By Krishnu Senjaya
A Monsanto Fund program is transforming the remote community of Gunung Mas in Lampung, Indonesia, bringing clean water, public education and services to 1,200 people in need. Our partnership with the community, various levels of government and a farmers’ association help the community to improve its quality of life while shaping the village’s future.
“We worked with local and national governments, non-governmental organizations and community partners to establish trusting and mutually beneficial relationships. Taking time to understand the needs of communities first and then developing solutions together is critical to achieving success,” said Mauricio Amore, Country Lead for Monsanto Indonesia.
The remote village of Gunung Mas is located in the East Lampung region in the western part of Indonesia. The village is more than 60 km from the city of Lampung, but access is difficult via the bumpy and rocky road, which makes travel time to Gunung Mas around four hours from the city. Similar to most of the other rural communities in Indonesia, half of the 3,984 community members struggle to have clean drinking water, and a quarter of the people lack adequate sanitation. The only hope for the community to get water is by relying on rain water or walking long distances (about 2-3 kilometers daily) to natural resources. As the men work in the field, women and children are the ones who take charge to carry heavy containers of 15-20 liters per trip.
While the access to clean drinking water is difficult, based on our first study, their financial condition is not classified as very poor, as the men still own land to grow plants or work in state-owned plantations, with monthly wages around Rp 1,300,000 (130 USD) per month. There is a local water supply company selling water to the village members, but the price is costly and the supply often does not arrive as scheduled because of dire road access.
Local officials have done several projects to open the access for clean water, but the project were stopped because of budget issues and other government priorities. Several programs have been implemented by various multinational and local companies, but the programs were not sustainable and the community remained without clean water.
In 2012, Monsanto Indonesia committed to support the community. Our promise was to prioritize social progress instead of infrastructure development. It was identified after learning what other companies and governments had done that what was lacking from the community was the capability to organize community assets to sustain benefits for all members of the community.
The project initially afforded two reservoirs (9 m3 /each), two water wells (120 m depth), a water tank (2,200 liters), and main water pipes (11,000m) installed in the main road in front of the houses of community members. Community training was made a priority. Since then, the project has been progressing and the community members have agreed to contribute money to install the pipes leading to the inside of their house. Now they can get the clean water just as easy as in the city: tap water in their kitchen! After the idea was accepted and well understood by the community, it voluntarily gave full support, including commitments to donate land to build water tanks and reservoirs. Community members are also involved in building the facility although they only have time in the evening (after working hours in their fields).
“We would like to express our gratitude to the government, Monsanto and other partner, because the development of the sanitation infrastructure contributes significantly to our daily lives,” said Sutyarto S., the Head of Village of Gunung Mas. “Now it is our job to preserve and maintain them so that we can continue to use them.”