All of us must have known that Indonesia is an agrarian country. That name doesn’t come out of nowhere. If we look further to the past, specifically during the colonial era, agriculture has a lot of influences on the history of Indonesia. Indonesia also improved the agriculture system a lot in that era. So dear readers, get into the time machine and we’re off to Indonesia’s colonialism era!
If we ask how the colonialism era started, the answer is lying on one of Indonesia’s agricultural commodities, spices. For foreigners, herbs are equal to treasures because they are really valuable and nowhere to be found except in Indonesia (indonesia.go.id). At first, foreigners, especially Europeans, only went to Indonesia to gain cheaper herbs, but as the time went, they became greedy so they wanted to monopolize and take over Indonesia as their own.
Indonesians used to trade both regionally and internationally in a port city. Foreigners even settled in these port cities to trade with Indonesians more efficiently. This is the evidence that Indonesia was really productive in their trades. But when the Dutch came to Indonesia, VOC (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie) prohibited trades due to their monopoly. VOC wanted to trade commodities that satisfy international needs. Therefore, the Dutch modernized their plantation and applied the cultuurstelsel system that forced Indonesians to plant export commodities such as coffee, sugarcane, indigo, and tobacco.
Dutch Colonialism Era
Since the early 19th century, the Dutch have been modernizing the plantation system in Indonesia. However, this modernization only benefited the Dutch while Indonesia’s traditional agriculture system was ignored. This created a huge gap between the Dutch and local economy. As a result of that, there was a pressure to do the ethical policy, one of them was educating Indonesian to develop their agriculture system.
Before the ethical policy existed, the Dutch already established Kebun Raya Bogor. It was established as Dr. C.G.L. Reinwardt introduced 50 new agricultural commodities including palm and cassava. This institute was assigned to do practical research, introduce biology and cultivation, and also the utilization so it can be accepted by the society. Kebun Raya Bogor is the pioneer of biology and agriculture research in Indonesia. This institute also helped the Dutch a lot when they applied the cultuurstelsel system.
In 1910, the Agriculture Counseling Service (Landbouw Voorlichtingsdienst) was established in the Agricultural Department area and in 1921 it became a provincial service due to its effectiveness in increasing agricultural productivity. This service has achieved many outcomes such as the modernization of agriculture based on research, especially on soil management, irrigation, fertilization, usage of superior varieties, and pest-disease management.
Japan Colonialism Era
Japan’s colonial era was different from the Dutch’s. Research was stopped because they were forced to research commodities that support Japan’s war needs such as food (rice and buckwheat), clothing materials (kapuk, cotton, and other fiber plants), and etc. Indonesians also didn’t have time to take care of their own plantation. Farmers were forced to learn Japanese and train everyday. Japanese also abandoned commodities that weren’t beneficial for them.
To increase the supplies of their needs, the Japanese needed to improve Indonesia’s plantation productivity. Their effort for that was introducing new seeds, applying technical innovation, expanding plantation area, giving education, and propaganda. New seeds introduced by the Japanese are cotton, jute, rosella, and castor beans.
Agriculture is one of the biggest strengths of Indonesia. But if we don’t have the intention to make a change for the better, history could repeat itself. All of us don’t want foreigners to become the ones who change Indonesia again right? So for you, dear readers, I dare you to be brave and take the challenge to develop our agriculture for a better future!
Soim A, Warsito, Haryani M, Muttaqien I, Permatasari RB, Cakrabawa DN, Kusmayadi E, Winarko B, Rachmawati N, Mulyana A, Agustin C, Ekasari N. 2019. Sejarah Pertanian Indonesia. Kementrian Pertanian Republik Indonesia Pusat Perpustakaan dan Penyebaran Teknologi Pertanian 2019. Bogor, Indonesia.