Seeds of Hope: Boeing Program is Helping Farmers on the Island of Bali

Firsthand look at one of Boeing's many Global Corporate Citizenship programs
Feb 12, 2014 9:00 AM ET

Boeing Frontiers magazine

Seeds of Hope

Boeing photographer Bob Ferguson recently accompanied Skip Boyce, president, Boeing Southeast Asia, on a trip to Indonesia for a firsthand look at one of the company’s many Global Corporate Citizenship programs. On the island of Bali, they visited with local farmers who are learning to become more self-sufficient and better at their trade – with Boeing’s help.

Of the 17,000 island that make up the Indonesian archipelago, Bali is perhaps the best-known, an island paradise that conjures up images of smoldering volcanoes, rice-terraced mountains, paddy fields and a vivid Balinese Hindu culture.

And, of course, there are those inviting, postcard-perfect Bali beaches where the tourists come to soak up the sun. But Ketut Suratna sees an entirely different side of Bali life. He’s a farmer, a resident of Bangli, one of Bali’s poorer districts tourists usually don’t visit.

He became a farmer out of necessity – to feed his family and eke out a meager living.

“Many of the villagers here depend on farming for a living,” Suratna explained as he showed a small group of visitors the farm plot where he toils daily to produce crops such as eggplant and chili under hot and humid conditions.

“Farmers like me have been struggling in recent years because we cannot afford to buy seeds,” Suratna said. “The use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides is also costly and poses health risks to us.”

That’s where Boeing is helping through its Global Corporate Citizenship programs. 

Since November 2012, Boeing has sponsored a project known as "Saving Indigenous Plants-Seed Saving Partnership with Bangli Farmers."

The project is administered through the IDEP Selaras Alam Foundation. A local nongovernmental organization with the Indonesian Development of Education and Permaculture, or IDEP. the foundation was established in 1999 to promote what It calls the "Cycle of Resilience." Organic farming features prominently within this framework and the foundation works closely with local farmers to educate and train them on the use of renewable farming techniques to achieve long­ term sustainability

Suratna and nine other farmers from the Bangli district are included.

Seed saving is a traditional farming practice of organically growing and preserving indigenous plant seeds in their original form for use from year to year, as opposed to purchasing seeds each year from commercial seed suppliers that might be genetically modified. Apart from training the Bangli farmers on sustainable and organic seed production, the foundation assists them in the packaging, marketing and sale of these seeds across Bali.

The BangIi farmers have so far produced more than 15 plant seed types ranging from beans to cucumber; eggplant, lettuce and tomatoes, according to the foundation project coordinator, Nyoman Sudiana.

"It's a simple but powerful concept," Sudlana explained."We produce local organic seeds, which are then sold and spread across the island of Bali. This generates income for the farmers and the markets that sell the seeds. Meanwhile we're promoting the goodness of growing and consuming organic food." Skip Boyce, president, Boeing Southeast Asia, visited with the Bangli farmers last year to see their progress firsthand.

"When we sat down with them in the fields their faces expressed gratitude," Boyce recalled."It conveyed how the Boeing Global Corporate Citizenship program has helped empower the lives of these otherwise struggling farmers with the knowledge and tools they need to establish a steady source of income to improve their quality of life."

For Suratna, with this empowerment comes a renewed sense of pride in being a Balinese farmer."Before, I worried each day if there was going to be enough food on the table for my family,” Suratna said."Now, I hope we Bangli farmers have sowed the seed of inspiration in fellow farmers near and far so that they, too, will consider organic farming to help protect our environment and livelihood."