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Beranda NEWS When Nature's Signs Cannot Be Counted On

When Nature's Signs Cannot Be Counted On

Local traditions and wisdom have helped Maluku survive hundreds of years. However, with uncertain climatic conditions, clove farmers in Maluku need to innovate.


The last five years Willy Wicaksono has lived in Ambon City. He leads the Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience (APIK) program initiated by The United States Agency for International Development (USAID). This program lasts five years and is run in Maluku, Southeast Sulawesi and East Java. However, this year is the end of all activities held by APIK.

"We closed six months ahead of schedule," said Willy, Monday, January 20, 2020.

APIK's climate change adaptation and mitigation programs, such as a climate field school for farmers and fishermen, no longer receive an injection of funds. This followed after the United States decided to leave Paris Agreement.

"Building resilience is not easy, but the people of Maluku have strong capital to adapt," said Willy.

The capital that Willy refers to is local traditions and wisdom. Maluku people can read the signs of nature, so they can determine when to start planting and when to go to sea. However, according to Willy, the cropping practices carried out by Maluku farmers so far have not met the standards of agricultural science.


Nature's Sign

For the people of Maluku, the thunderous roar for three consecutive nights is a sign of the changing seasons from rainy to dry. This condition makes farmers ready to cultivate fields. Meanwhile, if the cloud looks scaly like a fish - in the local language it is called base cloud—It signals the start of the fishing season. This knowledge was passed down from generation to generation and has been practiced for hundreds of years.

"We call it nanaku. We are farmers but also fishermen. So you have to be able to see signs of the climate, "said Imron Soumena (49), a farmer and village secretary of Negeri Lima, Central Maluku, Tuesday, January 21 2020.

Besides nanaku, Maluku farmers also know the term bitch or polycultural cultivation techniques where in one land there are various types of plants. Apart from spices and tubers, people often combine planting areas with mangosteen and durian fruit trees. According to a professor of ethnobotany from the Pattimura University, Marcus Pattinama, practice bitch this has helped Maluku farmers survive when the clove or nutmeg harvests are low.

"Dusung is a kind of Maluku agroforestry practice," said Marcus, Thursday, January 23, 2020.

However, according to Imron Soumena, natural signs that were previously effective indicators of cycles of planting and fishing are no longer reliable. Climate change is making nanaku not 100 percent accurate.

"If we think it has entered the planting season, it turns out that the rain is too heavy, it actually damages the plants," complained Imron.

This is where the role of the climate field school initiated by USAID APIK is very crucial. This program combines local wisdom and scientific data provided by the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency. Farmers in Maluku are thus able to read signs of climate change more accurately.

In addition, APIK also assists farmers in the post-harvest production process. The reason is, the method of drying clove flowers that only relies on solar heat is no longer effective. When the weather is hot, the drying process only takes two days. But weather uncertainty often hinders this process. In exchange, according to Maun Kusnandar, Community Specialist USAID APIK Maluku, farmers can actually smoke clove flowers. However, this process can reduce the quality of the cloves. This has resulted in the price of cloves in the market dropping.

"We encourage people to use solar dryer to dry the cloves when the weather is not favorable, "said Maun Kusnandar, Tuesday, January 21, 2020.

Solar dryer is a simple tool that costs Rp. 400 thousand that can help the clove drying process. Shaped like a coffin with a 6 percent UV plastic coating. According to Maun, the drying process using this tool is more efficient and does not compromise the quality of the cloves. Besides not wrinkling, cloves are dried through a process solar dryer dark brown with a stronger aroma.

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“If we dry it on a tarp, the clove flowers tend to be black and shrink. The aroma is also reduced, ”said Apik Soulisa, a clove farmer in Negeri Lima, Wednesday, January 22, 2020.

Even so, Apik regrets that he has not been able to reach all villages in Maluku. So far, the institution has only distributed 40 units solar dryer to several villages.


Resilience road map

During its five years of operation in Maluku, APIK can only reach 12 villages. Whereas in this province there are 1,200 villages that are also facing the problem of climate change. The snapshot of this problem is captured deeply climate vulnerability reports Maluku Province published by USAID APIK in 2018. The report, which is based on historical data on Maluku's climate for the last 30 years, projects climate change that could occur in the future. In this research, historical climate data in Ambon show that rainfall during the 1981-2010 period tended to increase.

"Records of disaster events in Maluku Province over the last hundred years show climate-related disasters to be the most frequent and most costly disasters," wrote the researchers in the report.

Two researchers in the research are Gene Junnaedhi and Tri Laksono from the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB). They project that the climate of Maluku until 2025 will experience an increase in temperature. Both use results statistical downscaling from the IPCC Global Climate Model which shows the scenario of an increase in air temperature between 0.5⁰C to 1.5⁰C.

"The projection graph for the average temperature in 2025 shows Maluku experiencing an upward trend in minimum temperature, which indicates that this region has indicated climate change is happening," they wrote in the report.

This report is an important asset for the Maluku Provincial government to develop a sustainable climate adaptation and mitigation strategy. This needs to be done so that the potential of natural resources and biodiversity spread across 1,340 islands is not vulnerable to climate change. Head of the Economic Affairs of the Regional Development Agency (Bappeda) of Maluku Province, Ilham Tauda, claims that the issue of climate change has been stated in the 2019-2024 Mid-Term Regional Development Plan (RPJMD).

"We are the first local government to have a roadmap for climate change mitigation and adaptation in terms of sustainable development efforts," said Ilham Tauda, Monday, January 21, 2020.

Street map (roadmap) which was released in 2017 contains tactical and strategic steps so that Maluku can face the threat of climate change. This is because, according to Ilham, the impact of the weather anomaly is increasingly being felt by the people of Maluku. Among others, the fisheries, agriculture and plantation sectors, as well as sea transportation. Therefore, according to Ilham, the people of Maluku need to have another economic approach.

"From a budget point of view, our APBD is very insufficient," he said.

Maluku's annual budget expenditure is around Rp. 3.2 trillion, of which 60% is spent on direct and indirect expenditures. The rest is allocated for the education (20%) and health (10%) sectors.

"The climate change mitigation and adaptation budget is distributed in several sectors which are very small in number," added Ilham.

In response to this, the Maluku provincial government has attempted to submit a special budget for financing superior programs, such as peatland restoration and revitalization of clove gardens, to the central government.

"We are also working with international donor agencies," Ilham said.

Initiating a climate change roadmap can be considered an innovative step by the Maluku government. But who knows how much longer the Maluku people will be able to reap the benefits of the abundance of the fragrant aroma of cloves.

"Facing this climate change we are racing against time," said Ilham. (Rezza Aji Pratama)

* This post is the second part of the grant-supported coverage Earth Journalism Network and Resource Watch, a non-profit organization focused on research in the field of sustainability.

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