VHL University of Applied Sciences (VHL) has set up an innovative project together with the University of Muhammadiyah Enkarang: the Digital Farmer Field School. A way to better educate more farmers about sustainable food production. The Dutch government has awarded a StuNed scholarship to the district administration and the University of Enrekang (UNIMEN) to promote the development of this digital curriculum. The scholarship will be spent on a training course that promotes the design and setup of the Digital Farmer Field School (DFFS) for farmer groups taught using tablets.
The people of the Enrekang district in Indonesia face numerous challenges in providing high agricultural production from their fields without destroying the environment. VHL has been working with UNIMEN since 2018 to develop an online rural school in this district in southern Sulawesi, Indonesia. The objective is to train information officers from the Ministry of Agriculture and Environment to jointly design information on sustainable food production and environmental management and incorporate it into a digital interface. Using electronic tablets, farmer groups can then communicate with the various government services despite the remoteness and COVID measures.
Transdiciplinary project with digital learning strategy
Muslimin Bando: “This training is the result of a partnership between the government of Enrekang, the Dutch government, UNIMEN, VHL University of Applied Sciences and Enrekang residents.” Saskia Heins: “We have set up a new research centre specifically for the collaboration with HVHL: Research Centre for Communication, Social Ecological Learning and Sustainable Environment. Everyone is shouting about how important digital learning strategies are - especially during the COVID pandemic - but transdisciplinary projects tend to be few and far between. We are therefore very pleased that the Dutch government has awarded this grant. I appreciate the enthusiasm of the participants to continue studying even during this pandemic. Indeed, it remains critical to share knowledge about a sustainable rural economy.”
COVID gives the project even greater scope
Loes Witteveen, project leader explains that this project has become even more relevant due to the Covid-19 pandemic: “Farmers get access to knowledge and information through the application without having to attend meetings. Moreover, the number of farmer groups in Enrekang is not balanced with the number of information officers. So we think that this innovation will allow information to reach many more farmers. The goal is to make this application available to farmer groups and information officers in Enrekang as soon as possible to facilitate the exchange of information between farmers and information officers. Because farmers must continue producing food. The long-term goal is that we continue producing agricultural products at a high rate without destroying the environment. So behind all these processes lies sustainable agricultural production incorporating principles of environmental sustainability.”
Application also reaches farmers in hard-to-reach areas
Nurdahlia Lairing, Alumnus of VHL is the national DFFS coordinator and supervises the trainers and designers. She carefully chose the Enrekang location: “The area has so much potential but is very difficult to access, making it difficult for the information officer to visit the farmer groups. There is a big plus with this programme: the application makes it easier for both farmer and information officer to reach each other, without physically meeting each other. I expect this project to make a lasting impact for farmers.”