After finishing a farming presentation in Kepel, University of Widya Mandala Madiun student Muhammad Saputra cleaned the dirt from his hands.
Putra, as he's known – along with five colleagues with academic majors including management, accounting and horticulture – spent three months in Kepel developing a new market commodity for local farmers: ginger.
"We are trying to promote this new farming technique to help local people improve the economy through horticulture," Putra told Khabar Southeast Asia. "Indonesians in general love ginger. We use it to cook, to make candy and more importantly, as an herbal medicine."
He said the purpose of the programme– part of the group's graduation requirement– is to help interested individuals in Kepel grow ginger correctly, and then find a good market for it.
"We take what we have learned through the university and apply it directly to local communities," Putra said.
Kepel community leader Shawal said locals have grown more than 250,000 ginger plants since the programme's launch.
"We received about 12,000 roots from the students, and the rest was a contribution from the Karena Kasih Foundation in Madiun," Shawal told Khabar. The students would also provide management training.
"They will help us ensure that we can manage the expenses and also calculate the amount of energy that has been devoted to the ginger farming," he added. "Later on, when the business improves, we can do it on our own."
Fifteen local people working on the project range in age from 15 to 29. Anwar Mustofa, a Kepel native involved in the programme, said the group would manage the product and replant on a larger scale as time goes on.
"People here already have a lot of hope," said Widarianti, a trainer from the Karena Kasih Foundation. "Karena Kasih will continue its commitment to help the local people. We really appreciate the five student volunteers who are dedicating their time to this programme."
Muhammad Mariyanto, an Islamic cleric in Kepel, said ginger farming could draw the community closer together.
"The programme has involved various religious followers," he told Khabar. "I want to see (if) Kepel will be more tolerant and peaceful in the future."
"Such tolerance can start on a small scale with programmes like ginger farming," he said. "Our youth will be good examples for everyone in the area. Islam will encourage tolerance and economic growth as part of our effort to pursue prosperity in the region. It is a new opportunity and a new challenge."