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Training program boosts vocational skills

Center provides training suited to the local environment

Training program boosts vocational skills
Young people in Atambu, west Timor, learn farming skills from Divine Word brothers
Fransiskus P. Seran, Nenuk

August 10, 2011

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While the Indonesian economy is hardly a world leader, the province of East Nusa Tenggara lags even farther behind; with inflation at 15 percent, unemployment at 30 percent and interest rates at anything up to 24 percent, it is appreciably poorer than its Indonesian neighbors. To add to its woes, it also has low standards of healthcare and sanitation and alarming rates of child malnutrition and mortality. The province is also unusual as it is mainly Catholic; it has hosted many thousands of Christians seeking refuge from conflicts elsewhere in Indonesia. With all this as background, it is no surprise that a number of Catholic NGOs are hard at work here, trying to promote simple, self -sufficient ways for residents to survive and even prosper. One of these initiatives, the Training Center for Agriculture and Rural Self-Help, run by brothers of the Society of the Divine Word, has met with an encouraging amount of success.  In its four years of operation, it has helped students from five vocational schools and a local university to learn sustainable methods of making a living from the land. The Divine Word brothers believe that the key to success here is to use an integrated approach, which best suits the climate and topography. So at the 40-hectare center, they teach the students to combine the twin tasks of growing produce and raising livestock. In their four- to eight-week courses, the students spend time on the chicken farm, learning about preparation, feeding, vaccinating and making fertilizer from the chickens’ dirt. They also find out a little about raising pigs and cattle. Then, in the plantations of teak trees, cashews, candlenuts and mangoes, they learn how to cultivate the land, plant seeds, make fertilizers, irrigate, prevent disease and finally to harvest. In all aspects, the center uses only organic fertilizers and practices. “We aim to encourage students to love both farming and breeding, as that is what suits the province best,” says Bro. Elfridus Muti, who heads the center. Primalinda Lunas, from St. Pius X Vocational School in nearby Bitauni, is one of the many who have benefited from the program. Now she is using what she learned to become a professional farmer and breeder. “It was great to learn at the training center, because I was taught by the brothers who have great knowledge in both skills,” she says. Now the center hopes to extend its outreach with an ongoing series of workshops for other students and teachers, as well as its core training. Related Report: Mass encourages sustainable agriculture

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