Indonesia Farmers Struggling to Survive

The Associated Press
Monday, February 12, 2007; 4:40 AM

MUARA BAKTI, Indonesia -- Farmers living outside Indonesia's flood-hit capital said Monday they were struggling to survive after hundreds of square miles of land were inundated, destroying rice and other recently planted crops.

With waters receding, many returned to their washed-out fields Monday to survey the damage.

"I have nothing," said Marda, 43, looking out at his small plot of muddy land. "The plants, all the money that went to buying fertilizer, hiring mini-tractors. Gone."

Marda, who like many Indonesians uses one name, said he lost $1,100 _ half what he earns in a year.

Seasonal downpours last week caused rivers to break their banks in Jakarta, a sprawling metropolis of 12 million people, covering half the city with black, smelly water in the worst floods in recent memory.

Nearly 100 people were killed, most drowned or electrocuted, in the capital and its two neighboring provinces, Banten and West Java, where Agriculture Minister Anton Apriyantono estimated 500 square miles of land was destroyed.

As result, national rice stocks will be depleted by 370,000 tons this month, he said. The price of Indonesia's staple food already has climbed 30 percent in some areas.

Spinach, corn and other crops also were washed away or badly damaged.

"We have to start all over," said Rohimin, 40, who shares the profits of rice harvests with the owner of his tiny piece of land east of Jakarta. "I'll have to sell some of my chickens and borrow money from my boss for new seedlings and fertilizer."

Hundreds of families who were camped out on a road alongside muddy fields begged the government for help as others returned to small bamboo shacks to begin the cleanup process.

"We don't have anything to eat," said Ninia, a mother of five who uses only one name, as others desperately gathered around saying, "Noodles, noodles."

"Please, we need rice, we need cooking oil, we need food," she said.

© 2007 The Associated Press