Maria Loretha

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2013
Yayasan Cinta Alam Pertanian


This profile was prepared when Maria Loretha was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2013.
The New Idea
Maria has recovered local knowledge that has been missing for more than thirty years by reintroducing crops such as sorghum, jewawut (millet), jelai (barley), red rice, black rice, and corn, local foods that are more nutritious than rice. These crops were uprooted during the national rice movement, which greatly contributed to the malnutrition issues faced by Eastern Indonesia for many years. The low inputs these crops require are ideal for dry land, and they can be harvested up to three times a year, unlike rice, which can only be harvested once a year due to soil conditions.

Maria is learning about changing climate conditions and understands that promoting local food security is part of surviving these changes. She believes that by maintaining local food diversity, island communities are able to be resilient against inconsistent food supplies from outside their regions. Together with the government, Maria is starting a national movement for sorghum and other local alternative food that is built on small farmer’s organizations at the grassroots level. Farmers’ organizations are based on local self-sufficiency, knowledge sharing, mutual support, and an inter-island knowledge sharing network.

In 2007 Maria began traveling from village to village in Eastern Indonesia in an attempt to find local seeds that have been missing for many years. She has managed to collect ten of the thirty varieties of sorghum seeds and many other local seeds. Maria is now building the independent capacity of the small farmer’s groups to recover and disseminate knowledge about the local seeds, thus turning the farmers into innovators.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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