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Potato cultivation partially responsible for landslide in Indonesia

Potato cultivation in the Central Highlands of Java, Indonesia. In this picture, you can see potato farms on the Dieng Plateau, Wonosobo, Central Java, Indonesia, with slope of Mount Prahu in the background (Courtesy: Virna Setyorini)

Potatoes are partly to blame for a recent landslide in Wonosobo, Central Java, as farmers engage in unsafe planting practices that harm the environment to try to reap high prices amid the area's status as Indonesia's largest potato producer, the results of a study revealed on Thursday.

The short potato roots are a major factor in soil erosion leading to landslides in Wonosobo, a study by the Center for Indonesian Policy Studies (CIPS) entitled “Forest Ownership and Management in Indonesia” revealed.

"Domestic potato prices rose an average of 35 percent between 2010 to 2014. Because of this farmers are driven to plant crops that put themselves and surrounding communities at risk," CIPS Trade and Livelihood researcher Hizkia said in a statement sent to thejakartapost.com on Thursday.

Part of the study took part in Wonosobo regency, where Kejajar subdistrict, Dieng Plateau, is the biggest potato producer in the country.

As reported earlier, heavy rain triggered a landslides on Tuesday evening that covered the road connecting Wonosobo to Dieng Plateau.

Dieng Plateau, spanning Wonosobo and Banjarnegara regencies in Central Java, is a popular tourist destination in Central Java that has highlands, beautiful scenery and sacred temples.

The area is the country's biggest producer of potatoes, with most residents working as potato farmers. Potato takes less time to grow -- three months compared to six months for tobacco.

The study found that protectionist trade policies, such as the 2012 Food Law that bans food imports, are driving up domestic food prices.

Hizkia Respatiadi:

“We need better incentives through informed trade policies that encourage farmers to grow crops more suited to their environment so that they can earn a decent living without putting their and others' lives at risk.”
Landslides could be prevented if local communities had rights over their forest resources, the study suggested. Residents of Buntu village in Wonosobo acknowledged the likelihood of a landslide occurring if state-owned forestry firm Perhutani were to cut down trees located uphill from their homes. Thus, residents must be involved in forest management as they are directly affected by forestry activities. Hizkia Respatiadi:

“Local communities must have secure property rights over forests, because they are the ones who know what will affect their living environments."
The study shows that local community involvement and ownership of forest resources can improve sustainable forest management.
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