Wati (left), Anesah (center), and Asiah (right) hold the mustard greens they harvested together
Anesah shouldn’t have to stay in a disaster relief tent. She shouldn’t have to spend a long time in the Tunagan Village field area. She is currently passionate about tending to a garden that measures roughly 5×5 meters. Various types of vegetables are grown there. Anesah’s role is undoubtedly crucial in this regard.
She holds the green watering pot firmly. Anesah is watering the plants in garden, on both sides of Baleriung. This garden serves as a demonstration project for each neighborhood (RT), born out of the collaboration of local residents after receiving various training and discussions with IDEP and KUN+ at the end of May.
Caring for a backyard garden is a new activity for Anesah at the moment. Once again, she shouldn’t be in this situation. She could be chatting or playing with her young child, or maybe planning a leisure trip. Once again, she shouldn’t be. If the 15-second earthquake hadn’t shattered the hearts and minds of Tunagan’s residents. Fortunately, the birth of this garden has brought new joy.
Anesah is one of the victims of the Cianjur earthquake on November 21, 2022. We met her on Monday, August 21, 2023, about nine months after the incident. She is the only resident of Tunagan Village who has not yet returned to her home. Anesah still lives and sleeps in a disaster relief tent with her husband and child.
Anesah is one of the Tunagan Village residents who seems to remember everything that was taught during the training. She said that since Baleriung became a new gathering place with gardens on both sides, she has spent a lot of time there.
“I’m here at 6 in the morning. I wake up early here and take care of this garden. If I wake up late, it gets hot because the sun rises directly on this side (to the community garden). So in the morning, I water the plants first,” Anesah said as she strolled around the garden.
For Anesah, watering has become a habit
Before planting in the garden, Anesah used polybags to grow seeds into seedlings. She had dozens of them, not just one or two. Some residents helped her make planting media from bamboo to accommodate all the seedlings. The types of seeds planted by Tunagan Village residents are quite diverse, including mustard greens, Chinese kale, spinach, chili, roselle, cucumber, and lemon basil (which the locals affectionately call “surawung”).
Lately, the tomato plants obtained from the Seed Saving training have been harvested. Among all the plants, the one most sought after by the residents is mustard greens. This vegetable is in high demand, and people take as much as they like for personal consumption. Since it was planted in the ground, it has been harvested twice. This means that when we met Anesah, she was watering mustard greens for the third time.
“If it rains frequently, maybe I’ll go to my (private) garden later. If I go to my garden, I’ll be like a man, for example, I’ll peel, dig, and make beds and then plant,” she explained about her gardening activities.
Anesah had prior experience gardening. During the rainy season, she used to plant red ginger in her private garden. Her garden was far from her residence. The red ginger was planted before the Cianjur earthquake and was harvested in August of this year. Despite being able to harvest up to 11 sacks, each averaging around 5 kg, the profit was not significant. The price of red ginger had dropped, averaging only Rp 2,000.00 per kg in the market. This was different from black ginger, which could fetch up to Rp 10,000.00 per kg.
“In fact, many people here want to buy it because it’s a good product. Many say so. It’s okay to buy, sometimes I also give some away. Ginger is delicious,” she said.
The small profit from harvesting in her private garden did not deter her from continuing to develop the community backyard garden. Anesah mentioned that the community garden helped her minimize daily vegetable expenses. On a daily basis, she used to spend up to Rp 20,000.00 on cooking expenses. Now, she strives to spend no more than that, Anesah said. Her family’s meal expenses currently range from Rp 10,000.00 to Rp 15,000.00.
“Now, if I don’t have money, but in the morning, I want to make sambal (chili paste) or need vegetables, I just pick them (from the garden). That’s what I want. Moreover, if there’s a lot of space, one day the garden will be larger. I want to be able to sell the harvest. I want the garden to be able to grow cucumbers, and then the harvest can be sold. Right now, there’s only a small area for garden beds,” Anesah explained.
The community garden that Anesah and other residents work on is not the only community garden in Tunagan Village. Each of the three neighborhood committees (RTs) has its own community backyard garden. While those of RT 01 and RT 03 have not been cultivated to their full potential due to other activities and responsibilities prioritized by the local residents, Anesah always welcomes anyone to enjoy the harvest, even if they are from a different RT.
“For example, if there’s tofu, you can make it into vegetables. Add basil and steam it; it’s delicious. Alhamdulillah, slowly, it reduces expenses,” Anesah said.
In the garden next to Baleriung, Anesah does more than just water and fertilize the plants. Along with the local residents, she strives to use available materials to make the soil more fertile. She learned this from training on making liquid organic compost. It involves collecting goat dung, mixing it with soil, adding water, and then stirring it. Anesah usually takes one ladleful to place it on the plants, including those still in polybags. On a larger scale, 200 liters of liquid organic compost can be used for one hectare of land.
“If people enjoy gardening, they have to use their hands, even though they’re clean. Don’t be disgusted; it’s good for the garden,” she emphasized.
Before the community backyard garden managed by Anesah and others, this area was usually used for drying rice (padi). In the afternoon, children would liven up the field. They played soccer around 4:30 PM and finished before the call to the Maghrib prayer. However, this tradition has not disappeared since Baleriung and the community garden were established. On last year’s August 17th competition, Tunagan Village residents even competed against other villages. They organized inter-village competitions, involving Tapos Village and Pasirlangu Village.
“So there’s a competition between villages, as well as competitions between RTs,” Anesah explained.
This competition was not the only activity for Tunagan Village residents in August. They actively participated in various four-day disaster management training sessions with IDEP. Residents were invited to learn about disaster risk reduction, rapid assessment during disasters, first aid and victim evacuation, clean water and sanitation, disaster relief center and logistics management, the formation of Community Disaster Response Teams (KMPB), and earthquake simulation activities.
Anesah and The Community Garden
Over a week has passed. Anesah and the residents of Tunagan Village RT 2 are not satisfied with the planting media they have had so far. They expanded the community backyard garden to make it longer. They want to increase the harvest. This expansion was carried out on Thursday, September 7, 2023.
Meanwhile, in the first week of September, Anesah also took the time to clean up the debris of her house, which has not been repaired to this day. Her house is still not habitable. However, she doesn’t complain about it. Anesah said there would be a time when she would have a place to live again.
“I usually go to my mother-in-law’s house, if I want to stay somewhere. So it’s like going there to get some fresh air, before Baleriung was built,” she said.
Anesah’s face always wears a smile. She said her life has become more abundant, like the plants she has been taking care of. Likewise, the presence of Baleriung has made the surrounding environment livelier. Anesah calls it a “saung,” which means a small house or hut – like a second home to her.
Article: Nicolaus Sulistyo
Photo: Edward Angimoy © IDEP Foundation