Friday, 29 March 2019

Sutojayan Community Responds to Forum Establishment

Diskusi bersama masyarakat. (Foto: Herry Susanto/USAID APIK).

Within 2010-2017, Blitar District in East Java often experienced disasters, especially floods, landslides, and whirlwinds. One area that is often hit by floods is Sutojayan Village. Sutojayan comes from the Javanese words “Suto” (meaning child) and “Joyo” (meaning happiness). It was once a dense forest and located in the downstream of Bogel River which is a sub of Brantas watershed. The flood is most likely caused by the deforestation in the upstream area, namely Bacem Village and Kalipang Village. The conversion of catchment areas into paddy fields and buildings adds the burden to the problem.

The flood that often hits Sutojayan puts the community in a vulnerable state. It disrupts the economy, decreases clean water supply, damages road infrastructure, schools, and others. For example, on February 11, 2017, floods hit Sutojayan with water level that reached 70 cm, half of average adult’s height. In addition to submerging hundreds of homes, the flood also damaged around 150 hectares of rice fields that had just been planted with seeds. From these conditions, USAID Adaptasi Perubahan Iklim dan Ketangguhan (USAID APIK) with the Climate Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction Working Group (Pokja-API-PRB) under the coordination of the Blitar District Planning and Development Agency (Bappeda) agreed to assist Sutojayan Village in terms of flood management.

At the community level, USAID APIK actively undertook a series of approaches and provides knowledge on disaster management. Together with the community, the project formed a communication forum for flood management in 2017 and called as Forum API-PRB (climate and disaster resilience forum). It involved youth, men, women, farmers, traders, village government, army, and police representatives in Sutojayan Village. Through the Forum API-PRB activities, the community has held several participatory meetings to discuss flood management issues. In the activities, the involvement of the Local Disaster Management Agency (BPBD) and the Blitar Environmental Agency (DLH) increased the enthusiasm of the community to participate.

Kusnadi is one of the community leaders and very influential as a development champion in Sutojayan. He is actively involved in the Forum API-PRB and acts as a liaison for the working group members that mostly from the government agencies. He also monitors the condition of Bogel River especially during heavy rains and shares the information through handy talkie. According to Kusnadi, a lot of people choose to stay at home despite the flood because they are used to the situation. He further explained that if the flood level does not reach as high as their house, then the community will not evacuate. This is an example of many other things that need to be discussed with the community members to understand flood management better.

With the Forum API-PRB, the community began to understand how to read disaster-prone maps in their area, formulate actions to make infiltration wells (biopores) to reduce runoff and prepare proposals for flood management training activities such as public kitchen exercise. The results of these various discussions are then brought into the development planning public consultation process at the village, sub-district, and district levels. Some of the proposed activities by the community were followed up by the environmental agency. In August 2017, they held a biopore infiltration holes making event, planting trees for conservation, and garbage cleaning activity in Bogel River as part of Indonesia’s independence day celebration. Some other proposed activities discussed in the community forum and carried out jointly with the village officials were drafting village regulations on environmental management and improvement, trees protection, and deciding which forum members to be included in the flood task force team at the village level.

To further provide broader results in flood management, some members of the Forum API-PRB actively participated in overseeing program planning proposals through the village public consultation activities. This activity is a vehicle for dialogue between the village government and the community. It facilitates the village annual program development that meets the community needs.

However, not all community proposals can be approved as programs from the district government. There are considerations regarding the priority scale and the financial capacity of the administrative area. Therefore, to encourage efforts in implementing the community proposals, supports from other stakeholders are needed. In 2018, as a result of the Forum API-PRB communication to the Development and Planning Agency (Bappeda) that further extended the discussion to other institutions, flood management becomes central government attention and they allocated state budget of Rp 185 billion for Bogel River and Kesing River normalization.

From the implementation of the Forum API-PRB activities, the community and members of the forum gained learning and a better understanding of floods and their mitigation. They learned how to arrange activities, to oversee development planning. In the future, the Forum API-PRB will continue to oversee the follow up of developed proposals and continue the advocacy to relevant government agencies such as BPBD, DLH, and Bappeda. Also, the forum continues to perform joint activities to reduce flood risks such as trees planting, river cleaning, and capacity building to the other community members.

(Author: Herry Susanto, Governance/Institutional Strengthening Specialist USAID APIK East Java)


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