Robber fly - Nature photographer Thomas Shahan specializes in amazing portraits of tiny insects. It isn't easy. Shahan says that this Robber Fly (Holcocephala fusca), for instance, is "skittish" and doesn't like its picture taken.

Eye-popping bug photos

Nature by Numbers (Video)

"The Greater Akashic System" – July 15, 2012 (Kryon Channelling by Lee Caroll) (Subjects: Lightworkers, Intent, To meet God, Past lives, Universe/Galaxy, Earth, Pleiadians, Souls Reincarnate, Invention: Measure Quantum state in 3D, Recalibrates, Multi-Dimensional/Divine, Akashic System to change to new system, Before religion changed the system, DNA, Old system react to Karma, New system react to intent now for next life, Animals (around humans) reincarnate again, This Animal want to come back to the same human, Akashic Inheritance, Reincarnate as Family, Other Planets, Global Unity … etc.)

Question: Dear Kryon: I live in Spain. I am sorry if I will ask you a question you might have already answered, but the translations of your books are very slow and I might not have gathered all information you have already given. I am quite concerned about abandoned animals. It seems that many people buy animals for their children and as soon as they grow, they set them out somewhere. Recently I had the occasion to see a small kitten in the middle of the street. I did not immediately react, since I could have stopped and taken it, without getting out of the car. So, I went on and at the first occasion I could turn, I went back to see if I could take the kitten, but it was to late, somebody had already killed it. This happened some month ago, but I still feel very sorry for that kitten. I just would like to know, what kind of entity are these animals and how does this fit in our world. Are these entities which choose this kind of life, like we do choose our kind of Human life? I see so many abandoned animals and every time I see one, my heart aches... I would like to know more about them.

Answer: Dear one, indeed the answer has been given, but let us give it again so you all understand. Animals are here on earth for three (3) reasons.

(1) The balance of biological life. . . the circle of energy that is needed for you to exist in what you call "nature."

(2) To be harvested. Yes, it's true. Many exist for your sustenance, and this is appropriate. It is a harmony between Human and animal, and always has. Remember the buffalo that willingly came into the indigenous tribes to be sacrificed when called? These are stories that you should examine again. The inappropriateness of today's culture is how these precious creatures are treated. Did you know that if there was an honoring ceremony at their death, they would nourish you better? Did you know that there is ceremony that could benefit all of humanity in this way. Perhaps it's time you saw it.

(3) To be loved and to love. For many cultures, animals serve as surrogate children, loved and taken care of. It gives Humans a chance to show compassion when they need it, and to have unconditional love when they need it. This is extremely important to many, and provides balance and centering for many.

Do animals know all this? At a basic level, they do. Not in the way you "know," but in a cellular awareness they understand that they are here in service to planet earth. If you honor them in all three instances, then balance will be the result. Your feelings about their treatment is important. Temper your reactions with the spiritual logic of their appropriateness and their service to humanity. Honor them in all three cases.

Dian Fossey's birthday celebrated with a Google doodle

Dian Fossey's birthday celebrated with a Google doodle
American zoologist played by Sigourney Weaver in the film Gorillas in the Mist would have been 82 on Thursday (16 January 2014)

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Owa Jawa monkeys prepared for release back to forest

Theresia Sufa, The Jakarta Post, Bogor

The Cikananga Animal Rescue Center in Sukabumi on Tuesday turned over six Owa Jawa monkeys (Hylobates moloch) for rehabilitation before their release back to the forest.

The endangered monkeys were brought to the Owa Jawa Rescue and Rehabilitation Center, at the Bedogol resort in Bogor's Gede Pangrango Mountain National Park.

Owa Jawa monkeys, which are endemic to Java island, can only be found in certain areas of West Java. Their population has fallen drastically as a result of illegal poaching and dwindling habitat.

Animal rescue center spokesman Budiharto said they had a total of 14 Owa Jawa monkeys confiscated from or voluntarily handed in by pet owners in Greater Jakarta and West Java.

"We will gradually bring the other eight monkeys to the center for rehabilitation in the next few months," he said.

On Tuesday, the animal rescue center brought three female monkeys to the rehabilitation center. They were six-year-old Kiky and 10-year-olds Mell and Eci, who is about one-month pregnant. The male monkeys are named Sadewa, Pooh and Septa, all age seven.

Rehabilitation center manager Anton Ario said the monkeys would need about a month of rehabilitation before being returned to the forest.

"The main problem we have here is the lack of funds for the monkeys' health checks and food .... We encourage people to adopt Owa Jawa, not as pets, but to help them survive during rehabilitation," he said.

Time for alternative basic foods: Minister

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Amid high prices in some of the country's key commodities such as soybeans and rice, Industry Minister Fahmi Idris said Wednesday it was time for Indonesians to consume alternative commodities such as corn, cassava and other types of beans on a daily basis.

Fahmi said he had asked the food industry to produce more foods from such alternative commodities.

"It is time to reintroduce these alternative foods nationwide. We should not rely on one type of food only, for example rice, as our basic food," Fahmi said during the opening of an exhibition on alternative foods and their supporting technologies.

He said corn and cassava could substitute for rice, while koro beans could substitute for soybeans to produce tempeh.

"But for now, the ingredients to produce tempeh are still mixed, some 40 percent is koro bean while the remainder is soybean," he added.

Instant and small-thin noodles that use wheat flour as their main ingredient, Fahmi said, could now also be substituted with corn essence.

"We've found new basic commodities," said Fahmi. "The next thing is how to produce foods of good quality to meet people's tastes. Consumer taste is the key to successfully promoting these new commodities."

A pioneer of corn-based noodles in Indonesia, PT Subafood Pangan Jaya, produces instant and thin-small noodles to give the public alternative basic foods.

Promotion supervisor Agus Sujarwo told The Jakarta Post at the exhibition that the company has manufactured noodles made from corn essence since 2004.

Currently, the company's daily production reaches 3 tons of noodles.

Agus said that although the company's production capacity was small compared to big players like Indofood, Subafood's products were distributed nationwide. (nkn)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Soeharto's legacy leaves key lessons in agribusiness

Andi Haswidi, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Amid the threat of global increases in food prices, lessons from the earlier stage of Soeharto's rule over the economy have become more relevant than ever, business leaders said.

Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chairman, Mohammad Hidayat said after Soeharto saved the country from soaring inflation rates at the end of Sukarno's presidency, he kept the country's economic growth steady, at an average of seven percent annually until the mid 80s.

Hidayat said, "He was right to focus on the agriculture industry and it's supporting industries as the locomotive for the country's economic growth".

He said the world now faced a threat from food-driven global inflation due to the growing demand from the emergence of new economies such as China and India.

So the current government administration should look to Soeharto's successes, particularly in the agriculture sector, Hidayat said.

"There are things that must be viewed under the current perspective.

"Nevertheless, learning from his concepts and implementation on the agriculture sector has become more important than ever."

Despite his iron first, Soeharto was able to implement all policies needed to achieve the food self-sufficiency target, Hidayat said.

Soeharto had also provided the necessary supporting infrastructure including irrigation, the establishment of the State Logistics Agency as the rice price controller, and the effective distribution of subsidies.

"What was amazing was how he managed to encourage farmers to take a role in policy implementation through giving them intensive training, ensuring their competitiveness and improving their livelihood."

Hidayat said Soeharto's economic successes faded after he shifted focus from agriculture development to the high technology sector, including the establishment of the country's first airplane producer Nurtanio under B.J. Habibie.

"After this time, his policies began to show weaknesses," he said.

Indonesian Employers Association chairman Sofyan Wanandi also praised Soeharto's early focus on the agriculture sector and said there had been "solid team work in Soeharto's cabinet".

"He backed his ministries during the policy implementation process," Sofyan said.

"This gave them strong political support in carrying out their duties, unlike what happens now."

With a solid cabinet, Soeharto was able to secure most of the targets set for his five-year short-term development plans, particularly those in the agriculture sector and supporting industries, Sofyan said.

He said externally Soeharto was able to maintain Indonesia's economic credibility in the face of global lenders and donor countries.

"This credibility saw Indonesia able to borrow money at a low rate with a long tenor.

"Most of our loans were above the 30 year period, some even with 10 years grace period."

With manageable liability on loans, Soeharto enjoyed much ease in managing the state budget, giving subsidies for industries and to keep the economic fundamentals on the right track, Sofyan said.

As an owner of a manufacturing company, Sofyan said he had once enjoyed the oil subsidies during Soeharto's era -- something that most analysts later said was counter-productive due to over dependency.

"In the long run, oil subsidies were not healthy. Nevertheless, back then, it was crucial to support our industries, which were still at the infant stage," Sofyan said.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Consumers protest commodity price rise

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Housewives have protested the soaring prices of basic commodities which have left traditional markets and shopping centers empty, nationwide.

Nurin Agustion, a 35-year-old mother of two young children in Pundak Payung, Semarang, said she could only afford 15 kilograms of rice where previously she could get 20. She said she has bought more local fish than meat or chicken and has reduced her usage of cooking oil because of the soaring prices of commodities including meat, palm oil, fruit and vegetables.

"I can not increase my daily budget because my husband's monthly income has not been raised. I have to manage our monthly budget carefully so that we can survive this difficult situation," she told The Jakarta Post.

Traditional markets and shopping centers, including department stores and malls in urban areas in Central Java, have substantially quietened since the 2006 earthquake which shook the province and Yogyakarta.

"Following the quake many rice-belt areas in the two provinces could not meet their rice production targets," National Logistics Agency (Bulog) local office chief Indiarto said.

"This condition has been worsened by the soaring price of soybeans, the raw materials for tempeh and tofu, two primary foods in Java," he said.

Menik, A fishmonger at Depok Beach in Yogyakarta, said her sales had dropped by 50 percent over the past few weeks with the lack of buyers following the soaring prices of basic commodities in the province.

"Before the price increases, my sales were around Rp 1 million a day but recently it has dropped to around Rp 500,000. I could earn on the average of Rp 40,000 a day," she told the Post.

Depok fishermen said they had to increase fish prices by 20 percent due to the soaring price of rare fuels, especially kerosene.

They said the prices could be stabilized if the government guaranteed the distribution of fuel to rural areas in the province.

Darmi, another fish trader, said she could understand the quiet fish market on the beach with the increased prices of all commodities which had weakened people's purchasing power.

Sumarti, a rice vendor at Beringhardjo traditional market in Yogyakarta, said the market was crowded for only a few hours in the morning but then became silent in the afternoons.

The price of C-4 rice rose to from Rp 5,300 to Rp 5,600 per liter, while regular cooking oil rose from Rp 9,000 to almost Rp 12,000 a liter.

The price of wheat flour went from Rp 5,500 to Rp 7,000 per kilogram.

"The price hikes have a lot to do with increased cost of transportation and have been triggered by the soaring prices of rice, eggs, chickens and soybeans," Sumarti said.

The Post correspondent in Batam, Riau Islands, reported that the price of consumption commodities had continued to soar in line with price increases in other provinces, despite the island's status as free-trade zone.

Local trade and industry office chief Achmad Hijazi said the prices of basic commodities in the province were similar to other provinces because all consumption commodities were supplied to the island from regions under government supervision and regulation.

"Local authorities are not allowed to import rice or other basic commodities directly from Vietnam, to maintain the price of basic commodities and protect local products," he said, adding that the soaring prices had affected the livelihoods of low-income earners on the island.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Decorative plants lift welfare of Bogor farmers

Theresia Sufa, The Jakarta Post, Bogor, West Java

Hundreds of farmers in Bogor's Tajurhalang village have improved their welfare thanks to decorative plants.

Before, the farmers, who live in a valley near Mt. Salak, were poor. They planted bananas, cassava and pineapple, but only managed to earn Rp 200,000 (US$22) to Rp 300,000 a month. The money was barely enough to meet their daily needs, let alone send their children to school.

Then the farmers joined the farming group Violces. Afterward, they decided to shift to decorative plants, which according to interviewed farmers, were more profitable than what they used to grow.

"The profit from selling anthurium or poinsettia seedlings can reach up to Rp 15 million a month," Cecep Suryadi, a farmer, said.

Anthurium has become a trendy decorative plant among some circles in large cities.

Cecep said his income from growing and selling decorative plants was enough to send his children to university. One of his children is a graduate of the Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB), one of the most reputable universities in the country.

"Before, we couldn't keep cows. We were poor. We could not pay for our rice, let alone pay for our children's education. We ate bananas and cassava, leftovers from our unsold crops," Cecep said.

He said the popularity of the anthurium might eventually fade and prices go down, but he was not worried because he grew other plants as well.

Ukas Supendi, another farmer in Tajurhalang, agreed with Cecep.

"I prefer growing bromelia, a kind of decorative pineapple plant. Its price tends to go up instead of dropping," Ukas said, adding that he sold bromelia for between Rp 3,000 and Rp 1 million.

He has used the money from his new business to send his children to school, renovate his house and expand his farm.

From growing decorative plants, Ibu Ikah, a mother of three, has been able to further her children's education. She said she made Rp 1.5 million per month from her business, enough for her "children's education and daily needs".

Although all residents of Tajurhalang earn money growing decorative plants, there is no competition among them.

"We never compete. If a customer asks for something I don't sell, I will get it from a fellow farmer. We help each other in marketing our plants," said Ukas.

Together, resident have improved not only their own lives, but the life of the entire village.

The village has now clinched its status as the center of decorative plants in Bogor. The village, which used to be underdeveloped and dirty, is now green, with every yard filled with decorative plants.

Every weekend, the village is swarmed with buyers coming from Jakarta and surrounding areas.

Tajurhalang village head Odih said there were 300 farmers in the village.

"We just received financial assistance of Rp 75 million from the regency administration," Odih said. "I hope we can continue to be the largest decorative plant center in the regency."

Friday, January 25, 2008

Indonesia thanks world for post-tsunami aid

The Jakarta Post

When the deadly tsunami devastated Aceh and Nias in 2004, the global response was unprecedented. Millions of people -- from children to senior citizens -- donated huge amounts of money and goods to tsunami victims.

Indonesia on Thursday expressed its gratitude to the international community during a special ceremony called "Indonesia Thanks the World", held at Balai Sudirman in Jakarta.

Representing the international community, the chairman of Singapore's Red Cross, Winston Choo (photo above), said rebuilding Aceh and Nias was a difficult process.

But with the help of the Indonesian Red Cross and the Aceh-Nias Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Agency (BRR), he said, the international community was able to channel aid to tsunami victims.

Singapore donated some S$100 million in medical aid, food supplies, housing, pier and hospital construction.

"I would like to congratulate Mr. Yudhoyono's (President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono) decision to establish the BRR, which has helped donors and partners contribute in the reconstruction process," Winston said. (JP/Esther Samboh)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Farmers, students plant trees in Puncak

The Jakarta Post

Farmers from the Paseban Asri group joined forces with Madrasa Aliyah Miftahulhuda students to plant hundreds of trees in West Jakarta's Puncak area Tuesday.

The types of trees they planted included damar (Agathis), mahoni (Swetenia maecophylla) and gmelina (Gmelina arbocea) trees.

Paseban Asri head Basir Baesuni said Tuesday's efforts were aimed at conveying the concern farmers in the popular tourist area of Puncak had about the environment.

He said a large number of vehicles traveled along Puncak's roads each day, which contributed to air pollution in the area.

Planting trees along the road would help absorb carbon dioxide emitted from vehicles, he said.

"We won't neglect these trees. The farmers and students will take turns taking care of the trees once every two weeks," Basir, who teaches environmental studies at the madrasa, said.

Muhammad Yusuf, a student at the school, said he was happy to have the responsibility of taking care of the trees.

"I'm happy to be involved in this tree-planting program. It is important environmental education," he said.

On Monday, staff members from Japan's Gunma Safari Park and Taman Safari Indonesia also planted trees at Gunung Gede Pangrango national park in Cianjur, West Java. -- JP/Theresia Sufa

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

One killed in Nias quake

Medan, N. Sumatra (ANTARA News) - An earthquake measuring 6.2 on the Richter scale rattled Indonesia`s Nias Island early Wednesday, leaving one person dead and four others injured.

The tremor was also believed to have caused cracks in tens of house buildings in Gunungsitoli subdistrict on the island, spokesman for the Medan Meteorology and Geophysics Office Rifwar Kamin said.

The quake was also felt by people living along the western coast of North Sumatra province.

The epicenter of the quake was in the sea about 24 km north west of the island at a depth of 10 km, he said.

Wednesday`s quake did not have the potential to cause tsunami, he said.

Fear of the supernatural spares old trees

Godeliva D Sari, Contributor The Jakarta Post, Ngawi, East Java

Experts say the deforestation of the areas that support the Bengawan Solo River was one of the main causes of the recent floods in Central and East Java.

Most teak forests in the regions that suffered floods have been completely razed to the ground in the past decade. The replanting of these forested areas has been a failure.

Customarily the task of replanting teak forests is given to the communities who live around the forests, in a system called mbaon. The root word of mbaon is bau, which means labor.

The mbaon people are allowed to plant ground crops such as peanuts, sweet potato or maize, and are responsible for the young teak while it grows. When the teak matures and shades the ground, the villagers are supposed to leave and let the forest grow.

After several decades the teak will be harvested and once again the villagers will be recruited to tend the young trees in the mbaon system.

Joned is such a villager and he tends his mbaon plot in the area that a decade ago was an old teak forest that had been standing since the Dutch colonial era. Now the area looks like agricultural land. Joned is planting wet rice on the land that used to support teak.

Forestry officials in this area have decided against a homogeneous teak plantation and have given him seedlings of quicker maturing hardwood trees such as neem, sengon and mahogany. Because he has elected to plant rice he can only plant the forestry's trees on the dividing walls between the plots.

"Officials told me they would come and harvest the trees in eight years," he explained as he spread a concoction of three types of chemical fertilizer on his rice plants.

"After three years the mbaon people are supposed to leave. But usually by that time the young hardwood trees have disappeared," Joned said. This forces the authorities to start another mbaon term, and the forest never matures.

Joned's mbaon plot is not far from Begal, a village that used to be deep in the middle of an old teak forest. This sizable forest once covered the districts of Jogorogo, Kedunggalar and Widodaren in Ngawi regency in the Western part of East Java. Now there are barely any big trees here.

The teak has been carted away, and every other type of tree has been chopped down. With the local price of firewood exceeding Rp 200,000 for a small pickup truck full, any type of wood now fetches worthwhile money.

This is one reason why it is nearly impossible to find a really old, big tree in Java today. Surveying the horizon there is only one tall, lonely tree in the distance.

Joned explained that no one dared chop it down because it had resident spirits called dhemit living in it. By the big tree, a huge kepuh, there is a ruin of an old swimming pool, fed by a natural spring. The kepuh stands by the forgotten pool, unaware that a fear of the supernatural has spared it from the chain saws that felled the thousands of other trees that once dominated the landscape.

The absence of big, ancient, trees becomes noticeable when you start to look for them. Then you notice that every big tree in this region is either in a cemetery or is haunted. There is nothing here to compare with the famous giant redwoods of North America. Trees there are thousands of years old, large enough to cut a tunnel that a car can pass through. Here, a tree that is 50 years old is considered big.

Look up the north side of Mount Lawu and you see whole slopes that have been completely deforested. The ridges of the mountains form a depressing silhouette against the sky: scraggly pines where the forest should be thick. Everywhere there is evidence of careless land use. Steep slopes are planted with flimsy seasonal crops like cassava and maize. Landslides are evident in too many places.

In the village of Ngrendeng in the district of Sine there are two huge trembesi rain trees. Sure enough, under these two beauties there are two graves. Pak Hadi Susanto, the keeper, explains that in one of the graves is a certain Ki Ageng Pasuruan while the other one is where his weapons were buried. Ki Ageng Pasuruan was also known as Pangeran Wirayuda and is supposed to have hailed from the times of Sultan Agung of the Islamic Mataram kingdom. History notes that in the early 17th century Mataram sent a force to annex Pasuruan. If the grave in Ngrendeng is from that time, the trembesi trees there have been growing for nearly 400 years.

Trees in Java are endangered. Economic needs, lack of arable land, and population growth have together caused deforestation and the felling of big trees in non-forest areas. However the idea that spirits haunt certain places, like cemeteries, appears to be effective in protecting trees from the chain saw.

In this respect it might be useful to consider the experience of Thailand, where forest communities have successfully managed and conserved their natural resources. In Thailand, communities found that conservation was much more efficient when spirits were involved. The village of Tam Nai in North Thailand, for example, has successfully conserved its community forest by consecrating the trees to Buddha and local spirits.

The forests of Java are too important to be treated as plantations, expected to produce a harvest of timber. Java needs a complete moratorium on logging. The forests need to be given back to the communities and the local spirits. The local forest communities know that they depend on their forest for their livelihoods and are the most motivated to conserve them. With help from spirits such as the Javanese dhemit we will keep trees standing for longer. Maybe the government should consider recruiting these dhemit.

Poachers hunting for protected species

JAMBI (Jakarta Post) : Uncontrolled poaching has been spreading to protected forests and national parks, threatening rare species, local experts say.

Technical coordinator of the Jambi center for natural resources conservation, Titin Heryatin, said poachers have been hunting for protected animals including Sumatran tigers, elephants, rhinos, crocodiles, snakes and forest goats.

Poachers have freely hunted protected species in protected forests and national parks since special forest police were allegedly involved in a poaching and rare species trade syndicate.

"Poachers have frequently worked at night and used sophisticated weapons to avoid police," she said here on Tuesday.

She said her office and police were also lacking personnel to improve surveillance and enforce the law.

The center has deployed only some 24 personnel to conduct surveillance over the 60,500 hectare-Bukit Duabelas National Park, 4.1 million-ha East Coast mangrove forest and the 120,000-ha Durian Luncuk natural reserve, she said.

"We are working to improve coordination between relevant authorities including the Forestry Ministry and the Environment Ministry, the police and local military to control the poaching," she said.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

S. Sumatra told to heed to reforestation

Khairul Saleh, The Jakarta Post, Palembang

The South Sumatra Legislative Council urged the local province administration Monday to put more focus on "regreening" programs, saying the deforestation rate in the province had reached an alarming level.

Arudji Kartawinata, one of the local legislators, said the call was made in response to data from the South Sumatra Forestry Office showing deforestation in the province had reached 60 percent of its total forested lands of about 3.7 million hectares.

The deforestation had multiple causes, ranging from forest fires and illegal logging to land conversion into plantation projects and other development programs.

Of the damaged forests, only about 358,000 hectares had been reforested through the timber estate development project, according to the data.

Arudji said the high rate of deforestation had lead to an increased incidence of flooding in several areas in South Sumatra.

Even though it is the task of the central government to rehabilitate the damaged forests, the province administration should not sit quiet, he said.

"The province administration should have had its own program to deal with the damaged forests; don't just wait for guidelines from the central government," Arudji said.

"If we are passive, the program from the central government won't come until our forests have totally been damaged," he said.

He urged the province administration to be serious in handling the issue and in the event the province was short of funds it could coordinate with the central government.

The legislator further said the fund allocated from the province budget for reforestation in South Sulawesi was very small.

Arudji expressed concern over the end of the reforestation movement program which absorbed a total fund of Rp 37.78 billion (US$4.19 million) in 2004.

In its implementation the program produced nothing, he said, adding that the only major thing to result from the program was a misuse of funds on the part of the related government offices.

The South Sumatra chapter of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) disclosed recently that the province's reforestation program was full of problems ranging from corruption, false deeds, neglected lands, dead seedlings and stolen seedlings to collusion in the appointment of companies taking part in tenders to procure seedlings.

Walhi said the failure of the program was caused mainly by a failure to involve local people and the absence of clear-cut goals.

In its implementation the program resembled a physical project rather than environmental preservation, he said, adding this was evident in the reckless appointment of areas to be rehabilitated.

"The South Sumatra province administration is not serious in handling the reforestation program," Sri Lestari, head of the South Sumatra chapter of Walhi, said.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Coffee farmers, exporters missing the high price momentum

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

While many cafes like Starbucks and Coffee Bean are enjoying an ever-increasing number of clients, Indonesian coffee production is in fact on a decline, apparently missing the commodity's high prices on the global market.

Starbucks Indonesia uses Sumatran and Javanese Arabica coffee as a part of its coffee blend, which also make up the bulk of Coffee Bean coffee although only after being processed abroad.

The declining trend in coffee production and export was voiced by more than 350 exporters grouped under the Association of Indonesian Coffee Exporters (AEKI), who purchase coffee beans from the farmers from between Rp 7,000 and 21,000 per kilogram.

AEKI executive secretary Rachim Kartabrata said recently the exporters were in fact struggling to procure more coffee from Indonesia, with international demand outweighing supply.

"The prices are good, but exporters can't get enough, so they can't sell much," he said.

He explained that the lack of beans from coffee growers had much to do with the country's production capacity which recently declined by 18.1 percent, from 550,000 tons in 2006 to 450,000 in 2007.

With domestic consumption also on the increase, exports of coffee last year were estimated to drop by 7 percent from 307,880 tons valued at US$497.613 million in 2006, to 286,237 tons worth US$589.494 million, he said.

"The shortage will force us to increase our imports because the domestic market is growing along with the development of coffee shops and cafes," he said, adding that most traders imported coffee from Vietnam.

Rachim said domestic consumption this year could reach up to 200,000 tons, a 33 percent increase from 2007, meaning the Indonesia could import up to 100,000 tons, 50 percent more than in 2006.

"Due to high demand and a limited supply, exporters and domestic coffee producers are jostling to meet their clients' needs."

According to data from the Agriculture Ministry, in 2007, 12 percent of trees were defective in the country's total coffee plantation area of 1,312,030 hectares.

From the remaining area, 73 percent is supposed to be able to produce around 700,000 tons of coffee beans, with the remainders not yet productive.

"In fact," Rachim said, "our plantations only produce around half as much as Vietnam's 600,000 hectares."

Herman, a researcher of coffee and cocoa at the Indonesian Plantation Research Institution (LRPI), said a lack of comprehensive measures to revitalize the industry had led to this gradual shortage of domestic supply.

Coffee for instance, is excluded from three major export commodities -- rubber, oil palm and cocoa -- which the government pledged to revitalize. These commodities have enjoyed, among other things, Rp 40 trillion worth of assistance in the form of interest rate subsidy between 2006 and 2010.

According to the association and LRPI, Indonesia saw the worst price of coffee in 2002, when coffee farmers in Indonesia had to sell their crop for as little as Rp 2,500 a kilogram, hitting more than 170 exporters in Lampung, the country's biggest coffee-growing province.

After this, many coffee farmers became reluctant to plant coffee and turned instead to cocoa or corn, which are simpler to cultivate and bring more profits.

Their reluctance has also been driven by the increasingly unpredictable weather, such as extended dry or wet seasons, which dramatically affect the harvest.

Rachim said in order to encourage farmers to grow coffee, the government should provide assistance for them in the form of easy bank loans.

"I hope the regional administration ... will pay some serious attention to the mainstream coffee industry," he said.

Indonesia is currently the second biggest producer and exporter of Robusta coffee after Vietnam. When combined with its Arabica exports, Indonesia is the fourth biggest exporter in the world, after Brazil, Columbia and Vietnam.

"We actually have a strong selling advantage because we grow two types of coffee," he said.

Up to 80 percent of Indonesia's total production is Robusta and the remainder is Arabica, with America, West Europe and Japan being its main export destinations.

He said exporters saw increasing demands from other emerging markets like Russia, China, Taiwan, South Korea and Malaysia.

Indonesian coffee is mainly traded in London and New York. (ind)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Simple soybean solution from scientists

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Tempeh and tofu would not have disappeared from the family dining room, as it did this week, if the country's government had listened to Indonesia's scientists.

The archipelago would have been able to stop importing soybeans from the U.S. and would probably even be exporting a high-yield protein-rich bean to other countries.

"Perhaps we didn't have the time to pay attention to soybeans then," said Endang Sukara, deputy chairman of the natural sciences department of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI).

But in 2004 and after successfully breeding "newly improved" soybeans, LIPI scientists invited then-President Megawati and her agriculture officials to see their high-yield harvest in South Sumatra.

Endang wasn't joking when he said the soybeans had added value.

Kedelai Plus, the new improved variety, was able to produce up to three times the yield compared to regular soybeans and required less than half the amount of fertilizer.

"We told the government all about it, and they were there during the harvesting at Musi Rawas in South Sumatra," Endang said at LIPI's Center for Biotechnology Research in Cibinong, West Java.

"But they never followed it up."

To create Kedelai Plus, a team of scientists, led by Harmastini Sukiman, isolated hundreds of Rhizobiums, a microbe that binds Nitrogen from the ground for soybean roots to absorb.

They then discovered one special string called Rhizobium B64.

"The strain worked really well for soybeans by boosting productivity and improving the plants' resistance to diseases," Harmastini said.

"Soybean plants produce more beans using B64."

The scientists grew Kedelai Plus in many areas across Indonesia, including South Sumatra, North Sumatra, West Java and East Java, with outstanding results.

Farmers in Indonesia can produce on average up to 1.2 tons of soybeans per hectare, but in every harvest Kedelai Plus was yielding 2.4 to 4.5 tons per hectare.

The team discovered a way to inject the microbe into the soybean, which meant farmers no longer had to glue the microbe onto the bean skin, or sprinkle it across the soil.

"Rhizobiums grow abundantly in the soil, so for Rhizobium B64 to survive the competition, we must make sure there are enough B64 cells for the soybean roots to absorb," Harmastini said.

With the help of a special vacuuming machine, LIPI was able to turn any type of soybean variety into Kedelai Plus with similar results.

Endang said he was confident the new technology would see Indonesia end its dependency on expensive, imported American soybeans.

"All the government needs to do now is up-scale the machine and produce Kedelai Plus in various seed centers so that farmers can purchase them at affordable prices," he said.

Endang said he has been dreaming of a day when he could drink soybean milk, snack on soybean yogurt and have a tempeh burger for lunch, all made from domestic soybeans.

But for the time being, farmers wishing to plant "newly improved" soybeans can bring their own seeds to LIPI in Cibinong to be injected with Rhizobium B64 at a cost of Rp 50,000 (US$ 5.30) for 20 kilograms of soybean seed. (lva)

Medical plants 'face extinction'


BBC News

Hundreds of medicinal plants are at risk of extinction, threatening the discovery of future cures for disease, according to experts.

Over 50% of prescription drugs are derived from chemicals first identified in plants.

But the Botanic Gardens Conservation International said many were at risk from over-collection and deforestation.

Researchers warned the cures for things such as cancer and HIV may become "extinct before they are ever found".

The group, which represents botanic gardens across 120 countries, surveyed over 600 of its members as well as leading university experts.


MIRACLE CURES MOST AT RISK

  • Yew tree - Cancer drug paclitaxel is derived from the bark, but it takes six trees to create a single dose so growers are struggling to keep up
  • Hoodia - Plant has sparked interest for its ability to suppress appetite, but vast quantities have already been "ripped from the wild" as the search for the miracle weight drug continues
  • Magnolia - Has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for 5,000 years as it is believed to help fight cancer, dementia and heart disease. Half the world's species threatened, mostly due to deforestation
  • Autumn crocus - Romas and Greeks used it as poison, but now one of the most effective treatments for gout. Under threat from horticulture trade.


They identified 400 plants that were at risk of extinction.

These included yew trees, the bark of which forms the basis for one of the world's most widely used cancer drugs, paclitaxel.

Hoodia, which originally comes from Namibia and is attracting interest from drug firms looking into develop weight loss drugs, is on the verge of extinction, the report said.

And half of the world's species of magnolias are also under threat.

The plant contains the chemical honokiol, which has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat cancers and slow down the onset of heart disease.

The report also said autumn crocus, which is a natural treatment for gout and has been linked to helping fight leukaemia, is at risk of over-harvest as it is popular with the horticultural trade because of its stunning petals.

Many of the chemicals from the at-risk plants are now created in the lab.

But the report said as well as future breakthroughs being put at risk, the situation was likely to have a consequence in the developing world.

It said five billion people still rely on traditional plant-based medicine as their primary form of health care.

Report author Belinda Hawkins said: "The loss of the world's medicinal plants may not always be at the forefront of the public consciousness.

"However, it is not an overstatement to say that if the precipitous decline of these species is not halted, it could destabilise the future of global healthcare."

And Richard Ley, of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, added: "Nature has provided us with many of our medicines.

"Scientists are always interested in what they can provide and so it is worry that such plants maybe at risk."

Unique healthfood of Indonesia eaten by millions

The Jakarta Post, Jonathan Agranoff

Part of Indonesia's culinary heritage, and now a healthfood for the West, tempeh is unique amongst soy foods and has been an important part of the Indonesian diet for hundreds of years.

Native to Indonesia, it is found throughout the archipelago and eaten by millions, but until recently was almost unknown out of the country.

Now, research in food science and nutrition has shown this food to be unique amongst vegetarian foods, and already popular among vegetarians in the U.S. and Australia.

Any visitor to an Indonesian market or dinner table will almost certainly come across tempeh, though wonder what on earth it really is. Closely resembling a Camembert cheese in color and texture with a mushroom-like aroma, tempeh is in fact one of the world's first soybean foods. It is composed of cooked soybeans that have been fermented through by an edible fungus which, when mature (like a cheese) becomes an attractive and aromatic white cake suitable for a variety of uses in hundreds of local dishes.

In fact, in a country where meat is expensive and often of dubious quality, tempeh is an excellent high protein substitute to meat or fish, without the need for scrupulous hygiene or expensive refrigeration.

When scientists first began undertaking research in food and nutrition in Indonesia, tempeh revealed itself as an important component of the native diet. Moreover, the method of production was itself considered an ingenious process of applied microbiology and became the focus of attention in several laboratories in the U.S. by both American and Indonesian researchers.

One of the earliest documented records of the nutritional importance of tempeh was its significance during the second world war in Asia. Here, tempeh was known to the prisoners of the Japanese in prison camps in Java, many of whom suffered from dysentery and were unable to digest most of what little food they had. Boiled soybeans were virtually indigestible to them. Only tempeh, with its high digestibility was able to be assimilated and the food reportedly saved the lives of many Dutch and British prisoners of war in Java. It was smuggled through the fence by the local Javanese and those who survived have attributed it to the tempeh they managed to sustain themselves with.

Nutritionally, tempeh represents a food rich in protein (the same quantity and nearly the same quality as beef because of its high digestibility) but unlike beef, contains no cholesterol or saturated fats that current evidence links to heart disease in the "affluent" West. It also contains a certain vitamin (B12) that is normally only found in animal products and milk.

In this respect tempeh is unique as a vegetarian food without the accompanying disadvantages of many unpalatable "meat substitutes" of poor texture and flavor.

It is also very easy to digest due to the fermentation and very suitable in small quantities for babies or those with malabsorption diseases. In fact, one of the latest nutritional findings has been the use of a tempeh-based formula weaning food in Indonesian primary health centers to successfully treat infants suffering from stomach infections and dehydration. A natural antibacterial compound has been identified and is still being studied. Research has found that rabbits fed high tempeh diets show increased resistance to infection and raise their antibody levels, suggesting interaction with the immune system. Basically, tempeh represents a cheap form of good quality protein and other nutrients, many essential to a healthy diet, that is readily available and is therefore well suited to a developing nation as a local high quality food resource that is cheap to buy and use.

The craft of tempeh making is passed on through generations of tempeh making families, in much the same way as that of beer brewing or cheese making. Tempe is manufactured in a way that is more like the work of a microbiology laboratory than a village household; the tropical climate serves well as an incubator with constant temperatures day and night.

Basically, tempeh is made from cooked soybeans that have been inoculated with a special starter culture of fungal spores, packed into banana leaves (although the ever popular plastic bag has taken over from the traditional banana leaves) and then left to ferment. During this time, a luxuriant growth of white mold grows through to knit together the beans and turn them into tempeh.

Fermented foods in Southeast Asia, especially tempeh, have an important role to play in rural development and by providing employment and generating income for investment in the rural economy.

Tempeh-making is a labor-intensive industry; a clear advantage in a country with serious over population and urban employment problems. Nationwide cottage industries like tempeh-making are vital to maintain profitable rural employment opportunities that help to stem rural to urban migration that is so typical a cause of city poverty in tropical developing countries.

Moreover, tempeh manufacture in Indonesia is very well suited to the technological environment of the country, having evolved over hundreds of years and uses all locally available home grown ingredients; domestic skills with no dependence to the purchase of tools or skills from abroad.

In fact, tempeh has been considered as a food for Africa where technology transfer may play an important role. Indeed, what has been a Javanese village tradition since ancient times may yet hold a high potential for the future.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Soybean debacle highlights government mismanagement

Rendi Akhmad Witular, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

At the start of his presidential term four years ago, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono promised to put the agriculture sector at the top of his agenda with the aim of reaching self-sufficiency in producing strategic commodities.

A ceremony costing US$50,000 was even held in mid-2005 to promote his administration's seriousness to revitalize the sector, which is the income backbone for more than 70 million people living in rural areas around the country.

These efforts, however, proved to be futile. The recent soybean debacle, which sent the price of the commodity spiraling out of control, clearly signaled mismanagement in the country's agriculture and trade sector.

"There is a growing ineptitude within the administration to foresee problems. They should have been able to anticipate the skyrocketing price of soybeans and prepare the necessary measures to weather it," said agriculture analyst H.S. Dillon on Wednesday.

Indeed, the government should have spotted a growing trend that food, especially agriculture produce, would become more expensive globally; as demand rises faster than the supply, which is becoming limited due to decreasing farmland and bad harvests.

The increase in soybean prices, which began to climb steadily to $13 a bushel since early January last year at the Chicago Board of Trade, should have kick-started the country's agriculture and trade authorities into action.

Soybean futures at the bourse jumped 83 percent over the past year on increased demand for cooking oil and alternative fuels, according to Bloomberg.

Although soybean is still considered a "secondary commodity" by local farmers, its role stretches far beyond that.

The commodity is the main ingredient in traditional tofu and tempeh -- a food high in protein which is mostly sold by small businesses and consumed by those who cannot afford to buy meat.

The local market price of soybean has jumped to Rp 7,200 per kilogram from Rp 2,750 (0.28 U.S. cents) in January last year, forcing small business owners to shut down operations as consumers can no longer afford the products.

Indonesia consumes two million tons of soybeans annually. Only 30 percent of the demand is supplied locally, while the bulk is imported primarily from the U.S., where soybeans have been heavy subsidized for decades.

"Our farmers have been discouraged from planting soybean because there are no incentives provided by the administration that will enable them to compete with imported soybeans. It's a policy of 'let it be'," said House of Representatives member Didik J. Rachbini.

Aside from the influx of cheaper imported soybeans, a decline in the country's soybean production has also been driven by the fact that profits from the crop are not as lucrative as that of corn, which yields more per acre.

Indonesia enjoyed a high soybean output prior to the financial crisis of late 1997, when the country managed to at least balance the demand and supply of the commodity.

However, after bowing to pressures from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, who demanded the country open up its trade sector in exchange for a huge financial bailout, local soybean production began to decline.

Following the assistance, cheaper or even underpriced soybeans from the U.S. began flooding the domestic market, trapping the nation from reaching the self-sufficiency long dreamed of by Yudhoyono.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla threw in the towel even before putting up a fight, acknowledging it would be too much of a daunting task to boost local soybean production, as it would require huge incentives.

"Farmers are only able to net a Rp 3.5-million profit per hectare of soybeans, whereas with corn they can net Rp 8 million. So it is difficult to increase the production of soybeans at home," he said Tuesday.

Minister for Agriculture Anton Apriantono seemed to have no initiative at all in taking immediate action to address the problem faced by existing soybean farmers.

The minister turned a blind eye toward the demands of a group of soybean farmers from East Java and the local administration back in June last year, when they complained of limited farmland and a lack of incentives.

One of his staff members even commented that Anton preferred to help a group of farmers linked to his Prosperous Justice Party over others.

In the trade sector, Minister for Trade Mari Elka Pangestu spent most of her days traveling overseas -- for what she claimed was the opening up of new international markets and promotion of Indonesia's products -- rather than taking care of domestic affairs.

It was not until after thousands of tofu and tempeh producers staged a massive rally in front of the Presidential Palace on Monday that she finally came up with a policy to scrap the 10-percent soybean import duty.

"Again, it is a lack of anticipation. Their (government) hearts and minds are just not with the people. The president has a doctorate degree in agriculture and his ministers are also knowledgeable. But they only take action when the house is already burning," Dillon said.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Orangutans miss jungle homes

Wahyoe Boediwardhana, The Jakarta Post, Malang

In the past two years, Unyil, 6, has only been able to exercise by swinging from one rope to another in a square enclosure at the Animal Rescue Center in Petungsewu, Malang, East Java.

It is uncertain how long the male Kalimantan orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) will remain in the eight meters square enclosure.

This is because all of the enclosures in the orangutan reintroduction center in Nyari Menteng, which is about 30 kilometers away from Palangkaraya, the capital of Central Kalimantan, are full -- there is no room for any newcomer.

"I heard the center still has about 630 orangutans that have yet to be released into the wild," Iwan Kurniawan, the coordinator of the Animal Rescue Center (PPS) in Petungsewu told The Jakarta Post in December.

Unyil is one of four Kalimantan orangutans that are still "in transit" at PPS Petungsewu. Besides Unyil, there is 4-year-old Jackson, 5-year-old Boni and 13-year-old Noni.

Some of the orangutans were delivered to the rescue center by concerned citizens, while the rest arrived with Natural Resources Conservation officers who had confiscated the primates from their unlawful owners.

The orangutans at PPS Petungsewi are not alone in their plight. Those in other Animal Rescue Centers like PPS Jogjakarta, PPS Cikananga, West Java, and PPS Tasikoki in Minahasa, North Sulawesi, share the same fate, according to Iwan.

"This is an important area. Rescue centers are temporary transit shelters and we don't specialize in handling orangutans. Ironically, the Nyaru Menteng center is overcrowded because there are very few places where we can safely release the orangutans," Iwan said.

Despite being legally protected in Indonesia, orangutans are often hunted, killed, orphaned, injured or sold into captivity.

According to 2004 data from the International Workshop on Population Habitat Viability Analysis (PHVA), the population of orangutans in Kalimantan was 57,797, while Sumatra had an orangutan population of 7,501.

Hundreds of orangutans in Nyaru Menteng have not been released to the wilderness due to the lack of tropical forest area that is safe, suitable and appropriate for orangutan habitat, according to Rosek Nursahid, the chairman and founder of ProFauna International.

The official website of the Nyaru Menteng center says they have not released any rehabilitated orangutan since 1999. At present, 38 orangutans (including six child orangutans) are deemed ready for release.

According to Rosek, the problem has much to do with the loss of rainforest in the country -- the orangutans stronghold -- due to illegal logging, forest fires and the clearance of forest for housing, farming and plantations.

As of 2000, the natural orangutan habitat in Indonesia had reduced from 340,000 hectares to 165,000 hectares.

"The government must protect the orangutans after they are released. Otherwise the rehabilitation process is for nothing," Rosek said.

The government, through the Forestry Ministry, says it has worked hard to develop a national strategy and action plan for orangutans.

Yet, Rosek said the launching of the Conservation Strategy and Action Plan for Indonesian Orangutans 2007-2017, by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in the United Nation Climate Change Conference in Bali on Dec.10, was unsupported by real actions or conviction.

"The government's commitment is only lip service. There should be a 25-30 year moratorium on the conversion and destruction of forests to increase the size of orangutan habitats and boost their security," Rosek said.

The government should demonstrate its commitment by allocating funds for orangutan conservation to all animal rescue centers in Indonesia, banning the transfer of orangutans to safari parks, where they are exploited to entertain visitors, and fully supporting the moratorium on the conversion and destruction of Indonesian forests.

"Under the moratorium, we will be able to save both orangutans and the forest while under the Reducing Emissions from Degradation and Deforestation (REDD) scheme, it is not clear how the funds will be allocated," he said.

Rosek suggested a scheme that allowed a developed country to donate compensation funds for orangutans and Indonesian forest conservation by hectares.

"The price of an orangutan in Europe is between US$40,000 and $50,000. The compensation should be higher than that," he said.

"It is tragic that a globally recognizable species like the orangutan can no longer survive it in its jungle habitat. The government should be held responsible," Rosek said.

The President said the orangutan was the icon of the rainforest. Therefore the rainforest should be saved in order to save orangutans. Orangutans are now endangered because in the past 35 years, Indonesia has lost about 50,000 orangutans.

"If this condition continues, in 2050 the orangutan will be extinct," he said.

That is why the Indonesian government launched the strategy and action plan for orangutan conservation, the President said. He also asked the nation to support environmentalists' efforts to save the orangutans.

Govt urges stern action against fake pesticides

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The distribution of fake pesticides and fertilizers is likely to spiral out of control this year unless authorities take stern action to impose a law on intellectual property rights, experts say.

The Indonesian Anti-Counterfeiting Society (MIAP) and CropLife Indonesia on Monday jointly reported fake products had caused severe financial damage and harmed the reputation of local farmers.

"Fake pesticides and fertilizers have undermined farmers' productivity and at the same time caused hazards for consumers. Law enforcement is not extensive enough to prevent perpetrators from carrying out their actions," MIAP chairman Bambang Sumaryanto said.

Existing laws on counterfeiting contain severe punishments for violators. However, they are rarely enforced by the authorities to net perpetrators.

For example, Intellectual Property Rights Law No. 15/2001 carries a financial sanction of Rp 1 billion (US$106,000) and a maximum prison sentence of five years for brand counterfeiting. Meanwhile, Plant Cultivation Law No. 12/1992 carries a fine of up to Rp 250 million and a maximum five-year prison sentence.

Bambang said most violations were usually settled through civil suits rather than criminal charges as demanded by the associations. Most authorities, such as the police, are unaware these stern laws even exist.

"Unfortunately, counterfeiting cases often end in a 'peaceful' resolution between the counterfeiter and the companies being cheated," said Bambang.

According to CropLife secretary-general Midzon Johannis, around 20 percent of the 1,500 registered pesticide brands fell victim to counterfeiting last year, with an estimated loss of up to Rp 5 trillion.

In order to help reduce the number of fake pesticides, Midzon suggests agricultural mentors at the sub-district level educate farmers and discourage them from buying fake brands, which are usually cheaper than the original products.

The mentors should also teach farmers how to detect fake products, he said.

"I am afraid farmers will be lured into buying cheaper, fake products, which in the end will actually lead the farmers to far greater financial losses, as their harvests will definitely fail," he added.

Farmers who had used fake pesticides on their crops in Brastagi, North Sumatra, recently failed to export their fruits, cabbages and potatoes as their produce contained excessive amounts of pesticide residue from using the fake brands.

CropLife Indonesia executive director Sobar Praja said most farmers chose pesticides and fertilizers based on the suggestions of their friends, as well as the pesticides sellers.

"If the pesticides do not work well, farmers usually just complain to the sellers, not the producers. This makes it hard for companies to identify fake products that use their brand names," he said.

CropLife is a worldwide non-governmental organization that focuses on the protection of multinational plants, while MIAP is an association established in 2003 whose members are companies fighting against fake products in Indonesia. (ind)

Monday, January 14, 2008

Tofu, tempe producers stage rally outside presidential palace

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Some 3,000 tofu and tempe (fermented soybean cake) producers staged a rally outside the presidential palace here on Monday, urging the government to stabilize the soybean price which jumped almost 100 percent in the past year.

To get their demand fulfilled, the demonstrators agreed to cease production for three days starting on Monday, tofu producer Kliwono Sutoro said.

The soybean price spiral dealt a major blow to tofu and tempe producers as the selling prices of the products remained, he said.

"Consumers do not want the prices of tofu and tempe increased," he said.

He said the skyrocketing soybean price had reduced tofu and tempe producers` profit margins.

The retail soybean price jumped 110 percent to Rp7,250 a kg early in January 2008 from the same period last year.

The demonstrators hailed from Jakarta and environs such as Bogor, Tangerang, Bekasi and Bandung. They arrived in tens of buses and trucks, making traffic in front of the presidential palace congested.