Indonesia Rural Economic Development Series. Growing plants on a barren hill: local knowledge as part of land restoration in Sumba Timur, Indonesia.


Implementation of land restoration needs to be adjusted to local conditions to be more efficient and effective. Local communities are the actors with the best understanding of the environment because they have been managing it for generations. For restoration to fit with local conditions, local knowledge of, and experience with, restoration and environmental functions need to be acknowledged. Communities' knowledge of the different types of soil and plants needs to be documented as a reference when selecting types of plants that have conservation value and are able to bring benefits to a community. The communities of Haharu Sub-district, Sumba Timur District, Nusa Tenggara Timur Province, Indonesia have developed their knowledge and farming practices based on their subsistence need for food. They have worked with limited land size, low precipitation, rocky ground and thin soil, deploying various semi-traditional conservation efforts developed by their ancestors, such as the 'timbak' system for productive land and 'ramang' for fallow. The introduction of intercropping was aimed at strengthening food security. Practices were adapted based on the new knowledge that they gained from interaction among community members and with people from outside their communities. Local knowledge could not be separated from the local belief system, known as 'marapu'. Communities' knowledge still needed to be strengthened in (1) pest and plant diseases and how to overcome them; (2) production of good quality seeds and seedlings; and (3) water management.

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