Tanah Air Kita
Tanah Air Kita

This is the term Indonesians use to refer to their country. It means Our Land and Sea.

This has always been a special term for me, I love it.  Somehow, there is a resonance to it,  a feeling of special connection to the land and indeed the waters of this enormous archipelago, the world's largest.  12,777 islands according to some sources.  Including four of the world’s largest islands. These lands include the world's greatest biodiversity, aided by Wallacea, the land discovered by Darwin's friend Wallace, which is an amazing meld of Asian and Australian flora and fauna. We end up with the flora and fauna of three different lands masses. One of the three great rain forests of the world.

And here amongst this great biodiversity still lie secrets.  The komodo dragon was discovered less than a hundred years ago.  An even longer lizard barely thirty years ago.  Our knowledge of the plants and insects is barely sampling the unknown. A treasure trove. We always think of possible medical benefits, but there are others. For example, the Dutch and Portuguese found 8 spices to bring back to Europe, ignoring many more. There are several species of ginger alone.

But I digress.

One of our aims is to move farmers back to sustainable farming, organic if possible, and carbon capture using the very best method of allowing wood, leaves and plant material to become soil over time. Not composting, but creating leaf mulch.

When discussing this with Indonesians, I discovered that referring to Tanah Air Kita made their eyes light up and created enthusiasm. It works when discussing pollution as well. An almost universal reaction, tapping into the deep pride all Indonesians have in their country. This became a primary weapon in my debates with farmers and businessmen.

I was very proud.

Until I discussed with my wife, who rolled her eyes. Yet I found her explanation sad if likely to be true.

For six hundred years, foreigners have come to these islands to enrich themselves.  To help themselves to the extraordinary natural wealth. Portuguese, Chinese, Dutch, English.

They don't expect that to change, and they see the same thing happening till this day, the Americans with the Freeport gold mine royalties which causes immense dissatisfaction.  The charity and NGO workers on their huge salaries and living in luxury. The holidaymakers with their disrespect for culture. The modern carpetbaggers building villas and hotels in Bali. Foreigners are not trusted.  Full stop. We are all here seeking advantage over Indonesians, in their eyes, carefully hidden by the smiles.

When I talk about Tanah Air Kita, I am saying OUR Land and Sea, with passion (this is certainly true, it is what I feel) and this comes through.  It transpires that Indonesians are reacting not to my wonderful and eloquent arguments against pollution and chemical fertilisers, but to my passion and love of this land.  They lose their suspicion of me, and feel that here is somebody who truly wishes to make a difference.

I'll take that. Not what I planned, but it is this passion that helps us achieve our aims and mission. This is how we are changing the face of agricultural Indonesia. We may have big ambitions, but they are appreciated and shared by our Indonesian partners, colleagues and friends. Click here to find more our article...

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