Gunawan "Gun" Rubianto is a pepper farmer from Malang, East Java who currently works on a pepper farm owned by PT CAN in Namang, Central Bangka. Although he only started planting pepper in 2015, he is no stranger to the life of a farmer, as his grandfather was a coffee farmer and his mother was a vanilla farmer. His dream is to one day establish a farm in Malang where he hopes to establish a farm that combines Good Agricultural Practical (GAP) and agroforestry to grow coffee, vanilla and pepper on the same farm.
Much of the farming knowledge that Gun already has, such as how to produce and apply compost, is traditional knowledge passed down from his ancestors. However, Gun hasn’t closed himself off to updating his knowledge on farming practices, particularly as it relates to pepper. Since working on the PT CAN farm with a SpiceUp demonstration plot, he has gained many experiences and new knowledge that he only learned about after the project was established.
“I have observed the life cycle of pepper from seedling to harvest and I realized how important it [pepper] is for myself and the people of Bangka. I have seen many developments in pepper farming and have participated in discussions with other farmers about the issues we face. This year, we have experienced a longer dry season than normal in Bangka, and I have had to manually water my plants because I didn’t have the right information to properly plan. If we [pepper farmers] could have access to information on weather and forecasts, it would be extremely helpful for us to do better in the future.”
Through his involvement in the SpiceUp project with trainings and practical application in the demo plot, Gun was able to take away several key learnings that helped him address issues on the farm. For example, root rot disease is a commonly experienced problem with pepper farmers who have had issues dealing with the infections. With the trainings from the project, Gun and his fellow farmers learned techniques to help prevent the disease.
In addition to accessing information on how to successfully manage a pepper farm, Gun believes that having an app that provides the latest pepper pricing information would be beneficial for him and other farmers, as he also sells and collects pepper.
“I believe that the latest information related to pepper farming should be more widely disseminated through social media such as Facebook, because I see many farmers using Facebook to share and exchange information. I think an application like SpiceUp that is specifically for pepper farming and provides information and advice on farm management, GAP, pest and disease management, weather forecast, and pepper prices, will help farmers make the best decision to sustain their pepper farms and businesses.”