When one sees a young girl wrapped heads to toes in proper islamic covers, there might be little expectation that she is a researcher and an inventor. Years of successful propaganda depicting muslim women as oppressed and limited worked out quite well, and I was happy to chat with Andi Nurul to prove it wrong. I asked her how she feels about being a woman in academia working in the northern island of Sulawesi. She felt comfortable and strong, being involved in researches throughout her studies (she is a bachelor so far) and working now as a lecturer assistant. Her parents pushed her to be a teacher and so she ended up exploring biology education as a field of study, instead of chasing her dream to be a journalist. What they probably didn’t expect is that their daughter has a talent in science and soon would become passionate about agriculture and ways to improve it in her country.
At the Youth Global Forum Andi Virinda was on the stage, presenting her organic fertilizer on behalf of a team of three girls (Sri, Andi and Halifah). Earlier this year they came across a research on how maja fruit could be a useful component in modern farming in Indonesia, and began developing a formula. The fruit itself is in abundance in Asia, easy to be found anywhere in Indonesia, and only used for its shelves. Yet it is rich in nitrogen, micronutrients, and tannin. By adding rice liquid and coconut shell and molasses she finally came up with the perfect formula: plenty of macro and micronutrients, easily absorbed by the ground, with a strong smell of tannin that repels insects. The crops she tried her fertilizer on were significantly faster than any other crops in the university garden.
What matters here is a change of the attitude of the farmers and education. Andi has a plan for that. Once they receive a grant, they will go around Sulawesi, or even Indonesia, and train farmers how to make the fertilizer themselves. She hopes that what she found out in her crops will convince the farmers to organic fertilizers, which they believe to slow down the crops and have no use in protecting them from insects. Andi says she is not interested in making a commercial enterprise out of it - although if they receive orders, they would be happy to produce the formula and sell it to their clients. What matters is healthy produce, and by assuring this she is not only helping the farmers, but her fellow Indonesians in having access to safe, quality food.
Besides, she’s been investigating subjects such as food security, where she researched food to food processes and ways of transforming leftovers to nutritious products, such as fish bone to milk and banana peels utilized into crackers. And as educator, she wrote a book on project based learning that uses local resources and one about contextual learning for students with disability. Some of this work has been simply part of her bachelor’s’ thesis, but others were funded by the Ministry of Education of Indonesia and Explorers’ Club Award, a fund from USA, which she was given twice in the past two years. If everything goes right, she will be studying in Japan or UK soon, doing her master under a supervision of professors whose research is in line with her interests.