Maderja, a Farmer’s Musketeer

With only a sack of rice, Maderja took his family on board of a bus that would take them to another island that they never dreamt of visiting as poor farmers. They stood the grueling days-long trip from Java to Sumatra with steel motivation, a better life for their family.

In 1980s, the Indonesia government launched a nation-wide program aptly called Transmigration to accelerate regional development, nation-building, and improve national security. Farmers from densely populated island such as Java were given lands to exploit, mostly forest, in the outer islands as incentive for participating in the program. Maderja signed up for this program.

As soon as he’s registered for a one-way trip to Pelalawan district in Riau, he sold everything, including his house. But then, he felt that his departure schedule was too long. So he came up with another plan. Following a relative, they hopped on a bus destination Peranap and arrived in Pandan wangi village. In the beginning he worked odd jobs such as skinning peanuts and paid low wages that he couldn’t afford to pay for his daughter’s school tuition. As a result, she did not go to school for a year.


Farmers Solidarity

Solidarity is so sacred for Maderja. It is a thing that Maderja always advocates for. He was one of the farmers who formed an informal farmers group in 1980s with the members agreeing that bank loan will be their joint communal responsibility. Although they are still entangled in that debt, a humble man, Maderja said that it was nobody’s fault that they got into messy debt but the farmers, including himself.

Back then, the farmers and the State Agriculture company, called PTPN, actually had agreed on financial scheme that the company would pay the farmers’ loan installment partly deducted from their harvest sales. However, as they were many middlemen, many farmers sold their harvest to them instead to PTPN and loan payback became neglected.

We were too naïve and did not know it better. We just believed what others said without cross-checking the fact. Understandably because we are not highly educated

He continues to advocate solidarity among farmers to this day. When oil palm gained momentum in 2009, he encouraged farmers in his village to work together on switching their commodity from rubber to oil palm. His system was everyone should work on one plantation at a time from land clearing to planting before moving to another plantation owned by another member in the community. Maderja’s plantation was the last piece of land that the whole community worked on. He said that since he proposed that system it will be inappropriate and projected negative image if he asked everyone to work on his land first.

Just like a parent who would rather feed his child till the child feels full before he would feed himself,” he explained his wisdom

Today, Maderja owns about 11 hectares of land and the majority is planted with oil palm. With a penchant for innovation, Maderja currently plants orange trees on 0.6 hectares land. He wants to motivate other farmers to look for other commodities with potential to be cultivated in Pandan Wangi village. Through rurality work, he hoped the initiative will help him and other farmers get news and fresh ideas to broaden their thinking. He also hopes TFT to provide them with assistance in creating a strong co-op known locally as KUD that can facilitate their members in accessing financial resources and market, as well as building their agronomy capacity, not just for oil palm but other potential commodities. Maderja does live by muskeeter’s principle that One for All, and All for One.