Indonesian entrepreneur is mother to a 5-year-old farmer

By Times Of India on 11 May 2017 | read
BENGALURU: Ibu Helianti Hilman is a popular name among the farming community in Jakarta, Indonesia. The 46-year-old farmer-turned-entrepreneur runs a food company that manufactures products from indigenous crops grown by marginalized farmers. Ibu also practises natural farming at her own garden, where she's aided by her son Nafi, all of 5.

Ibu grows a variety of indigenous crops to inspire other farmers to turn organic. "If a farmer does not follow the three ways of farming — natural, organic and spiritual— he will never have a good harvest," said Ibu who visited Bengaluru on Tuesday to attend a two-day natural farming summit organized by the Art of Living Foundation.

While Ibu learnt natural farming a few years ago from her driver, baby sitter and house assistant, it comes naturally to Nafi. She's proud that he has learnt the tricks of the trade at such a tender age. "When Nafi was only three months old, some farmers advised me to take him to the fields every morning, saying it was good for health. By the time he was 13 months old, he started watering the plants. Eventually, Nafi started interacting with farmers and learnt how to grow crops."

At Ibu's farm, one can find 129 varieties of edible plants like corn, sorghum, tubers, herbs, spices, fruits and rice in pots. She has another farm (half acre) in Ciawi, 30km from Jakarta, that houses more than 129 varieties of edible plants.

"All plants in my garden are grown organically, without using chemicals and fertilizers. We convert our food waste into compost and use that as fertilizer. Unused, rotten food makes for good fertilizer as well. My son helps me in pulling out insects, if any," added Ibu.

Her firm, Javara Indegenous Indonesia, manufactures coconut chips, jam, sugar and many more products from indigenous crops, thereby creating a supply chain for farmers in the market. "At present, we are partnering with 52,000 farmers and cultivate around 1,100 varieties of indigenous rice," she said.

Ibu also spoke about how she took to natural farming and inspired several other indigenous farmers in Indonesia to follow suit.