The story of Neneng: “Our fields are now more productive”

Neneng lives in Lawang Kajang, a small village along Kapuas River in Central Kalimantan, but is originally from Katujung, a village in the neighbouring district. She is Dayak, the main indigenous group of Borneo and married Junedi from Lawang Kajang in the early 1990s. Now, Junedi is the head of the village and they have four children.

Feature | 30 November 2013
Neneng lives in Lawang Kajang, a small village along Kapuas River in Central Kalimantan, but is originally from Katujung, a village in the neighbouring district. She is Dayak, the main indigenous group of Borneo and married Junedi from Lawang Kajang in the early 1990s. Now, Junedi is the head of the village and they have four children.

Neneng and Junedi have more than 17 hectares of land, scattered over different locations. When they first bought the land, there was nothing except shrubs growing on the land. The rich forest that once covered the area had been slashed and burned by the previous owners for rice farming. Neneng used seeds from the few rubber trees that remained on the land to turn six hectares of land into a rubber plantation. Three years ago, a palm oil company contacted them to plant ten hectares with palm trees.
“Since the ILO came here, our field became more productive. The new methods are good and useful. It helps plants grow well”, she said. She also regularly waters her land with the water from new wells built as a part of the GLACIER project. The eight wells built in Lawang Kajang will also be useful in fighting fire during the dry season.


Nevertheless, most of the community members are not successful in making their land economically valuable. The lands in Lawang Kajang, once populated by dense forests, are now open land where only shrubs are growing. According to the custom of the village, land becomes private property once one can show that he/she is taking care of it. Thus, the villagers clear excessive amounts of land using slash-and-burn to plant crops and claim land ownership.

Through time, the soil quality decreases until it is no longer good for crops and plantations. People thus have to let the land recover for 20-30 years until regenerated. The slash-and-burn method is also the major cause of forest fires around Lawang Kajang and fires have contributed to deforestation and degradation of the surrounding forest. Neneng saw her land burning once, but as there was nothing valuable growing on it at the time, she didn't precipitate to stop the fire.

In response to this issue, under the GLACIER project, the ILO developed intercropped plantations of four species: rambutan, durian, rubber and pineapple. This agroforestry model will provide various sources of income for the villagers in the medium to long term. Neneng also took part of the agroforestry trainings organised by the ILO. She learnt about the optimal spacing for the intercropping model and how to clear shrubs without using fire. She also learnt how to make her own organic fertilizer using the shrubs and other vegetable waste in compost.

“With the combination of several tree species, I am now able to to harvest different products such as rubber latex and fruits, while the diversity of species grown will increase the fertility of the soils,” exclaimed Neneng, adding that the new plantations will also encourage other farmers to fight the spread of forest fires to protect their valuable plantations.

For the intercropped plantation, Neneng received 130 rambutan, 65 durian, 163 rubber and 780 pineapple seedlings for 1.3 hectare of land. She planted rambutan and durian in June, pineapple and rubber in July. If the agroforestry model is successful, it will provide her with a long term diversified source of income, and minimize the impact of a failure of a particular crop in an abnormal year.

Now, Neneng’s main task is to maintain her precious land. “Since the ILO came here, our field became more productive. The new methods are good and useful. It helps plants grow well”, she said. She also regularly waters her land with the water from new wells built as a part of the GLACIER project. The eight wells built in Lawang Kajang will also be useful in fighting fire during the dry season. (*)