Agriculture plays an immense role in Indonesia’s national development agenda. This is mainly due to Indonesia’s ever-increasing population number which correlates positively with the increasing need of food supply. Unfortunately this vital sector has yet been given enough attention and care by the government. According to Balai Pusat Statistik (BPS) data, the number of Indonesian population who works in agriculture sector decreases every year. In one year span since 2013, a total of 39.22 million farmers decreased to 38.97 million. The numbers drop once more in 2015, to only 37.75 million farmers. This continuous downturn is a reflection of Indonesia agriculture sector’s inability to support and provide a decent livelihood for its farmers.
The farming community of Serang Village, Karangreja District, at Purbalingga Regency is a perfect example of the national phenomenon. Their main crops are quite diversified, for example: strawberry (Fragaria ananassa), chili pepper (Capsicum annuum), tomato (Solanum lycopersicum), cabbage (Brassica oleracea), and carrot (Daucus carota). However, to counter constant economic pressures, farmers of Serang have developed alternative forms of communal income; strawberry farms agro-tourism.
Sadly enough, Serang farmers are still facing a list of problems when it comes to farmland management. These problems only came to surface after UGM students did a joint analysis with students from Ibaraki University Japan during their Students Community Service – Community Empowerment Learning (SCS-CEL) program in 2013. For instance, there is yet a proper and effective planting design plan for each crops in Serang although it is needed to face unstable climate conditions. Farmer’s inability to creatively promote and add more sale value to their raw crop products is also considered a problem to the students for it does not provide better income for the community. Another issue is supply chain complexity, in which the farmers does not have the ability to sell their products directly to consumers. On top of all, bugs and pests only gave more anxiousness to the people.
After thoroughly analyzing the issue, SCS-CEL Serang unit decided that the first step to improve Serang farmer’s agriculture potential is through mentoring. The team specifically focused on strawberry cultivation mentoring in order to increase its quality hence a higher sale price.
Serang Unit also supported strawberry farm agrotourism as a new emerging tourism destination through public education. This step is deemed needed as good planning and organizing skills are vital to enhance the community’s knowledge on tourism management.
This program was made successful from the extensive and efficient collaboration of several stakeholders, namely Purbalingga Regency local government, Serang villagers, SCS-CEL students, and farmers. Students from Ibaraki University were also happy and glad to be able to learn Indonesian values as they also contributed in making Indonesian agriculture sector better.