East Sumba, in East Nusa Tenggara, is stealing a lot of attentions lately. Evidently, in the last four years, two big film productions put East Sumba as their background, both natural and cultural ones.
And as it is often presented in the films, savanna view becomes one of the reasons that make East Sumba popular. Especially when the sunset comes. The grasslands, rarely trees, horse and grazing cows and reddish sun at the end of the savanna brings such a hard to be refused offer.
With the film as one of the triggers and tourism as today’s dominating developmental framework, East Sumba turns into one of the must visited destinations. No wonder, in the last three years, the number of tourist visits, both foreign and local, continues to increase significantly.
However, remote areas in East Sumba show different story from both cinematic frame and tourism taste due to climatic conditions and its effect on local populations. East Sumba, like East Nusa Tenggara regions in general, has an average longer dry season than rainy one. Typically, the dry season lasts up to eight months while the remaining four months is the rainy season.
Such conditions have long tail, especially for people living in remote areas such as RT 25, 26 and 27 in Kawangu village and RT 13, 14 and 15 in Watumbaka village. Both Kawangu and Watumbaka are part of Pandawai District. Most of the people in these two villages are farmers. In addition to farmers, some of them are also at the same time become fishermen, herdsman and weavers.
In the six RTs, access to proper, clean and healthy sanitation is still limited. Over the years, the residents very rely on the nearest rivers as the only main water source, both for the daily basic purposes and for the needs of their gardens and livestock.
From that point, the problem then comes insistently. When the dry season takes place, the river water flow decreases so that water supply then becomes limited. The people finally had no choice but to keep relying on that limited water supply to meet all their water needs. Apart from that, the rainy season comes with it’s own problems. Although briefly, this rainy season has a high intensity causes flooding. As a result, the gardens that they managed mostly in watershed swept away by the flood. While they are struggling with the flood, another catastrophe emerged when the rainy season pests begin to attack and eat almost of their plants.
Regardless, what is actually more worrying is the condition of river water they consumed every day. From their story, the river water was vulnerably polluted by chemical pesticide residue, household waste and animal waste carried from upstream. Their habit of carelessly defecation around the river put the water condition in danger for their health.
However, despite they have big desire to overcome those problems, they had no choice but to survive in such a limited condition.
But today, people in the six RTs of Kawangu and Watumbaka have slowly begun to breathe a sigh of relief. Through Collaborative Habitat Advancement Management Program (CHAMP) conducted by IDEP Foundation in collaboration with PT HM Sampoerna Tbk., the problems they face begin to find a way out one by one.
In general, CHAMP aims to establish community resilience so people have the ability to live sustainably while conserving nature at the same time. To achieve that, the program is managed through raising public awareness of healthy living behaviors, providing access to healthy water and proper sanitation, providing environmentally friendly energy technologies and enhancing community capacity through permaculture as sustainable systems.
In early 2017, CHAMP started in three RTs in Kawangu with a series of training on permaculture that emphasizes three ethics, which are caring for the earth, caring for people and fair sharing. A year later, the same training was conducted in three RTs in Watumbaka.
Basically, these permaculture principles have been applied long time before the modern agriculture system and the use of chemicals that destroy nature are rooted in many communities all over the world. Therefore, people in the six RTs were trained to manage their gardens using natural methods and materials easily found around them. At the point, they learn how to do soil rehabilitation and treatment, garden design, poly culture method, natural fertilizer and pesticide, integrated pest management, germination and nursery.
With all these knowledge, they were encouraged to manage the family garden around their home. The garden is also meant to be a solution to mitigate the floods. Admittedly there are still numbers of them who have not yet turned to manage home garden for some reasons, but at least they are now able to meet their family need of healthy foods with permaculture system applied on their garden. Various types of vegetables and herbs are planted in it. That way, they not only reduce their spending for consumption of Rp200.000 per month on average, but most families even earn up to Rp1.500.000 per month on average from the sales of their surplus crops.
As of this program kicked off, various healthy life campaigns have also started to intensify. In addition to communities in six RTs, the campaign was also organized in five elementary schools around Kawangu and Watumbaka and reached a total of 810 students. This campaign was conducted interactively to attract students for engaging with clean and healthy behavior, either in school or back at home. To encourage the maximum result, the schools were also provided with some supporting facilities such as toilets, trash, hand washing equipment, etc. And for sustainable reason, the teachers were also supported with various media kits related to environmental preservation and healthy lifestyle.
To address the lack of access to clean water, the program provides a clean water system through the construction of five solar well packages in four RTs spread in Kawangu and Watumbaka. Two other from six RTs have got it from the local government program. With such abundant sunlight in East Sumba, solar power technology fitted people needs of energy. Besides it’s free, the utilization of such technology is also environmentally friendly.
From 2o taps connected to five wells, 66 families (consist of 325 people) needs of clean water are slowly but sure being fulfilled. Moreover, they can also utilize it to meet the needs of their gardens and livestock.
After all wells have been functioned, the program was then continued with the provision of sanitation facilities in the form of toilets connected to solar wells as its water sources. Since mid-April, 12 units of toilets have begun to be utilized. This toilet itself is not such an ordinary toilet. In addition to the healthier, proper and “natural” reasons, the toilet was built by applying the Waste Water Garden (WWG) system to be environmentally friendly. In WWG system, polluted water from toilet is firstly filtered through a number of plants planted in the toilet before polluting the soil and surrounding environment. Furthermore, after being filtered, the water can be used to irrigate the garden. (Ed)
This article has been published on Pos Kupang on May 17th, 2018.