A Development Dynamo: Rahkmat—Changing the Hearts of People
A Development Dynamo: Changing the Hearts of People
“You first have to farm the hearts of the people to show them how they can care for the earth.” (Rahkmat: Farmer-teacher in Sumba, Indonesia)
A few weeks ago I met Rahkmat on the island of Sumba in eastern Indonesia. Sumba can be sad Sumba. It was always a fragile island ecosystem, but now the warmer waters of the Pacific Ocean currents have made the rains even more erratic than before. Two years ago they had another of their recurring hunger years and we gave food relief. So, it was a joy to meet up with a man who exudes optimism and hope in this place.
With the Christian Church of Sumba, our partner P3H (and long Indonesian name that means Holistic Development) and with the help of World Renew (formerly CRWRC) and that of a German diaconal organization working together with us —–we have enabled Rahkmat to come over to Sumba from his native island, to “do his motivational thing.” We visited the 3 farming groups he has worked with over the past year. He has these people growing beautiful tomatoes, water melons, and twice as much rice and soybean per acre as before—and all that after a hunger. It’s a small start—only 3 farmers’ groups—but it’s such a bright start!
I think the genius of Rahkmat’s teaching lies first, in his self- confidence. It’s an attitude that says: “We are put here by God to overcome challenges and make this earth bloom. If we only open our eyes and hearts to see new ideas we will discover that we can figure this out!” Secondly Rahkmat teaches very simple methods that poor farmers really can patiently do themselves— with very little of that very scarce resource, out-of-pocket cash. So, instead of teaching people to buy synthetic-chemical fertilizer, Rahkmat is teaching them how to make effective micro-organisms and great compost. Working in synchrony, these seem to enable the vegetables, rice, and soybean plants to increase their absorption of nutrients and thus produce more abundantly. And, oh, by the way—they save a lot of money and avoid going into debt for fertilizer. The recipe is pretty simple: you propagate effective microbes by mixing rice washing water, sugar or molasses, fish powder, urine, manure; and you ferment this concoction. You can find a lot of information about this by looking up effective micro-organisms on the internet.
Thirdly, I think Rahkmat is very realistic about human nature: that just knowing about something does not change the behavior of a human being. (That’s why my own dad could know about tobacco smoking and cancer risks but keep on smoking.) Rahkmat, who ironically, smokes, like the majority of Indonesian men do—says: “The first thing I have to do is to change the hearts of the people green.”
I asked him what he means by “turning hearts green?” His answer had these elements:
- Teaching people to take something smelly like manure and change it into something good, like compost.
- Discovery: a journey of discovering God’s gifts in their lives and this discovery changes the people’s attitude of life.
- Knowledge: knowledge of theory is not sufficient until it is practiced.
- Offering: A clean heart, working to take care of the earth is an offering to God.
- Understanding the wombs we come from: the womb of God, the womb of our human mother and the womb of the earth—so we have to take care of these 3 wombs.
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