A better Aceh? Seven years after the tsunami, the story continues
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
CWS Indonesia's Lesvi Roselim and Rod MacLeod, a consultant with INTRAC based in Oxford, carrying out an impact assessment for Christian Aid and Prospery Raymond, Christian Aid's Country Director for Haiti, traveled to five districts: Aceh Besar, Banda Aceh, Pidie Jaya, Aceh Barat and Nagan Raya in Aceh Province where CWS provided assistance to the community affected by earthquake and tsunami in 2004. The visit from October 3 to 13, 2011 conducted as part of Christian Aid Impact Assessment aimed to draw out lessons and implications of its future humanitarian response policy and practice.
Banda Aceh and Aceh Besar
Banda Aceh was the first one to visit. The trip was started from the Aceh Tsunami Museum located in the center of Banda Aceh city -- where all the information on the tsunami that hit Aceh and several other countries in the region back in December 26, 2004 together with all the relief efforts that had been implemented throughout the years to build back the province have been documented. From the museum, we can see the scale of the disaster and works that needed to and had been done.
Rod McLeod thought the trip to the museum was very useful, "The museum provides an excellent overview and a permanent reminder of what happened on that terrible day. The everyday exhibits and the video bring to life what the disaster meant to people in the community"
The journey continued the next day to one of the schools where CWS Indonesia implemented disaster risk reduction or DRR program through its local partner, Lembaga Pembinaan dan Pengembangan Masyarakat or LPPM. Together with LPPM, CWS assisted Primary School (SD 2) Klieng Cot Arun village in Aceh Besar District to create a resilient school and to strengthen the school community, including students, teachers, and school committee through risk assessment, DRR training, disaster simulations, and mainstreaming disaster education to school curriculum.
However based on the discussion with the teachers and some students we found that the disaster risk reduction education was no longer being implemented. There's no knowledge transfer from teachers who received education/ training on DRR to others. There was also no knowledge transfer from the students who were trained to others.
The school disaster preparedness group that had previously been formed was also no longer existed. However the students could answer the questions about disaster asked correctly.
"The challenge remains on how to implement and maintain the DRR awareness that have been provided to the optimal level which will mean a longer term of assistance from concerning parties such as government, I/NGOs, etc," Rod concluded.
CWS Indonesia provided assistance in forms of fishing boats and fishing equipment to a total of 105 fishermen in Aceh during the Aceh Racovery and Rehabilitation phase and built 692 permanent houses, where 368 of the houses were built in the fishermen villages of Pidie Jaya, Aceh (Lesvi Roselim)
From the school, we visited a women's group in the same village which had been assisted by CWS Indonesia since 2006 through a livelihood program. Eight women baked cakes and cookies to sell. The group remains active after six years. They meet regularly and some of them have also developed some other businesses such as tailoring and food stall, selling Lontong Sayur - Indonesian traditional dish usually served for breakfast. .
We next visited the neighboring village of Klieng Muriah where we met with a women's group, a CWS' beneficiary who did not experience such sustainability. The group was taught to make compost using waste from the nearby factories as well as making handicraft. This was a brand new idea for the community. A member of the group explained, "Factories where we're supposed to get the materials are located far from where we live. We don't have time to collect all materials to make compost as we have to take care of our family. It was also difficult to gather materials for the handicraft but when we managed to make some but it was difficult for us to sell the handicraft in the market."
"Here we can see that it is more of a challenge to introduce new ideas in livelihood activities without a sustained period of accompaniment factored in, it worked best where building on existing livelihood work, although sometimes worked with strong technical support," Rod commented.
The journey then continued to Radio Djati, a local radio station in Banda Aceh that collaborated with CWS Indonesia in DRR program, providing the community with information on disaster risk reduction. Radio Djati was still collaborating with USAID in providing information on DRR over talk show and public service announcement or PSA.
Nevertheless, the sustainability of the program is a big concern. "The airing of the PSA has been reduced a lot since it was first started. The program currently still runs with the support from UNDP. However, we don't know if we will continue if the support from UNDP was ceased," Herry R, the radio's Director, explained.
On the second day Prospery Raymond, Country Director of Haiti Christian Aid, joined us on the trip to conduct comparison study. We met local authorities such as Provincial Disaster Management Agency or Badan Penanggulangan Bencana Aceh (BNPA) and Aceh District Education Forum (ADEF). Both institutions were formed in the aftermath of the tsunami and the latter, ADEF was formed with the involvement of all I/NGOs that were involved in the tsunami relief effort including CWS Indonesia. Both institutions still received UNDP's support.
Although both institutions have established several important policies in regard to the disaster management and disaster education, there seemed to be gaps in the implementation on the field. Disaster education integrated school curriculum has not been implemented thoroughly in some of the districts visited and early warning system was not functioning in most areas we visited. In addition both institutions also expressed concerns on their sustainability without the support from UNDP in the future.
On the next day, we visited CWS' beneficiaries of permanent housing project in Cot Lheu Rheng village, Pidie Jaya District - where CWS built a total of 368 houses in the fisherman village and provided fishing boats for the fishermen. We had a discussion with the beneficiaries and had a chance to observe firsthand the houses and the boats. The beneficiaries were happy and grateful of the assistance. Many recalled they would not know where to live and how to begin their livelihood activity if they were not assisted by CWS.
Aceh Barat and Nagan Raya
On Oct 6, 2011 we continued the journey to Meulaboh. The journey that used to take up to eight hours drive before the tsunami was done in just four hours, one of the positive changes that could be seen from the tsunami relief effort.
We were then met with Umar Yanto, CWS' Program Officer and CWS' local partner Yayasan Paramadina Semesta, one of the local partners of CWS Indonesia who was still implementing DRR program with support from CWS and Christian Aid.
Afterward we met another CWS livelihood program's beneficiaries - a women's group who received support back in 2007.
The group, located in Cot Selamat, Aceh Barat District has been formed since 2006, was specializing in Kasab, traditional Acehnese embroidery formed into various types of handicrafts and garments such as Acehnese traditional costumes, hats, wedding aisle, hand fan, etc. The group was one of the successful groups with sustainable income. They have been networking with local souvenir shops in Meulaboh. "Our group remains strong because we feel the benefit from this activity, but sometimes the marketing is a little difficult as there are many competitions from others," said a member of the group.
The following day in Meulaboh, we visited "Serangkai" Credit Union, CWS' beneficiary which was also formed in 2006 in Kuala Pesisir Village, Nagan Raya District. The CU could be seen as another success story with the growing numbers of members. The members used to be only farmers, now local business entrepreneurs, who were mostly women have also joined.
The transparency within the CU has been one of the determining factors for its sustainability. Members feel safe to save their money in the CU. The CU offers lower interest than the loan sharks from whom the members usually went to get loan. The members now enjoy the benefits from the savings and loan activity where the profit of the CU are equally divided among the members.
After, we went to Kuala Tadu village, Nagan Raya District visiting the permanent housing project and meeting the beneficiaries on the last day in Meulaboh. . Kuala Tadu was one of the villages that received assistance from CWS since the emergency phasesuch as non-food Items, clean water supply facilities, psychosocial support, health and nutrition assistance, and the permanent housing.
"It was very hard to think that life could go on after the disaster; everything was gone. But with assistance from CWS and other organizations, the community could get back on their feet. Many progresses have also occurred after that, I feel that we are more prosperous than before the tsunami. Economic growth can also be seen in numbers of motorcycles in the village. Before the tsunami there was only one or two in the whole village, now everyone has one," shared the housing project beneficiary.
"We and most would agree to the often repeated mantra heard after the disasters ‘build back better', in this case the situation in Aceh is better than it was previously, there are more (and better) houses, improved schools, hospitals and roads. The economy has picked up and households have re-established their livelihoods. This however, is a general summary, a question underlying the above summary is: to what extent can more ‘developmental' activities be fast-tracked? Where it was a case of rebuilding infrastructure, there was not a problem in doing it in a relatively fast manner. But when it came to establishing new forms of livelihood and promoting disaster risk reduction in a sustainable way (i.e. changing attitudes, establishing community institutions), this was perhaps inevitably more problematic," Rod concluded.