Prof. Baco was born and raised in Bone District, South Sulawesi, in a small village called Dusun Salokaraja, where only eight houses used to stand. His great grandparents were among the original settlers of Dusun, although many advised them not to live there because of stories of ghosts and thieves. Nevertheless, it was here where he had his most cherished experiences.
At the age of 4, young Djafar’s task was to tend their carabao, his parents being rice farmers. He remembers vividly that their carabao used to eat the rice crop of their neighbor, and his father had to pay them for their losses. His father did not scold or punish him, but this experience taught Djafar the importance of being responsible, which he carries with him to this day.
Before graduating from high school, he got interested in a project on sugarcane, and wanted to pursue this field in a university in Java, Indonesia. However, moving to Java would be expensive and far from home, so he opted to study at the University of Hasanuddin in Makassar. An entomologist by training, Prof. Baco finally achieved his dream of becoming a teacher like his uncle, when he taught ecological entomology at the University of Hasanuddin in Makassar City for 5 years.
He did research from 1975 to 1995 at the Research Institute for Food Crops, focusing on rice and maize. In 1996-2001, Prof. Baco headed the National Research Institute for Maize in Maros.
It was when he became head of the Assessment Institute for Agricultural Technology in South Sulawesi from 2001 to 2004 that he started working with IRRC coordinator Grant Singleton on a project on rodent management funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).
Partnership with the IRRC strengthened in 2008, in an ACIARfunded project that aimed to improve rice productivity in South and Southeast Sulawesi (see RIPPLE May- August 2011). His career highlights include the “many good experiences from the project.”
“The farmers are now solving their problems in the field,” he says. He cites their problem with the rice bug. “Farmers
His efforts with the project have truly been valuable and have contributed to the farmers’ increase in income by more than US$207, on average, per season per hectare. As the IRRC enters a new chapter in 2013, the Consortium looks forward to more years of working with Prof. Djafar Baco, South Sulawesi’s homegrown champion.
Ms. Mendoza is a senior communication specialist with the Irrigated Rice Research Consortium at IRRI.