Close to paradise, far from prosperity
A Malang-based community development agency is the Indonesian winner of the National Energy Globe Foundation award for 2016.
Yayasan Daya Pertiwi (Daya Pertiwi Foundation - DPF) will now compete through audience and on-line voting against 177 country winners for the grand award of 10,000 Euros (Rp 152 million) later this year. There were more than 1,700 applicants world-wide.
The Austrian-based environmental awards started in 1999. Last year’s Indonesian winner was Yayasan Ekosistem Gili Indah for its work in restoring coral reefs using renewable energy in islands off Lombok. A reforestation project in Ethiopia won the global award.
The DPF has been recognized for its Integrated Rural Development - Social Forestry and Water Development project on Nusa Penida, an island between Bali and Lombok.
Despite being just 45 minutes by motor boat from one of the world’s most lush and famous tourist resorts where billions have been invested in luxury accommodation, Nusa Penida is arid, poor and overlooked.
About 45,000 people live in 40 villages. There are few tourist lures other than a bird sanctuary for the rare Bali starling, and diving sites which are difficult to access.
DPF’s Nusa Penida project has had a long and bumpy history. According to Foundation chair Made Polak the first work started in 1987 with limited funds. These dried up two years later until German agency Bread for the World got involved in 1991.
They dropped out three years later, but were replaced by another German group, the Church Development Service. That aid lasted until the Dutch Inter-church Cooperative for Development Cooperation offered support.
“This disjointed funding and the small amount allocated each time has extended the project,” Polak said. “The total amount spent since we started, including our own money, has been around one million Euros (Rp 15 billion.)
“Projects like this go through several stages involving planning, education, training and implementation. These might take up to seven years in East Java, but twice that time on Nusa Penida.
“The island has severe geographical conditions, little infrastructure and high illiteracy. The people had little work. We had to help strengthen them to be self sufficient.”
The project’s economic programs include cashew plantations, fuel and fodder crops and building hundreds of underground tanks to provide continuity of water supplies for people and stock.
Polak said the reservoirs have been the key to stabilising the community which suffered from droughts.
“The position of women is less advantageous than in Bali as they are still subordinate to their husbands,” Polak said.
“This has now changed and various economic ventures have been developed, like animal husbandry, handicrafts and processing nuts.
“Rehabilitation of degraded land and the underground rainwater catchments have transformed bare limestone rock into a green and flourishing landscape. Thanks to the reforestation program annual rainfall has increased from 42 to 65 days.
“The trees will help increase soil fertility and prevent erosion. Forage planting ensures stock have feed throughout the year.”
Polak said winning the award for Indonesia drew world attention to the needs of isolated communities, and showed how international funds could make a real and lasting difference. The award would also boost morale among the Nusa Penida people and the project’s seven staff.
Turning hate into aid
Leonardo Sahuburua’s journey to working with YDP in Nusa Penida started with violence and a chance encounter far away.
The man was in a uniform and had a gun. “Are you a troublemaker?” he shouted.
“No,” replied the young environmentalist. He could smell alcohol on the man’s breath, they were that close.
Maybe the mild response made a difference. Instead of pulling the trigger the man raised the butt of his machine gun. Sahuburua put up his arm to ward off the blow and took a heavy hit.
He ran into the bush, jumped off a cliff and tumbled down a 20 meter slope. Then he staggered home in agony to his parents in Ambon and told them he had to flee. They gave him money and he headed for the harbor with no clear plan.
The year was 2000, the place the Moluccas. The once peaceful islands were in the middle of a bitter three-year sectarian conflict pitching Muslims and Christians against each other. An estimated 700,000 people were displaced and 5,000 lost their lives.
Sahuburua reasoned it best to head for Bali as it was unlikely his attackers would pursue him to a place watched by the world. Covering his wounded arm he got on a boat and sailed away from his province and eventually into an entirely new life.
What didn’t end was the pain. X rays revealed his arm had been fractured in the assault, the bone had knit and he needed surgery. He now has a 20 centimeter scar to remind him that the Ambon experience was no fantasy.
He also discovered that to love and forgive enemies is one of his faith’s toughest commands.
“I held hate in my stomach towards that man for some time,” he said. “I don’t know who he was and he didn’t know me.
“Eventually I realized hate wasn’t doing me any good and it certainly wasn’t affecting him. I had to let go, though I continue to have nightmares.
After working as a tour guide and with a National Geographic film crew he got a scholarship to attend the Haggai Institute training center in Hawaii. He was taught leadership skills which have been used in his aid work.
Who gave the money? Sahuburua says he doesn’t know. “That was in 2006 when I was 30,” he said. “It was another turning point in my life, along with my escape from Ambon.
“I still cannot stand the sight of uniforms – they trigger the memories. But if I hadn’t been hit in Ambon I wouldn’t be here on Nusa Penida.”
(First published in The Jakarta Post 21 June 2016)