Stories of Change

Henrita (left) and another from her women's group in their community garden.

Linking gardens, savings and disaster resilience in Indonesia

In October 2016, a landslide destroyed houses and farmland in Lembang Rano, a small mountainous village in southern Tana Toraja, Indonesia. CWS was already working with communities there, so we teamed up with the district Disaster Management Agency to support disaster response. Once the community had recovered, our team and government colleagues saw an opportunity to share disaster preparedness and response information. This is a landslide-prone area, so we wanted to help the community be better prepared for future landslides. 

We already had an established program in other nearby villages called Safe Schools, Safe Communities. In this program, we worked with village schools to distribute information to students’ families. Schools are often a great starting point because children are eager to share what they learn with family and friends. We expanded the program into Lembang Rano. 

Henrita is the mother of two children who attended a Safe Schools, Safe Communities participating school. “I was interested in this information [which I heard from children], and I hoped that CWS would begin sharing it with everyone,” she said. “So, when the village leader told me that CWS would come back to Lembang Rano, I was excited.”

The Safe Schools, Safe Communities program wrapped up. Its successor is a program called DREAM, which stands for Disaster Risk Reduction through Enhanced Adaptive Measures. DREAM is designed to help families strengthen their resilience against natural disasters like the landslide that damaged the village school a few years ago. Unlike its predecessor, though, DREAM is exploring ways for whole communities to build resilience to disaster. Through this program, individual families can strengthen themselves in ways that will help the whole community, including schools, be stronger and safer.

One way families can be stronger and more resilient to disasters is by having more resources, especially economic stability. And one way to achieve this is to diversify crops and livestock … and to empower women in the bargain. This is what DREAM does. Our program team supported Henrita and other women in Lembang Rano to form a Savings and Loan Group through which members could save their own earnings from individual work; and, with group agreement, take small loans.

Just as she immediately saw how people could benefit from knowing more about disaster risk reduction, Henrita quickly saw that her group’s capital grew slowly, and outstanding loans kept the capital at a minimal level. Wanting to help build capital faster so larger loans could be made, and so member dividends could be realized, she called a meeting. After a lot of discussion, members agreed to start a group garden and to sell the vegetables for the collective good of the savings and loan fund.
While wanting mostly to improve her own life, and help others do the same, Henrita noted “a lot of change in our group’s members, many of who used to stay home and take care of their families only.” But, with the group effort, and profit motive, they became gardening enthusiasts. And, in managing a community garden together, they learned more about running their savings and loans group better. All in all, the DREAM keeps growing.