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Jakarta Post

Prolonged drought takes farmers'€™ jobs, but not their will to work

Slamet Susanto
Yogyakarta   ●   Tue, August 11, 2015

Farmers in Galur, Kulonprogo, Yogyakarta, have refused to surrender to the severe drought that has parched their rice fields and are instead taking advantage of the soil to use it as material to make bricks.

'€œWe dig and gather the layer of clay as material to make bricks,'€ said Sutrisno, of Nomporejo village, Galur district, Kulonprogo.

The clay is then sold at between Rp 70,000 (US$5) and Rp 100,000 for each pickup truck.

A pickup truck of clay is usually derived from digging between 10 and 20 square meters of land, depending on the depth dug.

'€œMy farm is around 2,550 square meters and can produce 100 pickup trucks of clay. The amount is quite decent, rather than leaving the land idle,'€ said Sutrisno.

Currently, hundreds of hectares of farmland in various areas in Yogyakarta have dried up and cannot grow crops. Apart from farmers in Kulonprogo, those in Piyungan district, Bantul regency, Yogyakarta, are also adapting to the drought by making bricks.

Farmer Saryanto claimed he produced bricks every dry season and could produce between 5,000 and 10,000 bricks each drought.

He said he could earn Rp 700,000 from selling 1,000 bricks. '€œThe proceeds can be used for our children'€™s schooling,'€ said Saryanto.

Meanwhile, in Bali, the drought affecting hundreds of hectares of rice fields in East Selemadeg district, Tabanan regency, has prompted farmers in the area to seek other jobs.

'€œThe drought has damaged 30 hectares of my rice fields and I'€™m confused as how to earn a living,'€ farmer Wayan Madya was quoted by Antara as saying on Monday.

He added residents in Bongan hamlet, where most of them are farmers, would lose their employment as they rely solely on their farms.

'€œThe drought in our village recurs annually and this year is the fifth time,'€ said Wayan.

He claimed that during the drought, the farmers stop tilling their fields, but seek other jobs, such as construction work.

'€œI and my colleagues work as construction laborers and earn daily wages,'€ said Wayan.

Around 800 hectares of rice fields in East Selemadeg, Tabanan, have been hit by drought for the last couple of months. The local farmers feared crop failure if the drought continues.

'€œThe rain has not fallen for the past two months. Our fields are currently facing drought, which could trigger crop failure,'€ said I Nengah Nuada of Bongan hamlet, East Selemadeg district, located 50 kilometers from the provincial capital Denpasar, adding that all he can do is resign himself to his fate due.

In West Java, as many as 671 villages have been declared to be in a state of drought emergency, says a local official.

'€œBased on the coordinated meeting last night and our verification, we have currently set 671 villages and 132 districts in West Java in the emergency status,'€ said West Java Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) emergency section head Budiman.

He added 16 out of 27 regencies and cities in the province had been declared to be in an emergency as of now.

They are Sukabumi, Indramayu, Tasikmalaya, Bogor, Bandung, Pangandaran, Garut, Kuningan, Cirebon, Cianjur, Bekasi, Karawang, Sumedang and Ciamis regencies and Tasikmalaya and Bogor cities.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) has recently warned that the dry season this year could last longer than that of previous years because of the weather phenomenon known as El Niño.

The BMKG predicts that the El Niño effect will extend Indonesia'€™s dry season, which normally takes place between April and September, until November, and affect 18 out of the country'€™s 34 provinces, including North Sumatra, West Java, Central Java, East Java, West Nusa Tenggara and East Nusa Tenggara.