Vibrant Village Foundation supports Surfaid with a $31,345 one-year grant to facilitate construction of a solar-powered water pump and complementary sanitation and hygiene projects for nearly 300 people in the village of Eruparaboat, Indonesia.
The villagers of Eruparaboat have struggled to rebuild their community since they were displaced by a tsunami in October 2010. Located in the remote Mentawai Island chain of northwestern Indonesia, they already had limited access to resources, government support and health services. In their relocated area, away from the coast, up the hill in the middle of the jungle, those resources are non-existent. Vibrant Village Foundation and SurfAid are working closely with local village leadership to improve health and nutrition. A new drinking water system constructed by community labor is nearing completion.
It was cloudy in Kinumbuk, at SurfAid’s basecamp in South Pagai. We were getting ready to go to the Eruparaboat hamlet. Our agriculture officer, Nando, had scheduled an activity with Eruparaboat’s women who are interested in starting a vegetable garden.
The meeting and other activities are part of SurfAid’s Long-Term Post Tsunami Recovery Program. The vegetable garden aims to support mothers with children under five, in particular, with a source of nutritious food to reduce the number malnourished children and pregnant mothers.
Nutrition is a big concern in the area. The relocated communities have no farming activities, are very far from a local market and have not yet found new sources of income. With nutrition gardens, families do not need to spend money on vegetables and can sell the surplus. The community is keen to participate, but has to balance the tasks of reconstructing their homes with participating in activities to rebuild their lives and livelihoods. To address these competing priorities, the residents decided that the men would focus on the house construction, while the women participated in setting up the gardens.
So, there we were, ready to go. Friska, our nutrition advisor, Gonggom, our health promotion officer, and I joined Nando for the activity. We planned to work together with the community to clear the land so they could start the vegetable demonstration plot on land next to their church.
We first stopped at the house of Ibu Susan, a community health volunteer. Susan is one of the natural leaders in the hamlet, and an active health volunteer for the community health post. When we arrived, the rain was pouring down, so we chatted for a few minutes hoping for the rain to go down. Before long Ibu Susan turned to us matter-of-factly and said, “Shall we go”? We were surprised, since it was still raining so hard. “I know it is raining,” she explained, “But I have go because some of the mothers might be waiting at the arranged place. I have to keep my promise whatever the situation is, whether the mothers are there or not. If any mothers are there, we can decide together what’s best. If it’s canceled, that is fine, but at least I showed up as I promised.”
We walked for two kilometers from Ibu Susan’s house to the plot next to the church. Along the way, the mothers from houses we passed shouted out to Ibu Susan to ask if the activity was still happening. To each person, Ibu Susan replied, “Just meet in the church, and see if the rain will stop!”
With this reassurance, the mothers got ready and caught up with us at the church.
While waiting for other mothers at the site, I asked Ibu Susan how many women had joined. She said, “In the beginning, it was only 5 to 10 women, but then more and more wanted to join. At first, they thought the demonstration nutrition garden was only for a few families. But then I explained that it is for the whole community, so whoever wants to join, we are happy to work with and learn together.”
Ibu Susan recalled how Gonggom and Nando described the demonstration garden as a ‘school’ for the community to learn how to have a good productive vegetable garden. “We do know how to plant,” she explained, “But most of the time we find pests in the vegetables or have some other planting issue. We don't know whether we did wrong or right.”
Susan continued, “With this demonstration garden, we want to improve our knowledge, so that later we can practice it in our homes. Some mothers also asked about the harvest from the demonstration garden. We will use the harvest from the demonstration garden as the source of supplementary food in the community health post or for the cooking nutritious food class activity.”
By that time, other women had arrived and the rain stopped. There were about 30 women who happily joined to clear the land. They brought their own machetes and gloves. Some women also carried their children with them. After a short briefing from Ibu Susan and Nando, all of us jumped up and start clearing the bushes, stones and tree trunks!
It took less than one hour to clear the 400 square meter piece of land set aside for the demonstration garden activity. After the work, we sat together for a coffee before wrapping up to go back home. The women agreed to finalize clearing the land the next week, and to start preparing the soil the week after. “Together with SurfAid, we are sure that we can practice our vegetable garden at home, harvest good results and feed our families with nutritious food. Plus, we also can save some money,” said Ibu Susan laughing.