Meet Maula. He’s a 33-year-old farmer from Puput Village, Simpang Katis in Central Bangka. He has been planting pepper since 2006 although he comes from a long line of pepper farmers. As the main provider for his family of four, Maula obtains a meager income from tin mining, however, his main source of income is from planting pepper. For this reason, he hopes that the price of pepper can increase, and in turn, so can the welfare of pepper farmers.
In his 13 years of being a pepper farmer, Maula has observed several changes in the method of pepper cultivation. “My ancestors never used to apply fertilizer to their pepper plants, but now I have to fertilize my pepper using NPK Phonska, which consists of compost and lime,” he says. Maula has tried using urea fertilizer before but due to a very short shelf-life he no longer uses it. “I get my NPK fertilizer from a farm shop close by and started to make my own compost after receiving GAP trainings to apply it around the pepper plant after weeding.”
Climate change has also greatly impacted his pepper plants and this year has been particularly tough—due to the prolonged dry season this year, Maula’s seven-year-old pepper plant died. “If I had an early warning system to know when there will be a drought, I can prepare the irrigation system and reduce the death rate of my pepper plants.” Pests and diseases are another issue that Maula has to deal with on his farm. “I mostly find caterpillars and aphids, but I also find root rot disease in my plants. I use pesticides and Trichoderma to combat them.”
Although he’s considered a young farmer, Maula manages his farm in a mostly traditional way, meaning there are few records and documentation of his farming activities. He sometimes searches for information on how to manage his pepper plantation by joining group discussions with other farmers or by asking field extension officers. “I hope that there will be a place, such as a demonstration plot, where I can go to learn about disease management and to see other recommendations on being successfully implemented.”
Maula has also stated that he realizes the importance of receiving updated information on pepper prices, “I currently sell my pepper to PT CAN because they give me a better price for my pepper. But if I can get information about pepper prices, I can determine which collector or buyer I can trust.” He hopes that there will be a platform that provides these prices in the near future.
The challenges that Maula faces on his plantation are common ones that many pepper farmers throughout Bangka also experience. To address these challenges, the SpiceUp project has established demonstration plots where farmers can come to learn about Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and how to properly manage their pepper plants. Spice Ups’ services are designed to help farmers like Maula address issues such as climate change through weather based early warning systems, and by providing information on pepper prices. Additionally, the services will provide platforms for knowledge exchange between farmers and farmers, collectors and other third parties.
The SpiceUp consortia hopes that Maula and other farmers like him can learn to sustainably manage their pepper farms and steadily improve their livelihoods through the use of our services.