Creative Ideas Make Life Easier for Many

The Jakarta Globe

The idea may not be original but granting microcredits for housewives to develop businesses is proving to be a big help for poor families in rural areas.

The idea, which earned Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus the Nobel Peace Prize, is being put into practice by a South Kalimantan community group.

For Ilah, 31, a housewife in Kertak Hanyar, the small loan helped her and some friends make extra cash by producing handmade Sasirangan batik, which is unique to the area.

She and nine other mothers joined local community development group Al Munawarah, which initially received Rp 10 million ($1,200) from the government.

Then last year, the group received a Rp 27.5 million loan under the National Community Empowerment Program (PNPM).

Banniah, 33, a mother of two, said she was able to earn Rp 1 million per month by making and selling batik. Before joining Al Munawarah in 2009, her husband was the sole breadwinner for the family.

“Now I have been able to save more money for my family,” Banniah told the Jakarta Globe earlier this month.

Al Munawarah chairwoman Masrupah said the group did not operate just for the benefit of its members, but also helped other women in the area.

“They can do part-time jobs such as knitting, especially during the peak season at the start of the school year,” she said.

“Sasirangan batik is very popular for school and office uniforms in South Kalimantan. Because we have so much demand every month, we need more people to work with us so we can meet our deadline,” she said.

State Funding, Community Decision

When the PNPM was introduced in 2007, many cities, including Semarang in Central Java and Surabaya in East Java, rejected the program because they feared it was little more than a disguised political campaign by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

But as public acceptance grew, the program’s budget increased from its initial Rp 3.6 trillion. The government earmarked Rp 13 trillion for the program this year, covering more than 6,500 subdistricts.

Under the program, the government provides financial assistance for communities to deal with jobs, roads, irrigation, water supply, health centers and schools. Since 2007, South Kalimantan has received Rp 6 billion in PNPM funding.

“Because the money is managed according to the community’s needs, it’s not the government who decides where the funding will go, but the community,” said Masadriansyah, a governement official in South Kalimantan.

In addition to community business loans, PNPM funding is also allocated for infrastructure development and job training in small community groups.

Better Water Supply

South Kalimantan’s capital, Banjarmasin, is known as “the city with a thousand rivers,” but water supply and sanitation infrastructure have long been major problems, as rivers become increasingly polluted.

But with PNPM funding, an increasing number of residents are getting access to clean water.

“Previously, my husband and I had to either buy water or simply took water from the polluted river for showers, cooking and washing clothes,” said resident Fridah, 53. “Consuming water from a polluted river is dangerous; I often got sick using it. I am very happy now with the access to the clean water.”

Banjarmasin’s deputy mayor, Irwan Anshari, said local water provider PD PAL now provided more than 120,000 houses with access to clean water, and more than 5,000 houses were connected to the city water sanitation infrastructure.

“The existence of so many rivers is no longer a big help in terms of water supply because of pollution,” he said.

PD PAL is expanding its water sanitation and wastewater management infrastructure. At the moment, it doesn’t charge any fees to subscribers for the first six months. After that, they will have to pay for the service.

Marwanto Harjowiyono, Finance Ministry official, said the central government had allocated Rp 231 billion for clean water supplies and sanitation programs nationwide.

Australian Support

With Australia spending 558 million Australian dollars ($586 million) on help to improve the living standards of 110 million Indonesians living on less than $2 a day, the nation is the key supporter of the PNPM.

Of that amount, about 20 million Australian dollars is allocated to provide piped water facilities in poor urban communities around the country and to increase the number of households with sewerage connections.

This support provides 60,000 households with new connections to piped water and up to 10,000 households with sewerage connections.

“The Australian government is very proud to be the largest supporter of the PNPM program in Indonesia, outside the Indonesian government itself,” said Peter Baxter, director general of the Australian government’s Agency for International Development (AusAID).

“The PNPM program is a very good program for empowering the community and is a very famous program around the world as it has a direct impact on people’s lives.”

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