrated Swamps Development Project, a government project funded by foreign loan) and KUT (micro credit for farmers) is quite interesting, where successfully encouraged the farmers to articulate their ideas and criticize the impacts of the project on their communities. It was indeed very valuable experience that can now be applied in other regions, of course with the necessary modifications as the culture and traditions of each regions are different. One thing is certain: the process of reform that is generally still ongoing in Indonesia, is clearly not the end of the journey but the beginning of a long process that must be completed. And in the villages, the actor who plays the leading role must be the farmer, not the village elite, apparatus, or even the outsiders who have stepped into the village only to collect its benefit.