In Central Java, a school for farmers was established in 2021 at the University of Muhammadiyah Magelang to support tobacco farmers in phasing out tobacco cultivation. The school focuses on improving farmers’ skills, increasing much-needed food production and inspiring a new generation of farmers, that swear off toxic cultivation. The school also aims to facilitate farmers’ access to credit, training and extension services, and strengthen value chains for alternative products. By shifting to other crops, it is hoped that this will not only improve farmers’ incomes and livelihoods, but also increase Indonesia’s food security.

The school is the first of its kind in Indonesia and was launched in consultation with former tobacco farmers from the Indonesian Multicultural Farmers’ Forum (FPMI) who have diversified their crops or shifted to other crops. This group explained that many farmers would like to give up tobacco farming but lacked skills and knowledge to do so.[1] Established in 2018, the Farmers’ Forum is a support network for farmers and provides advice on switching to growing alternative crops. It also voices its concerns about technical difficulties in tobacco cultivation and adverse health effects to the government and urged it to develop a comprehensive tobacco control policy.[2]

There are encouraging signs that youth and young adults from tobacco growing families are now ready to quit tobacco cultivation. In many parts of the country, there is a long tradition of tobacco cultivation and existing misperceptions about how lucrative tobacco is. Many of today’s generation of youth and young adults (13-21 years) are health conscious and want to denormalise tobacco cultivation, and they have therefore come together to form a new initiative.[3] They are talking about the economic problems of tobacco cultivation and are motivated to grow more useful crops and to cultivate more profitably and efficiently.[4]

In a talk show organised by the Muhammadiyah Tobacco Control Centre (MTCC), young farmer Muhaimin told how he broke with family tradition and started growing sweet potatoes. He calls on his peers to disrupt the system of tobacco cultivation:

“The next generation of farmers must dare to make changes.”[4]

In this short video, young people from tobacco-growing families have their say.