By Edi Dwi Cahyono; Dimas Kukuh; Tatag Wahyu Jatmiko


Climate change, manifested in prolonged Cdrought in the dry season and the excess water in the rainy season, have a significant impacts on the sustainability of agriculture. The key question is how is the response of farmers to face these challenges within the limitations of their resources? This article is to describe the adaptation of farmers in East Java to weather uncertainty. Data were gathered through a preliminary study conducted in a village in lowland dry land farming areas in Tulungagung Regency, East Java where the majority of farmers grow rice and maize. The type of research is qualitative and data were gathered from local key farmers. There are indications that the farmers create cultivation and cropping pattern innovations as a form of local adaptation to the natural challenges. These alternative ways of planting are not only able to increase resistance to drought and pest attacks, but also relatively more productive.

Impact of climate change on agriculture 
Climate change, as indicated by the increase in the amount of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and Ozone (O3), is estimated to impact the agricultural productivity in many regions of the world (Lobell & Gourdji, 2012). The impacts of climate change depend on the crop type, and vary between altitudes; agricultural production is likely to rise in the high and middle lands, and to decline in the lowlands (Parry et al.,1999). The common assessed crops are rice, maize, soybeans and wheat because of their significant source for human food and livestock (Lobell & Gourdji, 2012). The impact assessment is useful to determine the priority of the cultivation of commodity strategy, as well as to study the adaptation of farmers.

Taking into account the lately high occurrence of anomalous weather, South Asia as the region through which the monsoon winds pass, is vulnerable to food security (Turner & Annamalai, 2012), this is also a case in South-East Asia. It is predicted that climate change could reduce agricultural production by 1.5 per cent per decade if not accompanied by an effective adaptation strategy (Lobell & Gourdji,2012).

Impact of climate change on farmers
The preliminary results of a recent survey (APIK, 2016) in the central region of East Java provide the indication of climate change. Twenty one per cent farmers who grow a variety of crops reported that there has been a rise in temperature; 18 per cent change in cropping calendar; 16 per cent change in weather; 16 per cent change in rainfall; 15 per cent shorter dry season; and 12 per cent longer rainy season. The rest mentioned of extreme weather (APIK, 2016). These results warn the potential problems that may arise in the process of crop cultivation. Research shows that some types of plants, especially fruits, are sensitive to rising temperatures and it might reduce the production (Fiebig-Restless et al., 2012). Increasing temperatures may boost crop pests and diseases, particularly insects (Vargas & Rodríguez, 2008). This survey reveals also that unpredictable seasons have an association with a decrease in the quantity and quality of crop production (41 per cent); an increase in pests and diseases (30 per cent); an increase in crop failure (19 per cent); and even a decrease in water resources (4 per cent) (APIK, 2016).

Farmer-led innovation to adapt to climate change
Farmers in developing countries have various cultivation adaptations to deal with climate change. Some authors have documented the adaptation strategies: intensification, diversification and expansion of land (Adger et al., 2003). Other farmers are changing cropping calendars and watering time, using climate resistant cultivars, rotating with other crops (Downing, 1992); practising homogeneous or polyculture planting system, using germ plasma wild, applying mulch (Makadho, 1996), and some even planting annual crops (Thomas, 2007).

East Java farmer-led innovation: The 'dampit' cropping pattern
In Tulungagung Regency of East Java province, farmers usually grow rice during the rainy season, and plant maize in the dry season. However, the extreme weather, particularly the prolonged drought, has threatened maize production. In the past, farmers plant three times in a year, i.e. rice one time (wet season) and maize two times (dry season). In order to reduce the risks, local farmers have an initiative to increase the frequency of cropping by growing rice one time and maize three times. To support this increase, farmers initiate a cultivation strategy known locally as dampit, literally means 'twin'.

Dampit pattern of maize planting


Dampit is a unique pattern of maize planting, in which maize is planted in sequent between planting cycle without a pause. In other words, before the end of the first maize cycle, new maize seeds are inserted. During harvest of the first cycle, maize cobs are plucked, but the wrapper leaves are left to shade the subsequent young maize crops. After several days, the top of the first maize crops were cut off to let the later ones getting enough sunlight. The plant stems are left out to shade the subsequent maize crops. Later, the stems are cut, but farmers let the tuber left in the soil. The maize stems are disposed on land to decay. Likewise, all of this process applies to the third maize cycle.

In addition, in the dampit system, row spacing for maize plants is narrow (dempet). Seeds are planted 20 cm within and 40 cm across rows (compared with 40 cm within and another 40 cm across rows for the conventional pattern). It is worth noting that in the first cycle, the maize crops are planted among the tuber of rice plants which left over in the soil during the harvest. Farmers claim that this new cultivation system is more resistant to drought.

Furthermore, tillage is only administered once, which is in the event of crop rotation from maize to rice. For the cultivation of maize, farmers do not apply tillage (i.e. zero tillage). This technique is applied to maize planting cycle thereafter, namely the second and third. Straw from the previous rice harvest is embedded into the ground to increase biomass and reduce weed growth. However, there are some other farmers who burn it with the belief that it can sterilize the soil from diseases carried by rice plants. Furthermore, for reasons of practicality, farmers do not establish maize seedbeds. Technically, the maize seeds are planted directly between the former piles of rice straw, which serve as a basis for plant spacing.

It is reported that with the dampit pattern, grass growth can be controlled because weeds are not able to compete with the maize plants because of the density. In the next cycle, the maize crop that has not been harvested will act as a shelter for young maize crops while also serving as windbreaks. The local farmers are used to using hybrid maize seeds as a substitute for conventional ones. A local agricultural official reported that hybrid seeds are more resistant to changes in weather, disease resistance, high yield levels, rapid harvest, and the seed prices are affordable.

Another form of adaptation employed by the farmers is that instead of conducting transplanting process, they practising direct planting. For this purpose, the farmers add organic fertilizer in addition to chemical fertilizers, which is inserted in the holes of the seed planting to reduce mortality, especially during prolonged drought. They use water wells using diesel-fueled pumps, which are often modified by the LPG to save fuel. Erratic weather is also causing an increase in attacks of downy mildew disease in maize. Farmers believe that the attack was caused by various factors, such as delay of irrigation, excessive use of urea, the absence of organic fertilizer when planting seeds, and the weather chaos. Some farmers provide seed fungicide to prevent downy mildew.

The advantage of dampit cropping pattern as reported by farmers

  • The remaining of fertilization in the first maize cropping cycle can still be used for the next one.
  • Farmers do not need to embroider plants which are failing to grow. The dampit pattern allows a relatively larger number of plants per unit area, though it only applies one seed for every plant hole (the conventional way requires two seeds). 
  • The new patterns can negate land weeding. Weeds are difficult to grow because of competition with the main crops. One contact farmer describes the situation: “That is the advantage of dampit ... weeds will no longer live because there is a shade of the fast and dense growing maize.“
  • Maize products per cropping cycle and overall for the dampit are higher than the conventional ones. Farmers claim that, under the dampit system, the productivity of maize for per 100 Ru (700 Ru equal to 1 hectare) are 1.6 tons (the first cycle), 1.4 tons (the second cycle), and 1.3 tons (the third cycle) of dry seeds (or 11.2, 9.8, and 9.1 tons per hectare, respectively). The conventional one is only able to produce an average of 7 tons/ha for each cropping cycle. By adding one cycle (third one), the total production of the dampit would even much higher.

This East Java farmer case is essential because under the resource constraint, the small-scale farmers in the lowland areas that are sensitive to climate exposure are able to develop an adaptation strategy by applying an innovative farming pattern so called dampit. The adaptation varies, from new arrangement
of cropping pattern; plant spacing and population; use of the adaptive weather cultivar; up to the production process, such as in the process of land preparation, management of seed and planting, and plant maintenance, as also found elsewhere in the world (Downing, 1992). Moreover, the Javanese farmers innovate by increasing the planting frequency using a relatively complex cultivation engineering system. This indicates of their resilience in overcoming the natural challenges.

The dampit innovation is relatively resistant to exposure of extreme weather, let alone the drought. It is worth noting, as it is claimed by the farmers, the production under the dampit pattern is relatively much higher than the conventional one. This is consistent with another study revealing that appropriate adaptation to climate change may increase the production and income of farmers (Festiani, 2011). Therefore, it is necessary to validate the farmers' adaptation strategies, since this article is based on a preliminary study. This farmerled innovation is a form of local participation, which may contribute to any other adaptive strategies undertaken by farmers around the world.

Lastly, we have not examined how the dampit innovation is spread among farmers, which may be accomplished with limited help from outsiders. Therefore, an assessment of the communication process, especially the information exchange mechanism among farmers, is necessary to understand the diffusion process of the dampit innovation.

(List of references can be made available upon request)