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In the Mentawai, a remote island group in western Indonesia, food security has been extremely difficult to achieve for 14 displaced communities. After a devastating tsunami in 2010, communities in South Pagai were relocated from the coast into the jungle. Without access to clean water, electricity or services. SurfAid has helped to provide temporary shelters, clean water and basic health facilities.
The communities have now built permanent houses, but children are still malnourished. Lack of food security is a key cause of underweight children under-five. Health, food quality, clean water, sanitation, income and agricultural production all play a role in achieving food security; which is why any solution must consider these multifaceted issues as interconnected.
The displaced communities still face a lot of hardship. Without income generation opportunities people are forced to return to their old villages where there are at least some coconuts. This is a long and arduous trek, which they make at least once a week, bringing their young children or leaving them in the care of their older siblings or grandparents.
The fishing communities affected by the tsunami need to learn to farm to generate an income. This income can be used to buy nutritious food for underweight children and lift village incomes. We are supporting 70 relocated community groups to improve their planting practices through Farmer Field Schools (a model favoured by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation). A demonstration farm is established as a training centre for good farming practices.
“In September 2019 I harvested 30 clusters of banana and 30kg of chili. I don’t have young children anymore so the income from selling my harvest I used to pay computer course for my teenage child in Medan”
– Lemina Samaloisa, a farmer group member of Maurau Hamlet, Bulasat Village
Demonstration banana farm
In the demonstration farm, we trained the communities to prepare seeds of banana from the trees, as well as intercropping bananas with other plants. Intercropping with cardamom and chilly will help with income increase while waiting for the banana harvest.
SurfAid provided training on farming techniques from land preparation, planting, maintenance including fertilising, pest/disease control, and harvesting, both at the demonstration farm and also at the community’s lands.
The agriculture technique training was followed by regular coaching by SurfAid staff for each group at their lands. The coaching is the most important part, since the farmers can immediately practise and receive mentoring by SurfAid staff.
SurfAid used a Farmers’ Field School method to give training and coaching at the community lands. This has proven to be more effective than the teaching video we envisioned. We have contributed to the groups to buy small hand-farming tools to work their land.
Agri-business training and coaching
After the agriculture technique training, the community groups are also assisted in marketing their produce. The coaching for each group also included good financial practice.
Parenting classes for mothers, fathers and other caregivers
The parenting classes focused on the community health volunteers who will peer educate mothers, fathers, and other caregivers. We discussed topics of good parenting such as nutritious food, bringing the children to health post to monitor their growth. We held cooking classes so parents could experience what a nutritious meal looks and tastes like, using locally available nutritious ingredients such as banana flower. The community health volunteers will then organise these education sessions on nutrition and parenting during the regular farmer groups meetings at each hamlet.
The 14 displaced communities are involved in all project activities. The communities volunteer time and resources, including the land that they will make available for the demonstration farm.
Groups of community members work together with the local health department to deliver health messages on nutrition, hygiene and sanitation to their neighbours, focusing on at-risk households. The community health workers are our front line, receiving ongoing training and support from SurfAid staff.
The community health workers are also the first to organise themselves into farmer groups. These groups will receive ongoing training and coaching on how to farm, and how to sell what is farmed, and how this can help with better nutrition for the children. These community members are key to establishing new agricultural and parenting behaviours of the communities.
Food security depends on the availability of food, the access (physical and economic) to food and very importantly, how food is utilised. Food utilisation requires the following: proper food processing and storage techniques; good parenting; adequate applied nutrition knowledge; and adequate health and sanitation services. SurfAid is successfully tackling several food utilisation barriers including sanitation services, improved hygiene practices and improvements to basic health services for mothers and children.
SurfAid is implementing an overarching Mother and Child Health program in the Mentawai that not only focuses on improved nutrition, but clean water and health education services.
This project is one of many smaller projects that contributes to food security.
All dollar amounts in AUD.
Demonstration banana farm: budget = $10,000; actual = $10,000; variance = $0
Agri-business training and coaching: budget = $7,500; actual = $4,500; variance = -$3,000
Creative educational training sessions: budget = $500; actual = $4,500; variance = $4,000
Parenting classes for mothers, fathers and other caregivers: budget = $4,500; actual = $3,500; variance = -$1,000
Accountability and administration: budget = $2,500; actual = $2,500; variance = $0
Totals: budget = $25,000; actual = $25,000; variance = $0