Robby: Farmer Field School Trainer
September 8, 2015
Robby has been a trainer in the Farmer Field School program for over two years. He works with palm oil farmers on the island of Borneo in West Kalimantan Province, Indonesia. Robby is one of the trainers that delivers three-month training programs to smallholder farmers in the area, helping them to develop more sustainable farming practices and improve their yields.
Robby grew up in a village called Belaban Ella, in the Menukung area of the district of Melawi. He still has a house in Melawi district but travels several hours to his office in Sintang, and many more hours to conduct training at plantations in the region. Robby is a member of the indigenous Dayak ethnic group and was married earlier this year in both a traditional and Christian ceremony. He is really enjoying married life and is very keen to have children as soon as possible.
“It’s really important that farmers in the program are learning by doing.”
Before becoming a trainer with the Keling Kumang Group (Good Return’s partner in Indonesia), Robby was working as a debt collector for a different company. Until now, Robby’s highest educational attainment was completing senior high school. However, he has been studying to complete a university degree whilst also working full-time as a trainer. This has been very stressful at times. He wrote his thesis on a specialised agricultural area – the influence of biofertiliser on cabbage – and successfully defended it just last month. All going well, he should be graduating very soon.
Working as a Farmer Field School trainer is quite an unusual and specialised job. Each trainer must have a specific set of knowledge and skills regarding the communication of good agricultural practices. The Farmer Field School program focuses heavily on experiential learning with a large practical component and this is one of the reasons why Robby thinks it’s a great program to be a part of. He says “It’s really important that farmers in the program are learning by doing.”
Being such a specialised job, Robby says that many of his friends and family don’t really understand what he does for a living. They do, however, know the Keling Kumang Group as an organisation and are supportive of him working there even though his life as a trainer is very busy. Most days Robby works between 12 and 14 hours. He travels many hours by motorbike (often over bad roads) to deliver training to farmers in their own plantations. While in the field, Robby will also conduct surveys to find new farmer groups that may want to join the program and he will meet with alumni to follow up on their progress since completing the Farmer Field School.
There are many other aspects to his work as well, like collecting and analysing data about the training and looking after finances for the program. The trainers are also responsible for growing seedlings which are given to farmers that graduate from the program so they collectively manage an oil palm nursery. Given the heavy workload, Robby says that time management is the most challenging part of the job.
Even though it can be difficult, there are lots of things that Robby likes about his job. He says:
“I first became a trainer because I wanted the opportunity to meet lots of people. I really like having discussions with different people because I always learn something new. Talking to farmers is definitely my favourite part of my job.”
Robby is one of a team of seven Farmer Field School trainers. There are three staff trainers based in the office in Sintang and four client trainers who are alumni of the program that are based in the field. Robby says the other trainers are very funny and working almost every day with the two staff trainers in the office is another reason he likes his job. He says “one of my colleagues always takes things very slowly and the other one is incredibly talkative so together they always make me laugh.” Even though he already likes his team and the sense of collegiality, Robby is keen to add more trainers to the group. He has been canvassing alumni of his classes to find farmers that may be interested in working as trainers as well. Robby believes that with a greater number of trainers the Farmer Field School will be able to extend its impact even further.
As told by our volunteer Field Support Officer in Indonesia, Bridget Martin.