The Jakarta Post
Governor Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo may have a fondness for the rock and roll 'horns' hand gesture, but recently he has been showing off his green fingers.
Last November, he ordered a face-lift for the gardens around the National Monument (Monas) in Central Jakarta and the parks at the Semanggi intersection after criticizing the former landscape as lacking concept and featuring a poor selection of decorative plants.
The governor has even redecorated the garden of his official residence in Menteng, Central Jakarta. '[A change in] the landscape and parks can change the face of the city,' he said.
When asked about the reason behind his affinity for gardening, Jokowi said it might have something to do with his time at the School of Forestry at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta and his involvement in the mountain-climbing club in the faculty.
'I like giant trees ' the enormous ones such as banyan trees and trembesi [rain trees], which grow massively and provide shade. They look sturdy,' he said recently.
The hydroponic farming project at the Marunda low-cost apartments in North Jakarta is expected to be his latest breakthrough in expanding green spaces after the park at Pluit Reservoir.
Jokowi said he had chosen Marunda as the location of the pilot project to develop hydroponic farming in other low-cost apartments because it would be a long-term home for the residents, who had been squatting on state land but who have since been rehoused.
During the past three years, urban farming has become a hot topic among the middle class in Jakarta, especially those who want to watch the growing process of their food, food which usually produced far from the capital.
The concept of hydroponics, however, is still quite new in the country compared to traditional farming. The hydroponic system does not use soil, depending instead on water as its media of growth with the nutrients required by the vegetables dissolved in the water.
'Hydroponic farming is not yet developed in Indonesia despite its great potential. Once farmers have learned about it in the greenhouse, they can spread the knowledge to other residents,' consultant to the farming program, Heru Agus Hendra, told The Jakarta Post recently.
Heru said soil-based farming would be difficult in Marunda due to the proximity of the sea and the possibility of seawater intrusion. On the other hand, the hydroponic system would ensure growth and the quality of vegetables because they get the same amount of nutrients from the water.
Currently, a 640-square-meter greenhouse stands near the entrance of the Block A building in the Marunda low-cost apartments. The hydroponic farming in Marunda uses equipment such as PVC pipes with 16,000 holes and rock wool imported from the Netherlands that function as plant holders, pumps, water, seeds and nutrients.
'We will also make some adjustments, so the residents can replace the pipe with used items such as plastic bottles, boxes or containers,' he said.
Heru, who is also the founder of Hidroponiku, a nationwide community of hydroponic lovers, said a group of eight farmers would run the greenhouse under his supervision. They will be expected to transfer their knowledge to other residents in the apartments once they master the hydroponic system.
The group of farmers expects to welcome Jokowi when they commence the planting of various vegetables such as leaf mustard, red lettuce, kailan or Chinese broccoli and pak choi in the greenhouse. The planting is expected to start this week.
Heru, who learned about hydroponics in Thailand, estimates that after a couple of months, the 16,000 plants in the greenhouse can produce a harvest of up to 1.5 tons.
'We hope food-stall owners and residents can come here to pick the vegetables by themselves, while the farmers can get an income from this farming,' he said.
The greenhouse cost Rp 250 million (US$ 21,431), which came from an anonymous company that donated the funds through its corporate social responsibility program.
Sokidi, a resident who was involved in the construction of the greenhouse, said he was not interested in joining the group of farmers but he was curious about the hydroponic system and had always joined the discussions.
'I am interested to learn about hydroponics and plan to apply it by myself because I don't really like to be bound into a certain group,' he said.