Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tobadiono: Developing his community

Tobadiono: Developing his community
Lea Jellinek, Contributor, Bantul | Tue, 10/11/2011 7:00 AM
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JP/Lea JellinekJP/Lea JellinekJavanese like Pak Tobadiono have known much about healthy communities long before Western ideas of “community development” were introduced.

Pak Toba has been leading his village of Serut in Bantul for 20 years. In 1991 he was studying to become a history teacher, but at the age of 24 Toba was called back to his village to become Pak Dukuh.

After the earthquake of 2006 and the destruction of his village, Pak Toba looked back to the restoration of Japan after it was decimated in World War II. He observed that the Emperor looked around to see how many teachers had survived the bombing because he planned to use these teachers in the rebuilding of Japan.

Instead of looking for teachers, Pak Toba looked for neighborhood headmen who had survived the earthquake because without them, he could not rebuild his village.   

After consulting with local households, each neighborhood headman made a map by hand. University students computerized, printed and placed the maps at the community center for locals and visitors to see. Maps of the village show the layout of the houses and list the names and numbers of people in each household. Serut has nine neighborhoods (RT), with over 400 families and 2000 people.   

“The earthquake gave us a new opportunity to rethink the organization of our village,” says Pak Toba. Instead of having cows and goats beside their owner’s homes, livestock were penned together in shared stables so that human habitation and livestock were no longer mixed together. The accumulated manure provided new opportunities for making biogas and compost for organic rice farming.

Serut now has a large, new community center built of timber with an open-air platform raised off the ground that provides a green view of coconut trees, gardens and organic rice fields. The lower floor of the community center houses a well-organized library where village children come to read. Medals for cleanliness, health and good leadership are displayed for village members to admire and feel a sense of ownership and pride in Serut’s many achievements.  

Serut is building a rice storage unit to provide security in times of famine. Villagers will husk, mill, dry and package the rice so that it doesn’t rot. Because farmers will process and store their own rice, they can wait to sell when the price of rice is high instead of having to sell at harvest. Most farmers in Indonesia are forced to sell when the market is flooded and prices are at their lowest.  

Serut’s rice is certified “organic” and the demand for it outstrips supply.  

Pak Toba insists however that his villagers should also eat their own organic rice to ensure that they and their children are healthy and clever. “Whatever is not eaten by our villagers we can sell at a good price,” he says.   

The rice fields of Serut have been protected for ten years and are not allowed to be converted to housing. The farmers of the village have been given free land titles on condition that they continue to farm rice. This conservation of farmland contrasts starkly with surrounding villages of Java where rapid conversion of rice fields to housing is taking place.  

Pak Toba holds up his five fingers and points to each finger in turn indicating the role of key people in the village:  

• The pointer finger stands for the rich who boss others around

• The third finger represents the Islamic leader who is above and between everybody connecting them to a common faith

• The fourth finger symbolizes youth who cannot stand alone and need assistance

• The little finger represents women who are small and appear subordinate but are quick, active, can do everything and play a pivotal role

• The thumb stands for government which links all the other fingers. Without government the rich, Islamic leaders, youth and women wouldn’t be able to do anything.

Pak Toba makes a fist and says “if all work together like a clenched fist then we are stronger”. Government, academics, business and village society need to work together.   

Pak Toba has access to government and universities and gets a lot of material assistance and advice from them. He has formed a cooperative which enables his village to make official proposals and receive donations.  

Serut has received a rice planter, a mulcher for making compost and is about to get a sanitation system and biogas plant. Pak Toba is promoting small industries like an organic tofu enterprise and briquette making which demonstrates how to make local fuel from coconut leaves and nut husks.

When we notice rubbish lying in the rivers that flow through Serut, Pak Toba tells us that he wants to train villagers not to throw trash in the water by building community fish ponds. He hopes that by raising fish, people will learn how important it is to keep the water clean.  

He has sad eyes and says he hardly sleeps. He travels all over Indonesia as a facilitator for Integrated Village Development. His income comes from speaking. He talks about how to awaken village awareness and how to get community members involved. Five years since the earthquake, Pak Toba’s house remains only partly rebuilt. He says “It is better that I am the last to rebuild”.

Finally he says “We don’t need to show off or get publicity from the media. If you are good, people talk about you. The news spreads by itself from mouth to mouth.”

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