2040: The Windusari Project

Photography by Jack Moran.

GROUP JAHE (Nick, Clarice, Jack, April, Rita)

There’s a small village an hour or so north of Yogyakarta in Central Java, at the foot of Mount Sumbing called Windusari. It is a unique area in central Java, being known for its mountains and colder climate in what we know to be a very hot country. Windusari is also an area that has relied on tobacco farming for almost 100% of their income in 2013.The local farming communities are struggling to create a more unique image, and want to be known for more than just tobacco farming. ‘The Windusari Project’ is a 20 year endeavour undertaken by the people of the area that aims to reclaim their ‘oleh oleh’, or locally famous food, the honey sweet potato and Indonesian Mountain coffee. In engaging with the diversification of crops, their tobacco crop will have been massively reduced to take up around 10%-20% of the Windusari area by 2040.

The area is only accessible by Angut-minivans like the ones we took to visit Spedagi, and is known for its mountainous crop fields and farms perched precariously upon steep, rolling hills. Farmers in this village have already recognised the wicked problem and influence of tobacco, and by 2020, Windusari is on track to have halved its tobacco crop. The other half of their land is used as a form of ‘farming diversification’, planting onions, garlic, coffee trees and most iconic of all, some of the sweetest potatoes in the world.But the fight against tobacco can’t stop here.

The Windusari Project will begin with a seasonal farmers market at the end of each sweet potato harvest, and will be celebrated 4 times each year as the potatoes take around 3 months between planting and collection. By planting more crops than just potatoes, fulfilling the local demand for onions, garlic and herbs, the local economy will be stimulated with a very low risk of failure, allowing for further education of farmers and their families to contribute to these markets. After a few years, having been planted in 2020, the first coffee crops will be ready for harvest, prompting a more affluent group of visitors to the region outside the time of the potato harvest, also opening the area for a larger export range. 

By 2040, the Windusari project will be in full force, exercising a balanced industry of produce by marketing its sweet potato business as a local social enterprise, and its coffee export and industry on a larger, and possibly more luxurious market. All of this is achieved with Windusari’s growth, engagement and education at the center of all thinking, ensuring the benefits of local produce, stay with local people.

All design thinking positions the people of the local Windusari community at the center of all gain and profit, using a balanced industry to sustain itself.

Let’s fast-forward into the future. 2040 is now the current year, and the cultural life of Windusari is flourishing because of their agricultural initiatives. Today we’re going to look back at the features of the area that are so iconic today and unpack how the 2040 “Windusari Project” campaign is enhancing the rich and diverse culture of the region and contributing to the areas immense growth.

When Windusari was based on tobacco, the village had been a place of production for outside industries and it left the identity of the community greatly malnourished. However, the shift towards potato and coffee crops saw a change in the culture of Windusari. Farmers could reclaim their crops and the village had founded a deeply-rooted connection to their land through their staple food of honey sweet potatoes. This relationship between the people and their surroundings reflects the philosophy of Indonesian designer – Singgih Susilo Kartono. As he had once said, “if a country is like a tree, villages are the roots… the country is healthy if the villages are healthy.” The social movement started by Singgih has inspired villages to become a fusion of the city’s global connection with the rural setting, resulting in cyral communities.

From its early flourishing way back in 2020, the potato farms (as well as onions, garlic, some rice and herbs) of Windusari have been providing a constant form of income for many of the local families. Two types of sweet potato exist in these farms, the normal sweet potato, used in many local dishes as a savoury supplement to meals, and featuring in meals for families who cannot afford meat. Second, the honey sweet potato which is very rarely found anywhere other than these mountains of Indonesia. The Windusari project began with a long term goal in mind, and thus these potatoes laid the foundation for more affluent and luxurious crops such as coffee trees. 

In order for the local community to gain revenue from their harvest, a quarterly marketplace was established to celebrate the end of the harvest. It was just this small market of around 20 stalls that has now evolved into the festival that we know in 2040. The Windusari people knew that it would be a long process of attracting people from far and wide, so focused on attracting local visitors in the early days from Magelang and Yogya for their sweet potatoes, and after the event grew, the were able to better educate themselves on the opportunities of cooking, crafting and experimenting with the foods they could grow locally, and market their unique food at a larger and more geographically diverse audience.

The festival celebrating the end of the Windusari sweet-potato harvest takes place with markets, performances and music. Stalls are set up with 100% plastic free sales, using banana leaves as a substitute that provide fresh compost to farmers after placed in the designated bins.

The community centre is used for education. It is a place equipped for training and the sharing of ideas between the people of Windusari. Here, the community share ideas on experimental farming, new recipes, phases of production, and many more. The centre provided a space for the community to collaborate, allowing varied disciplines to inspire one another. What the community had found was that with more and more visitors coming to try their iconic honey sweet potatoes, an area for rest and refreshment was also needed. Therefore, the centre is equipped with facilities like bathrooms, kitchens and open spaces for everyone that gathers here to be comfortable.

In 2019, 20 years ago farmers of Windusari, such as Mr Suwandi, revealed the potential and appeal to coffee beans. This was evident in the government’s provision of 500 coffee bean seeds.

Today, Windusari has utilised coffee as a distinct source of economy appealing to a more luxurious market. Sweet potato has become the heart and source of economy for the local community, whereas coffee has grown to become a prospect for the international market, with visitors providing another source of cashflow for the region. Sweet potato keeps people alive, where coffee makes a life worth living ( WINK AT ALI ). Taking advantages of peoples love for such crop, Windusari provides visitors with the privilege of enhancing their knowledge and experiences as they follow the process of coffee making themselves with their official tour guide, who is a local member of the farming community.

Local guides and educators can educate visitors to the area about the history, and future prospects of the region, ensuring a sustainable market.

When combining Windisari’s strengths; sustainable agriculture, sweeping mountainous vistas and a rich culture we visioned a harvest festival celebrating the local area. As mentioned before Honey sweet potatoes and coffee are a potential opportunity to create both culture and tourism revenue and these could be celebrated in a festival format. Honey Sweet potatoes are harvested quarterly and coffee beans harvested annually this opens up option of 3 smaller festivals and 1 large festival. Following a traditional Harvest festival model the festival in Windusari is a form of  local showcase attracting a small number of international tourists but is targeted to a local just above grassroots level. Our interviews and research indicated the government is pushing for more inter regional tourism and  Windusari is ripe for controlled development. Celebrating its 10th year in 2040 it was started a grassroots initiative to attract attention to the area and highlight the need for government stimulus to farming. Over the course of this period the festival cemented the potato and coffee identity which was central to the area.

The potato farms of Windusari provide a stable source of food and income to the local people.

People have been travelling far and wide, particularly from the far corners of Indonesia to explore the magically mountainous farms, taste the unique and rich mountain coffee beans, and savour the scrumptiously satisfying taste of sweet potatoes, as well as sweet potato brownies, sweet potato ice-cream, sweet potato crackers and even sweet potato noodles. 

A component which was also important to consider is the road quality and air pollution caused by the influx of visitors as they travel to and from Windasari. In order to avoid the crowded roads and excessive amounts of cars, Windasari has created a service which allows visitors to park just outside of the town with access to angkut-minivan services provided by the locals themselves to reach the area. By taking this  approach, Windasari is able to boost the local economy and reduce emissions, while also ensuring the safe passage of people who may not know the roads as well as locals.

Locals are able to further benefit from the festival by assisting visitors access and navigate around the unique terrain.

Due to the increase of visitors into Windasari due to events such as the festivals, markets, and tours, you would think that there would be an increase of waste in the surrounding environment. HOWEVER, Windasari has managed to tackle this problem and unbelievably even benefit from the waste of their visitors. This has been achieved by using natural and sustainable resources such as leafy food wrappings, bamboo straws and spoons that can be disposed of in compost stations around the village. These bins would ensure the waste is managed in the best way possible, and would feed back into the local produce production, to be used as compost for coffee and potato farming.

Today, Windusari have worked to further diversify their crops of sweet potato and coffee, and plantations that have increased in demand such as garlic and onion.

Crop diversification and experimentation with produce other than tobacco has found that coffee flourishes in the mountainous region of Windusari.

The diversification of crops has proven to become a safety net for potential crop failure as a result of external factors such as weather conditions. Once the economy gains a strong balance of coffee and potatoes for the community, Windusari are able to move to experimenting with introducing more crops and funds for experimental diversification. 

Crop diversification acts as a safety net, also revealing the possibilities of successful produce.

With more and more visitors coming to Windusari to explore the region, it was clear that there was a need for more infrastructure. However with new construction comes the risk of land degradation. Therefore these additions will be done by revamping existing and unused infrastructructure, with the inclusion of rooftop gardens to plant more delicate crops such as herbs and small fruits. There are plans to expand the community centre to become a Bed and Breakfast. The additions will be of a small greenhouse for those who’d like to view the crops but can’t access the tours, and the beds will be provided for those who will need a place to sleep. This plan for Beans, Bed and Breakfast is to provide a space suitable for visitors to learn about Windusari in a comfortable space, with the focus still on the livelihood and the culture of the community.

Beans, Bed and Breakfast. The community center, cafe/coffee processing facilities and a Bed&Breakfast have combined into an education and experience hub, allowing visitors more time to explore and understand the unique landscape.

Tobacco is now a very minor part of the agricultural area of Windusari. In effect, the communities drive and ambition to gain a more unique identity has designed out the wicked problem of tobacco. In doing this, Windusari has created a social enterprise with its best interests taking center-stage, using all of their local resources to feed back into their communal benefit.

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