Floods and landslides are major disasters in Kejajar sub-district in Wonosobo district, Central Java province. Occurring regularly every year, they have caused 35 recorded deaths and 31 serious injuries in Wonosobo since 2007.
Recent studies conducted by the Wonosobo local government show that potato farmers contribute to soil erosion that triggers these disasters. Driven by price incentives they continue planting potatoes even though the short roots of these plants do not stabilize the soil on volcanic slopes. Farmers need alternative sources of income in order to prevent erosion and to reduce the risk of floods and landslides.
Firstly, alternative crops such as carica papayas and tamarillo fruit, with roots that go deeper into the soil, should replace short-rooted potatoes as the main crops in the region. The alternative crops help maintain soil integrity during the rainy season and prevent erosion that leads to floods and landslides. The fact that they need less fertilizer and pesticides and are therefore cheaper to produce should be communicated to attract farmers.
Secondly, villagers need to apply the central government’s community forestry policy and use newly granted property rights to manage state forest resources. By doing this, they gain additional sources of income while preserving the nature. Capacity-building programs are required to provide the farmers with the necessary skills in planning, organization, finance, and human resource management. These programs also need to engage farmers with external actors in neighboring villages, government agencies, business circles, and especially with Perum Perhutani, the state-owned enterprise for forest resource management.
Finally, the government needs to also lift import restrictions on horticultural products, including potatoes, as part of the Indonesian commitment to the ASEAN Economic Community. Current restrictions make potatoes in Indonesia more expensive than in neighboring countries. By easing import restrictions, the market for potatoes will be more competitive and prices will drop, which will motivate the farmers to plant substitutes of this crop.
Alternative crops, community forest preservation, and the lifting of import restrictions will, in turn, reduce the risk of dangerous floods and landslides.