Farmer Story: Dayat Discovers a New Sense of Purpose in Saguling

Dayat, a Farmer Partner of trees4Trees from Bandung

Farming is therapy for me when I am alone,” explains 75-year-old Dayat, as we explore his little plantation at the edge of Batulayang Village.  Since his wife passed away, Dayat spends most of his time alone nowadays. Most of his six children live far from home and rarely come to visit.  

Dayat owns a plot of land spanning about 0.12 hectares and overlooking the Saguling reservoir in Bandung, West Java. The bananas and Albizia trees he grows here have long been his main source of income. But this income is anything but certain. “As I am getting older, I want to find a more stable way to make a living,” he explains. 

Dayat recently joined the Trees4Trees planting program., He was given seeds, fertilizer, and training, and then began planting Jabon, Manglid, Gmelina, and Durian trees. “These plants thrive in my land and are worth more than bananas,” he says. Funded by AstraZeneca Forest and supported by Trees4Trees and One Tree Planted, this program is helping change lives and rejuvenate landscapes in West Java.

Branching out, but rooted in local tradition 

Dayat has been farming the fields around Cililin, Bandung, since he was a young man. Since then, he’s seen many people leave the village and head for the big city. But he prefers to stay put, caring for the land he inherited from his parents. He says the tree-planting program has given this land a new lease of life. 

“What I most appreciate is that all the tree seedlings and organic fertilizer I received were provided free of charge,” explains Dayat. I can’t help but wonder how I would have managed if I’d had to purchase them myself, as my income barely covers my daily living expenses,” he added. 

(Above) Dayat shows off his new crop of Burflower-tree (Jabon) 

New growth, new opportunities for development 

Of all the new seedlings, Dayat says jabon (Burflower) trees are best suited to his land,. as they grows quickly and offer income from timber. “After being cut, (the tree) regenerates from new shoots on the stems all by themselves,” says Dayat.  

Since witnessing the fruits of his recent labor, Dayat is already making big plans for the future. “If I’m fortunate enough to enjoy a longer life,” he says, “I look forward to harvesting and selling durian fruits.”  

(Above) Dayat’s trees line the banks of West Java’s Saguling Reservoir

Providing benefits to the surrounding landscape 

Covering an area of over 5,000 hectares, the Saguling reservoir generates electricity that supplies power to Java and Bali. On its banks are agricultural lands owned by local communities and smallholders like Dayat. 

Over the years, erosion has become increasingly common in these lands, causing soil to be carried away by the current and increasing sedimentation within the dam. This has a knock-on effect for local fisheries and jeopardizes the energy supply. Dayat sees tree planting as a way to counter these issues. 

“My motivation for planting trees extends beyond the economic benefits,” says Dayat, whose new trees are helping combat erosion along the banks of the Saguling. “I believe I am making a meaningful contribution to the well-being of many people whose livelihoods depend on this dam,” he added. 

(Above) The Saguling Dam, one of three reservoirs on the Citarum River, and (Below) Dayat is visited by the Trees4Trees Unit Manager.

Remarkable skill and valuable experience 

Ever since he joined the tree-planting program, Dayat has demonstrated his commitment to caring for trees. He’s also applied the knowledge gained from farmer training, which covered the use of organic fertilizers. 

“Out of the 375 trees Dayat received, more than 90% have gone on to thrive,” explains Dian Wardana, Trees4Trees Unit Manager for the Ciminyak 1 working area, where Dayat’s plantation is located. “This is a testament to his remarkable skill and dedication.”  

Dayat attributes this success to his meticulous care for all his trees. “I treat them like my own children and only use organic fertilizers that are gentle to my land,” he says. Being recognized as a top farmer is a great honor – I am grateful to Trees4Trees and their supporters, who have provided me with free seedlings, free organic fertilizers, and the knowledge, especially at my age,” he said. 

Writer: V. Arnila Wulandani. Editor: Christopher Alexander

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