Old farmer is planting crops in the hustle and bustle of metropolitan city (Photo: Brilio.net/Retno Wulandari)

He's sent two kids through university by selling his urban vegetables.

Retno Wulandari   20 November 2016 11:00

Brilio.net - Jakarta was burning hot at 38 degrees Celcius the afternoon I met him, but Pak Masnan’s lush vegetable farm looked like a piece of green paradise. The old man was hard at work with his plants, taking care of new seeds of sweet basil.

“Budding basil are vulnerable," Masnan said. "They can’t stand the scorching sun and when the weather is hot they need to be watered at least eight times a day or they will wither and die. If only I knew that the weather would be this hot, I wouldn't have planted them today. It was so cloudy earlier this morning.”

It’s been five years since Masnan first started planting basil, spinach and water spinach in his 100-square-meter plot of former wasteland. He has transformed the plot in a residential area of Cipinang, East Jakarta from a garbage dump into a small vegetable farm that he uses to support his family. Residents, he said, wanted a flower garden, but they weren't going to pay him for that. 

Masnan waters his crops with water from the sewer
© 2016 brilio.net/Retno Wulandari

“I can make a living from planting vegetables, although the lot isn’t mine. I’ve been permitted to make use of this empty lot and I happen to have expertise in planting crops. In my younger years, I was a farmer,” he added.

The 68-year-old says caring for the crops is far from easy. There are difficult techniques to nurture each plant and little space to do it in. Pests and an unfriendly weather are among the unpredictable problems with farming in Jakarta, Masnan relies on his years of experience to handle those challenges.

“Luckily, although I’m old, I’m kind of strong for my age and quite fit. So I’m able to carry water [for the plants] back and forth from the sewer.”

Masnan plants sweet basil, one of his best seller
© 2016 brilio.net/Retno Wulandari

Masnan used to plant his crops in a nearby lot, until it was developed and he had to move. Should the owner of the current lot plan on developing the land, he will again have to move and found a new farm.

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