Community Food Storage and Distribution in Lembata Help Villages in East Nusa Tenggara Fulfill Economic Needs

31 December 2016
Author: admin

The mission of strengthening food security in Lembata, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) has been implemented by supporting the community’s economy both in terms of food security and their sovereignty over the land. According to Bernadete Deram (45), a PEKKA Group Coordinator in NTT, the shift in diet towards consumption of more instant food has been causing a lot of problems, such as disease and impaired growth in children, and an increase in the money being spent on food purchasing.

The long distance and infrequent transportation from the village to markets and urban areas in the Ile Ape and Ile Ape Timur Sub-districts, make the people face difficulty on obtaining their basic necessities.

PEKKA, one of MAMPU partners, which run a local food cultivation program in Lembata, have been utilizing existing land for planting corn, mung beans, cassava, banana and other crops. Communal storage sheds have been provided as a backup if needed. Therefore, the income can be circulates within their own villages and women headed of household always have ways to fulfill their daily needs.

The long distances between villages to the markets and economic centres, incurs high cost of transportation and the money will be disposed outside the villages. It means that the economy is mostly concentrated in the urban centres only.

Based on this situation, 30 groups founded by PEKKA which operate in 26 villages in the region, have been making efforts to optimise the use of land owned by villagers, by planting various crops to provide their food needs. Each village has potential land fertility for growing crops. For example, Beutaran village is the largest producer of mung beans compared to other villages in Ile Ape Sub-district.

Each village has the potential for bartering food or food arisan, which means food is gathered and distributed to all members of the neighbourhood by lottery. So, they do not have to spend the money they have. They can manage and advance their own economy using this traditional communal method of saving. As for other foodstuffs, such as oil, sugar, and rice, they collect a monthly levy of IDR 50,000 to buy groceries that are not available from their own land. The money is collected and then used to buy basic foods which are recorded and distributed based on their needs. Those who are the most needy are given priority. This method is quite effective and very beneficial.

To get fertilizers, a group called Kelompok Peduli Anak, in Lemau village in Ile Ape Timur Sub-district, started a waste recycling program that produces fertilizer for their gardens. According to Lela Rubia, one of the group’s members, people used to buy fertilizer that was expensive. They find making their own fertilizer is very helpful.

“The MAMPU program is very helpful in helping us to share our knowledge about economic empowerment in our village,” said Rubia Lela.

In Lemau village, the villagers also have basic neighbourhood saving and distribution lottery – arisan – for foodstuffs. Agnes Peni, the group chairperson, explained that they have an arisan system for firewood. Each member gathers dry twigs from the gardens or the forest, and the firewood is then given out in turns by lottery to members who need them.

“We do not cut trees to get the firewood. We just pick up the dry twigs that have fallen off. So, we do not  damage the environment,” Agnes explained.

Meanwhile, in Tanjung Batu village, Ile Ape Sub-district, Mariam Mahmoud, the chairperson of Kelompok Kasih Ibu, says that in anticipation of the periods of scarcity, when there is less food and the harvest is not good, they have another alternative; they have a building for weaving where the group produces woven fabrics.  These fabrics –Tenun Ikat –that they create are made using natural materials, ranging from the basic, pure cotton, and colourings, which are made from of noni roots and tree bark.

The centre of their weaving activity is in Lamawara village in Ile Ape Timur Sub-district. Some groups, such as Kelompok Bunga Muda and others, also started Lumbung Air, a water collection program aimed at fulfilling the needs for clean water. This water arisan (storing and sharing) is conducted regularly so that every family has enough water supply.

The collection, storage and distribution of food by neighbourhood lottery (arisan), adhere to the principle of mutual cooperation and revive the philosophy of working communally in tackling all issues. Discussion forums held by MAMPU in the area where PEKKA works are very helpful in providing opportunities to impart a lot of knowledge about economic empowerment. Discussions are often coupled with cooking demonstrations and eating together which strengthen cohesiveness.