Vinsensius Nurak

Ashoka Fellow
Timor Tengah Utara, Nusa Tenggara Timur, Indonesia
Fellow Since 2012


This profile was prepared when Vinsensius Nurak was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2012.
The New Idea
In place of a common view of poor rural communities as a development problem in need of fixing, Vinsensius, known as “Vinsen,” saw the opportunity for farmers to be empowered to solve their own problems if given the appropriate support. Centered on the farmer and their potential to manage their own economic resources—in this case land—more effectively, Vinsen’s approach promotes farmer agency, helping farmers build a perspective of the future and fostering collective strategies for confronting the challenges facing their communities. He has done this by examining, together with the farmers, their existing know-how and also addressing the gaps in their skills, by adding assistants who live in the villages he is reconsituting a role designed by the government but never implemented successfully, and by experimenting with new ideas that the farmers have chosen and thus own. The farmers are responsible for designing the technical assistance they receive. With success is the confidence Vinsen saw as their greatest need, and the ability to spread their know-how to others.

Through this simple shift in agency, the transformative technologies like agroforestry systems to increase food security and reverse environmental degradation have, for the first time in Indonesia’s dry Eastern islands, fertile ground to take hold. To date, over thirteen thousand farming families working through twenty-five farming associations in four districts across East Nusa Tenggara province and the neighboring country of East Timor have now shifted their destructive slash-and-burn farming to sedentary and sustainable agroforestry systems. Vinsen’s organisation, Yayasan Mitra Tani Mandiri (YMTM)/Self-reliant Farmers Partnership, has mobilized farmers to collectively market their goods, manage savings and loans mechanisms, advance post-harvest food processing, harvest water through catchment dams, and succeed in cow fattening management. As a result, farming productivity and household incomes have increased by 30 percent, food gaps have been eliminated and children’s nutrition has improved. Moreover, what was once a dry, eroded and degradated region is now green, fertile, and productive. Underlying the visible change is a deep transformation: the role of farmers who have reversed their own exclusion by participating as economic actors, stewards of their natural resources, and citizens: some farmers are now stepping forward as candidates for local agricultural policymaking bodies. It is this fundamental element that has attracted the attention of government and citizen organizations (COs) alike, now partnering with YMTM to spread his idea throughout the province and beyond.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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