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Indonesian Catholic woman honored as food hero

Beatriks Rika has been 'mentor and motivator' for farmers under pressure from drought and poor education

Indonesian Catholic woman honored as food hero

Beatriks Rika, a Catholic women from East Nusa Tenggarain Indonesia, won the Female Food Hero on Oct. 16. (Photo by Herry Naif)

Beatriks Rika, a Catholic woman from Indonesia’s Christian majority province of East Nusa Tenggara, has become one of nine women to be recognized as "food heroes" for helping maintain food security.

The Female Food Hero award was presented by Oxfam Indonesia and The Indonesian Institute for Forest and Environment to mark World Food Day on Oct. 16.

Rika told ucanews.com on 18 Oct. that she decided to pay attention to food issues when she saw how difficult it was for farmers in her village to produce enough crops.

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"It is a problem because of the drought in Sikka district and the lack of knowledge among farmers," she said. "Therefore, in addition to growing food, we also conserve the river, so that the water supply is guaranteed."

Rika said they planted rice, corn and also commodity crops such as cocoa and coconut trees.

"We also had help from the Catholic Church. Recently, our group received 1,500 cocoa seedlings from Maumere Diocese's socio-economic development commission," she said.

Rika was assisted by Wahana Tani Mandiri, an NGO that assists farmers in technical farm management. She has now successfully crossbred local rice strains, called Chiherang and Kapu, into a new variety.

"Based on the research we do we will produce new strains of grain: pest-resistant and resistant to local climate," she said.

Herry Naif of Wahana Tani Mandiri said that crossover aimed to remove dependence on imported seeds, which were unable to withstand pests and the local climate.

"Rika has an important role in this program, as she has become a mentor and motivator for other farmers," he said.

Dini Widiastuti, Oxfam’s director of the economic justice program, said Rikas had a high dedication to the farming community in the region.

"She has great merit in mobilizing and empowering the local farming community in the village so that farmers can master agriculture techniques," she said.

Widiastuti said that the nine winners of the prize have "proved to be an inspiration and driving force of the community at the grassroots level."

"They are directly involved in maintaining agricultural land, using local varieties that are more adaptable to local climate and cultivating hydroponic techniques to overcome the narrowness of the land."

The winners went through a selection process August to early October, where the main criteria were their strength of character, empowerment and activities to help food production.

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