Researcher majoring in Social Forestry, Center for Research and Development on Social Economy Policy and Climate Change, Forestry and Environmental Research, Development and Innovation Agency, Ministry of Environment and Forestry
Community empowerment is widely proposed as one of the activities in various development programs. It is believed that community empowerment will make communities better able to be productive, sustainable and resilient, as well as increasing their income.
Tumbang Nusa Village, Pulang Pisau Regency, Central Kalimantan Province, is located along the Kahayan River. About 90% of the area is peatland (BRG, 2018). In the dry season, the village is often covered with thick haze due to peat fires.
The source of the fire can come from a neighboring village or from the village itself. About 80% of the economy of the Tumbang Nusa village community comes from fishing in the Kahayan river. The quantity of river fish caught by the community varies from day to day and so the income is not necessarily reliable.
Many people also own rubber and rattan plantations, but for the past 5 years income from rubber and rattan has not been reliable. The price of rubber latex and rattan is very low, IDR 4,000/quintal for rattan and IDR 6,000/quintal for rubber latex (note: 1 US$ = IDR 14,850) (Tambuhak Sinta Foundation, 2019).
Tumbang Nusa village has received significant support in the last few years through development programs from the central and regional governments, the private sector, and NGOs. These programs are given to individuals or groups of people with the aim of increasing household income.
These development programs can be in the form of providing equipment for business, training, providing livestock, as well as direct employment. Many farmer groups were formed to make these programs successful. But the existence of these groups often does not last long and once the program ends they quickly return to their original lives and expect outside help.
Purun field at Tumbang Nusa Village/Dok. Kemitraan 2020
Creative ideas emerged from Febrianti, a village facilitator from Kemitraan working in Tumbang Nusa. She found a Youtube clip showing eco-friendly drinking straw production businesses that were being established overseas. She also noted that the raw material for the eco-friendly straws, purun (Lepironia articulate) and perumpung (Phragmites karka), grow wild and are abundant in Tumbang Nusa.
Febrianti ventured to introduce the potential eco-friendly straw business to the villagers of Tumbang Nusa as a substitute for disposable straws. In the midst of world-wide efforts to reduce plastic waste, this product has a great opportunity to help fill a rapidly expanding niche in the market. With the support of online marketing technology, Febrianti intends to bring this product into the domestic and international markets.
Purun and perumpung grow on degraded peatlands. Purun also grows well in tidal mineral fields. Previously, perumpung was not harvested because it did not have a market price, while purun was only harvested by a few village households. Harvesting is only done if there is a request from outside buyers who come to the village. Harvesting for the sale of purun is done by men and women. They wash the plants and dried them in the sun before marketed. The price received for purun is very low, at Rp. 3,500/bunch.
Improving opportunities for women
The eco-friendly straw business provides a significant opportunity to add value to purun and perumpung. This business was targeted to women, particularly the housewives, to train them in activities that could provide additional income.
Many housewives in this village after completing routine household activities (cleaning the house, washing and cooking), reported that they had free time available that could be used for income-generating activities, when they would normally gather to socialize and chat with neighbors.
This eco-friendly straw business is ideal for women in Tumbang Nusa because is easily manufactured, and has low capital requirement, though it does require perseverance. It can be conducted at any time, either individually, or in a group, it can also be conducted at home or while chatting with neighbors.
If this business is successful, these women will earn additional income, and peatlands will be valued as important assets because they contain raw materials for supporting their businesses, and a side-benefit is that they will be keen to protect the peatland in Tumbang Nusa village from burning so that their raw resources remain available for harvest.
Moving to another village/Dok. Niken Sakuntaladewi
Important aspects of empowerment
Many aspects need to be considered to empower the community. Widjajanti (2011) suggested that successful community empowerment required the development of physical capital, social capital, and improvement in the quality of human resources to support the empowerment process.
Physical capital that is required in the manufacture of drinking straws is an oven. Ovens are used to dry the purun and perumpung straws. The Partnership provided 14 ovens to the Tumbang Nusa community, and the village leader helped place the ovens in the homes of the women who were involved in producing straws. The ovens were deliberately given to the village to avoid personal claims over these items.
Human capital in the form of skills to produce quality purun and perumpung straws was provided through training. These skills are well mastered by these women. Their products have even passed laboratory tests, free of mercury, E. coli and Salmonella bacteria.
In order to maintain product quality, selection of eco-friendly straw products is handled directly by the village facilitator. Product quality includes the length and diameter of straws, cleanliness, dryness, color and aroma. The village facilitator always reminds the producers to always focus on product quality in order to remain competitive with other straw products.
The social capital of the Tumbang Nusa village community is still developing. People are inclined to work independently and their networks tend to be very limited. Their local networks will be needed to expand the business, and if the demand increases, cooperation between those involved will be very important for sustaining it. At present, Febrianti is working hard to find and connect villages with markets.
Now the Tumbang Nusa Village-Owned Enterprise has already opened up a 'nusastraws' online shop. She has equipped a technology-savvy young woman from the village with online marketing knowledge, and she handles the online marketing of the eco-friendly straws. One important aspect emphasized by the village facilitator is that all straws need to be marketed through the Village Owned Enterprises. This way, the village will earn income that can be used for village development.
Robert T. Kiyosaki, an investor, entrepreneur, and motivator, emphasizes among other things the importance of addressing failure as a lesson to improve lives, including increasing ones income. Onggy Hianata, a world-class expert in mental, character, mindset, leadership and spiritual education, more directly calls for a change of mindset in doing business to create a better life.
Changes in mindset are needed to help people not easily give up or despair, stay motivated, keep trying, find and take advantage of various opportunities to achieve their goals. Changing mindset is not always easy to do but it is possible, it requires knowledge, awareness willingness as well as sometimes struggle and hardship.
The women who produce the straw have not yet completely changed their mindset to embrace drinking straw production. Not all of the women who joined the training in making eco- friendly straws still continue to produce the straws.
They considered that the Village-Owned Enterprise bought their straws at a price that was too low, at only Rp 150/stem. They are also still working on ensuring quality in their straw production, and understand that the Village-owned Enterprise needs to maintain quality of output by rejecting straws that do not meet the specified quality. Despite these constraints, one of the women who is diligently running this business can earn an extra hundreds thousand rupiah in a month.
The drinking straws are sold by Village-Owned Enterprise for IDR 200/stem, and when marketed online the price can reach up to IDR 1000 /stem. The profit from this business is returned to the village. Recently, eco-friendly straw products from the Tumbang Nusa village have been exported to foreign countries including Norway and Australia.
Women at Tumbang Desa village producing straws from purun/Dok. Kemitraan
The important role of village facilitators
Empowerment of rural communities needs effective, tireless assistance and is carried out through social learning processes. The Partnership considered it important to place a facilitator in the village of Tumbang Nusa who is looking out for the best interests of the community, including the purun craftspeople, and in the process of developing their businesses, helping them to see the potential within themselves and the potential of their surroundings to be developed.
In the process of community empowerment in the village of Tumbang Nusa, village facilitator played a very important role from discovering the potential of the village, finding business opportunities, building capacity in the community, maintaining product quality, and finding markets to connect producers with buyers.
The role of facilitator is in the process of being transferred to the Tumbang Nusa village community so that in time they will be able to develop and sustain their own business interests, and in doing so will be able to improve and sustain their livelihoods.
In the process of community empowerment, village facilitators are a very important part of the equation. Assistance needs to be provided to the community continuously until they are able to sustain their own businesses.
The selection of businesses needs to consider the ability of farmers, the habits of farmers, the availability of raw materials, and the market potential. The chosen businesses can not only provide additional household income but ultimately are able to help change community views to respect and preserve their surrounding environment.
Increasing social capital, changing mindsets, and transferring roles that are still being carried out by village facilitators still need to be pursued to continue the village empowerment journey.*
- [BRG] Badan Restorasi Gambut. 2018. Profil Desa Peduli Gambut. Desa Tumbang Nusa, Kecamatan Jabiren Raya, Kabupaten Pulang Pisau, Provinsi Kalimantan Tengah.
- Hianata, O. 2019. Value your life - Lepaskan beban tak kasat mata dan optimalkan pencapaian. Elex Media Komputindo
- Kiyosaki, R.T. 2014. Rich Dad, Poor Dad. PT. Gramedia Pustaka Utama, Jakarta
- Marie, Y. 2020. Sedotan Purun, Kreativitas Masyarakat Tumbang Nusa Jaga Gambut. https://www.mongabay.co.id/2020/05/06/sedotan-purun-kreativitas-masyarakat-tumbang-nusa-jaga-lahan-gambut/
- Widjajanti, K. 2011. Model Pemberdayaan Masyarakat. Jurnal Ekonomi Pembangunan. Volume 12, Nomor 1, hlm. 15-27
- Yayasan Tambuhak Sinta. 2019. Analisis dan Perencanaan Berbasis Masyarakat (Community-Led Anaysis and Planning-CLAP) Desa Tumbang Nusa. ACIAR Project