National and intemational efforts to spur Asian agricultural progress have
left most ordinary farmers still to participate in the "green revolution."
Their reluctance to do so often does not result from ignorance or
time-honored habits. Rather, they are unable to see the new technology as
within their reach and compatible with their families' economic survival.
Indonesia illustrates the small cultivators' dilemma. Farm families
cultivating one-fourth to two hectares grow more than nine-tenths of all
agricultural produce. Yet research, marketing facilities and frequently
official priorities emphasize the needs of large commercial estates with
more modern management. Bankers also find them a better risk.
It is to this practical problem that 74-year-old HANS WESTENBERG actively
applies himself at Kebun Djeruk—or Orange Plantation—as his 54-hectare farm
is known at Tebing Tinggi, some 50 miles southeast of Medan, North Sumatra.
Born in this province to a Dutch father and an Indonesian mother of the Karo
Batak people, in the family tradition he studied in the Netherlands for the
colonial civil service. Attracted instead to agriculture, he returned to
Sumatra and in 1919 became a plantation manager. Although concerned chiefly
with growing natural rubber, his early success with experimental
intercropping on young plantations led him to encourage neighboring small
farmers to adopt this practice.
Two decades ago WESTENBERG bought Kebun Djeruk and in 1960 he "retired"
there from the state-owned plantation company, Perusahan Negara Penerenpan
where he had been employed. Half a century of experience has gone into his
experiments since then, nearly all financed with income from the farm.
Convinced that higher-yielding varieties are a "first key" to enhancing
farmers' income, WESTENBERG and cooperating farmers multiplied two and
one-half kilograms of the International Rice Research Institute's first new
varieties, IR-8 and IR-5, to produce 800 tons of rice seed which was
subsequently introduced by the military throughout Sumatra. Within two years
this led to the planting on rainfed fields of a second rice crop worth now
some US$10 million annually. He tested 500 types of sorghum and found one
from Indiana suitable for Sumatra. Soya bean varieties from Australia,
peanuts from Taiwan, corn varieties from Texas and the Super Mungo bean from
the Philippines are among his introductions. In fishponds covering six
hectares are grown Chinese carp which he sells to restaurants in Medan,
while yield records from his fertilized dwarf coconuts promise seedlings for
restoring the Indonesian copra industry.
Sumatran farmers who come to learn by seeing the crops that grow best, buy
seeds and pamphlets, and students, who live in the Kebun Djeruk ashrama
while studying good farming techniques attest to WESTENBERG's creative
influence. Significant is the refusal of this pioneering Indonesian farmer
to let fellow farmers buy seeds for a crop unless he has proven it can make
money for them. WESTENBERG's work is a heartening demonstration that private
initiative can consequentially increase agricultural production when guided
by a deep knowledge of all aspects of farming, a second sense of human
nature and sustained personal effort.
In electing HANS WESTENBERG to receive the 1972 Ramon Magsaysay Award for
Community Leadership, the Board of Trustees recognizes his practical
propagation of new crops and promotion of better methods among Sumatra's
small farmers who have learned to trust and profit from his ideas.