Founders of Emas Hitam Indonesia
We need to acknowledge that we are humans living in a planetary ecosystem and that every single decision we make affects the wellbeing of our planet.
Tell us your story – how did you get here?
We believe the story of Emas Hitam Indonesia is about changing paradigms. Formally, the Yayasan was founded in December 2015, but its seed was sown many years before, in 2004 for Kadek Suardika and in 2015 in the life of Silvina Miguel. We both left our conventionally accepted jobs – Kadek was a driver for tourists in Bali, and Silvina was a journalist back in Buenos Aires, Argentina – in search of a better quality of life, and a connection that was missing.
We both found what we were looking for by working the land, by walking barefoot on the soil. We both, and everyone that at one point or another joined Emas Hitam Indonesia, found that same “aha moment” where we realised that it was by connecting with the soil and with the land, that we actually reconnected with ourselves. We left the “ego system” we had been born into, a paradigm of disconnection, separation, segregation, monoculture, sickness and competition, and chose the “eco system” – a place of integration, collaboration, diversity, health and “win win win” situations. Where we win, our community wins and Mother Earth wins.
Since December 2015 we have been sharing our experience, our skills, our knowledge to share with everyone this alternative we have found in Agroecology and Permaculture. We have been sharing the good news that if we take care of our soil, soil will take care of us: healthy soil, local seeds, working with Nature in collaboration. Gotong Royong – a concept that is key for Emas Hitam Indonesia.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Since 2015, it’s been our mission to turn Bali into a chemical-free island. We believe all our programs have been contributing to our dream. With every opportunity that we have had since we first started (training sessions, workshops, panels, lectures, internships, and our weekly program Permaculture Garden Day) we have taken the opportunity to explain the difference between Agribusiness and Agroecology, in the hope to inspire everyone to transition from one to the other.
Agribusiness is a linear process, while Agroecology is a circular process. Agribusiness is based on extraction, production, distribution, consumption and disposal. Agroecology believes that what we take from the soil we need to put back. It is based on the idea that our production has to be diversified, that local production and local consumption should be prioritised, and that we should not produce waste to be disposed of, but that we need to use what we do not consume to create soil.
We explain that Chemical Cultivation (GMO seeds and chemical fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides) is a dead-end that only leads to soil degradation and a never-ending increasing debt for the farmers: GMO seeds can only be used once, so the farmers need to buy seeds every time they plant, and GMO seeds come in a package with more chemicals that not only kill the life in the soil but also the life in our gut, creating disease for the soil and for ourselves.
Agroecology, or the natural way of farming, or the way our ancestors used to farm before the Green Revolution, is based on healthy soil, local seeds and natural fertilisers. Using the natural resources we already have, we can build soil; local seeds are cheaper and better than GMO seeds, you can buy from local sustainable farmers, and you only need to buy them once, because from using local seeds you will grow healthy plants that give you healthy fruits from which you can harvest the seeds and plant again, and again, and again. And the quality of the seeds increase over time too. When we cultivate food without chemicals, we are growing real food. Real food is medicine. Win, win, win.
What impact have you made in Bali?
We have conducted training for six Farmer’s Communities: two in Karangasem, one in Les, three in Nusa Penida. We have facilitated the creation of two Kelompok Tani: Ancut Garden Community and Padi Mas at Subak Telaga. We have also organised a free Agroecology event along with Majelis Subak, Navdanya International, Udayana University, Slow Food Bali, and a group of local organisations like Bali Jaladara, IDEP, Tri Hita Karana, Buwana Hotel, EcoBali, Trash Hero and more, for 250 Balinese farmers, at Subak Museum Masceti Temple, with a total attendance of around 350 people that received knowledge, lunch and the opportunity to connect with like-minded people for free. Everyone donated their time and effort.
We have also conducted free “Little Seeds” programs for children on how to grow their own food: at Petulu village Kindergarten, six programs at Ubud Food Festival, two programs for Bali Homeschooling, Begawan Foundation, Montessori Canggu, Montessori Ubud and Campuhan College.
Under our Mari Berkebun 2020 initiative, we distributed 12,000 free seedlings to 370 families from Petulu Desa and Petulu Gunung and delivered six free full-day trainings for 120 people in our neighbourhood, including men, women, children and youth groups from both villages.
Under our Mari Berkebun Next 2021 mentoring program, we have created two community gardens: at Panti Asuhan Yappenatim school and orphanage, where we delivered training on agroecology and permaculture principles, soil, and seeds and created a beautiful kitchen garden along with the students, a passionate group of teenagers. In Uluwatu, we created an integrated system consisting of raised beds, a pond, and a banana circle, along with a group of families from all around Indonesia. As for our Sustainable Rice Farming program, we turned 4.5 hectares of Balinese land into a chemical-free cultivation zone in Subak Telaga, Desa Mas, and 65 are in Subak Sampalan Dlod.
We have hosted 336 Permaculture Garden Day programs since 2016, a free introduction to Permaculture principles in action that happens every Saturday at Emas Hitam Indonesia’s site Ancut Garden. Around 2000 people have joined our program since then, both locals and foreigners.
We have also been consulted by the local and national government, the Ministry of Agriculture in Bali and the Ministry of Forestry from Jakarta, regarding the implementation of a program to support sustainable farming around Bali. As a grassroots, we believe new solutions and innovation comes from the ground up, and having been consulted by the Government on this, our point has been proven.
What does 2022 look like for you?
We will continue to facilitate our two Mari Berkebun Next programs: Community Gardens and Sustainable Rice Farming.
We will continue to mentor and support the Subak Telaga and the Subak Sampalan Dlod farmers, with the hope that they will inspire other communities that we can support with our experience and skills.
We are planning to create the necessary infrastructure as well as to put a team in place to deliver more classes, workshops and training sessions in our own learning centre, but we don’t have any funding yet.
What do you love most about Bali?
We love the Tri Hita Karana philosophy. It’s embedded in everything we do. We follow it and we believe that agroecology and permaculture ethics and principles are implied in the Balinese philosophy: Harmony with the Natural World, Harmony with the Human World and Harmony with the Spiritual World.
What's one thing everyone can do to protect our home planet?
We need to acknowledge that we are humans living in a planetary ecosystem and that every single decision we make affects the wellbeing of our planet and, because we live in it – not on top of it – we will be impacted by it. Not anyone else, but ourselves. So let’s be aware of our Ecological Footprint, the food we buy, the transport we use, the clothes we buy, the energy we use (how much water, how much electricity, how much effort, how much money). Let’s try to reduce the pollution that our lifestyles create: let’s walk more, bike more, let’s eliminate plastic in our lives, let’s try to find natural options that do not harm our ecosystem and ourselves.
Who is your Local Legend and why?
We deeply believe the Padi Mas farmers are local legends, because they have dared to change. We humans do not like change, especially if it might affect our livelihood. The Padi Mas farmers, led passionately by their Subak Leader Pak Tantra, have successfully left the paradigm of chemical cultivation and have embraced the natural way of farming. Even though for them it was something new and unknown, they did it! They dared to try, and now, they are cultivating sustainable heritage rice to feed themselves and their families. They are also selling the surplus with Emas Hitam Indonesia’s support and they are also working with the Ministry of Agriculture in Bali to obtain their Organic Certification. Not even one year ago, they were broke and lost because, as a result of the pandemic, they had run out of money to buy the GMO seeds and the chemical package. So Emas Hitam Indonesia introduced to them the regenerative way of cultivation, using natural resources and local seeds. Now they are growing real, healthy food for all!