East Bali Poverty Project

Written by on June 15, 2012 in Bali Environment with 0 Comments

East Bali Poverty Project



Sustainable Agricultural Development

Organic Vegetable Farming for Nutrition and Eventual Income from Sales

The mountain land in Desa Ban is so steep, dry and sandy that it can only support cassava and corn, the staple for the majority of the 2,500 families who have almost no alternative source of food supplies apart from a remote market that is up to 5 hours walk on steep mountain tracks.  Following our philosophy of teaching the people how to feed themselves for life rather than giving them free food for a day, we introduced organic vegetable learning gardens near all schools as an integral part of the children’s education programmes.  First, vetiver grass (vetiveria zizanioides) is planted to conserve soil and water and initiate natural terraces. Vetiver roots can penetrate 2-3 metres below ground in their first year and act almost like an underground dam to store water, making it available to plants over a longer period.  The terraced planting beds are then improved with organic compost and cow manure.  Organic worm farms provide the natural organic fertilisers needed to nourish the soil directly before planting potato and vegetable seedlings. No chemical fertilisers or pesticides are ever used.

We piloted our first organic school learning gardens in December 1999 and March 2001, kindly funded by the British Women’s Association (BWA) of Jakarta.  In the first season, we successfully grew 20 types of nutritious vegetables: a welcome addition to the children’s daily school meals.  The gardens have introduced a whole new range of nutritious food to the children and their families who previously knew only cassava, corn and pigeon peas. Now there are organic school gardens in all EBPP schools. Apart from the direct result of providing good food for the community, this project has significantly improved the local environment.

Children in all EBPP schools go to their organic vegetable gardens daily as part of their integrated education, theory coming after practice! They learn how to improve the soil with cow manure which they bring from home, monitor the condition and progress of the worm farms for premium organic fertilizer (certified worms purchased from worm farm specialist, Dr Kartini in Denpasar), prepare seed beds for nurturing until planting time, check for insects/pests and record progress daily. All activities are overseen by EBPP’s education, agriculture and health teams, with regular input from Indonesian and foreign volunteer advisors. Children take all reports home to explain the processes and progress to their parents who are keen to study with them. By late 2002, parents in all hamlets asked to learn how to improve their family land on condition their children in EBPP schools taught them. This request formed the foundation for the now successful community learning gardens, initiated in November 2002 with a 3-year grant from British Embassy Small Grants Scheme.

Potatoes, carrots, tomatoes and many green vegetables are now the vegetables of choice for future economic development by all farmers. Why? Because they know through their children that their present staple of cassava (a goitrogen) contributes to iodine deficiency by blocking iodine absorption – the essential mineral for healthy brain and body development, that the nutrition content of potatoes far exceeds that of cassava, and that there is a good market for future sales in Bali and beyond.


At the very beginning of the project we asked the villagers what they felt was their number one priority. They chose education for their children. At the time, the nearest government schools were 4-6km away and, in some hamlets, illiteracy rates reached 70-100%.

Integrated education programmes for illiterate children

With hundreds of illiterate children, support and approval from the local government education department, we designed a literacy programme that would serve as a foundation for future development, especially in health, hygiene and self-reliance. The first programme began in Dusun Bunga in August 1999, sponsored by a Japanese foundation, Bali Shogaku Kikin. Two more programmes began in Dusun Cegi and Dusun Pengalusan in 2000, sponsored by Bali Dynasty Resort. In January 2001 a programme began in Dusun Manikaji that was sponsored by the Hard Rock Hotel Bali until December 2001. Now more than two hundred previously illiterate and malnourished children aged 6-15 attend EBPP schools in their isolated hamlets: the pride of their respective communities.

EBPP provide the teachers: local people with the motivation to learn and lead their community forward through their own children. The curriculum is tailored to their needs. As well as reading and writing skills, children learn about nutrition, hygiene, sanitation, good health practice, organic farming, environmental education, social sciences, arts and crafts. Pak Made Budiana, a well-known Balinese artist, also visits Desa Ban regularly with a group of volunteers to help the children develop their artistic skills.

By 2003, children in three of our four programmes are now in schools with classrooms, a library, teachers room and kitchen. Each one is funded by a different donor and built by the community with our technical and logistics support. We call these schools community learning and development centres as they are owned by the community and will double as vocational training centres. Creative arts for teenagers started last year; recently we launched nutrition and organic farming theory for the kids parents who have joined the organic farming cooperatives.

Secondary School Scholarships

Beginning in 1999, EBPP has given scholarships to 12 children to allow them to attend junior high school in Singaraja. The children stay at Dana Punia orphanage in Singaraja during term time. Unfortunately, four of the children have had to drop out of the programme for family reasons but this year the others graduated from junior high school and have continued on to study at senior high schools in Singaraja. Their education costs are funded by the caring American-owned Danu Enterprises: many of their Bali-culture-tourists donate annually after seeing EBPP fundraising video.

By 2003, we are proud to report that these children are not only excelling in their respective classes, but also have visions for their future: they want to go back to their village to share their new knowledge and participate in developing a new generation of children who can initiate and encourage sustainable development for self-reliance. On their school holidays, they join EBPP field team and get involved in teaching children, learning computer skills, working with our health/nutrition staff and developing their creative art skills. They really are an amazing bunch of young adults that we are all very proud of.

Nutrition Improvement

School children in EBPP Integrated Education Programmes

The priority from when we launched our first integrated education programme in Bunga hamlet in 1999 was to ensure that the children had the motivation to learn through good mental and physical health, knowing that most suffered from malnutrition and serious iodine deficiency, complicated by their staple of cassava and the lack iodized salt in their diet. Free school meals were carefully designed to give the correct balance of carbohydrates, protein, minerals and vitamins. A daily glass of milk provided more protein and fat intake. The meals are prepared by local women, trained by our team how and where to purchase the correct food items and how to prepare hygienically in the school kitchens. Our school organic vegetable gardens have provided a “learn by doing” process by which all children learn the nutritional benefits of all of the vegetables and herbs they learn to plant, grow, harvest and seed-save – providing a foundation for teaching their parents and equipping them for when they are parents.

For sustainability, we educate the children about the importance of a balanced diet and the key sources of iodine and other essential micronutrients, especially vitamin A and iron, from their first week in school. The children then transfer this new knowledge to their parents. Regular analysis of the school meals by our volunteer doctor, Indraguna Pinatih MSc, one of Bali’s top nutritionists, shows each child gets 470-550 calories, 15-18 grams of protein and 10-13 grams of fat every meal.

Many vegetables for the children’s school meals are now provided from the organic vegetable learning gardens established near all our schools. These are rapidly becoming the foundation for future food security and sustainable nutrition, not only for the children in our programme, but also the community as a whole. From experience in these experimental school gardens since 2000, the children rapidly understood the nutrition value of these previously unknown vegetables and how to grow and nurture them. But more important, they enjoyed them and took samples home for their family to try! The best result is that their parents and other community members were excited by these strange new vegetables and once they learnt from the children that they could provide healthy food for their own families, they decided they wanted to learn, as reported in our Sustainable Agriculture report.



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