Mr. Syamsul, a pepper farmer from the Sambas Regency in West Kalimantan, is optimistic about the outlook of technological innovation for pepper farming. Alongside 3,000 pepper farmers in the region, he believes that the sustainability of pepper farming can be achieved through modernizing pepper cultivation techniques and passing them on to the next generation.
Pepper Farming in West Kalimantan
West Kalimantan is home to around 18,000 (white and black) pepper farmers and the region has grown to become one of the main pepper producing centers in Indonesia. In June 2020, West Kalimantan’s pepper was worth $6.29 million in exports. Yet, despite being one of the main pepper producing locations in the country, pepper farmers in the region continue to face challenges such as low productivity and low income. This is mostly due to the fact that farmers rely on one commodity—black and white pepper—, while the price of pepper has been relatively low in recent years. Pepper farmers are also limited to using traditional farming methods that result in pepper yields of low quantity and quality.
Modern Technology for Inter-generational Pepper Farm Sustainability
According to Mr. Syamsul, pepper farmers in the Sambas Regency still adopt local cultivation methods.
“The knowledge we have still comes from our ancestors and we don’t have modern technology yet.”
For Mr. Syamsul and his fellow farmers, new knowledge is gained by studying other pepper farmers whose fields have been doing exceptionally well, and by learning from their shared experiences which methods have worked and which have failed. However, this traditional method of learning may be seen as impractical to the young farmers that Mr. Syamsul is trying to pass down the knowledge to.
“We have previously helped a group of young farmers who are still in college and we gave them motivation to make a ‘millennial group’.”
Mr. Syamsul believes that without the next generation to continue pepper farm cultivation, it will lead to a rise in unemployment in the region. This makes it crucial for the accrued knowledge on pepper farming to be passed down to millennial farmers. Fostering sustainable white and black pepper production practices will not only provide the region with food security and job security, but will hopefully attract young farmers as well.
Hopes for Technological Advancement in Pepper Production
Mr. Syamsul hopes for a new technological tool that is tailored specifically towards pepper farms—a tool that can provide him and other farmers in the region a way to modernize their traditional knowledge on cultivating pepper. He wishes to be able to boost pepper prices in the region, which requires the need to further develop the quality of the pepper produced in the area.
“…we can receive guidance, receive directions, and also receive new technological information to boost pepper prices and to motivate millennial farmers for the sustainability of pepper farming in Indonesia.”
A well-targeted technological innovation that can provide Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) knowledge, farm management advice, pest and diseases monitoring and control, weather condition analysis and pepper price trends must be tailored to the needs of pepper farmers. This way, modern technology has the means to empower farmers, improve their welfare, and motivate the next generation in pepper farming sustainability.