We saw an old man unraveling his fishing net on a small boat. Not far from the man, a row of mangrove trees were swinging left and right as the waves pushed them back and forth. In the distance, the sea met the blue sky, forming a horizon. At a glance, it was a beautiful sight. As we took more time to observe the village and interact with its people, we soon realized it is the same old story with this village: underdeveloped rural area facing issues such as poverty, poor infrastructure, and subpar education and health services.
Segarajaya is the name of the village. Located in Bekasi District, the village is next to the eastern border of Jakarta, the capital city of the Indonesia. It can be reached in less than one hour from Tanjung Priok, the largest and busiest seaport in the nation. Industrial complexes stand all over the area surrounding the village. Unfortunately, the village does not seem to receive a decent share of the economic development pie, despite being close to the heart of Indonesia’s economic development.
Gardapati Parahita, batch 68 of the Indonesian Endowment Fund for Education (LPDP) Scholarship awardees, is humbled to work hand in hand with the people of Segarajaya village to design and implement a three-year community development program that will hopefully improve the livelihoods of the people. As Indonesian youths selected for Master and PhD studies both in Indonesia and abroad, we are excited to launch our community development project, Gardapati Parahita Menyapa Indonesia (GPMI) program, as a way to give back to our community.
Finding the best approach to solve Segarajaya’s challenges is not an easy task, and is a big responsibility. Therefore, we believe that it is vital to focus on its potential by making sure that the villagers are able to capitalize on their own resources. The location of this village is adjacent to the sea, which creates various sources of income for the villagers, with most working as fisherman at present. Aside from fisheries, villagers have also started to earn income from shrimp paste production and seaweed farming activities. We named the program “KALAMPA,” after the abbreviation of two districts, Kali Adem and Paljaya, as the focus location of the empowerment program in Segarajaya.
Based on the seaweed farming potential, we are committed to supporting the locals in adding more value to the seaweed production. GPMI will collaborate with the community through Koperasi Paljaya, a local cooperative, to develop seaweed dodol production (a sweet confection made of seaweed). The program will be targeted at villagers aged 18 and more than 30 families who earn income below the minimum wage standard of Bekasi District. The cooperative will be provided with capacity building training to improve the processing and marketing of the seaweed production.
The coastal ecosystem gives other potential for Segarajaya, in particular, the mangrove trees. The benefits provided by mangroves have been widely known. That is why the government and the people of Segarajaya village have started planting mangroves on their coastline. Whilst mainly for conservation, the mangrove is also planted for eco-tourism purposes. The government has built a long wooden bridge from one side of the village to the other side, so visitors will be able to have a better view of the mangroves. We are happy that the government has started such an initiative in the village, and we are happy to support in any way we can.
In line with the government and people of Segarajaya’s initiative to capitalize on the potential of mangroves, we have designed a program to empower the locals that aims to reap the benefit from mangrove eco-tourism potential. At first, along with the locals, we will engage with several mangrove-focused NGOs in an effort to conserve and manage the mangrove ecosystem. Next, we will conduct a capacity building program for local villagers and train them to be local tour guides for tourists and to monitor the mangrove conservation effort. All of these efforts are designed to attract more visitors to Segarajaya village so that it will bring greater income for the villagers.
We believe that it takes a holistic approach to help the people of Segarajaya village to empower themselves. Based on the needs of the locals, we have designed a range of projects in various sectors that have one ultimate goal: improving the wellbeing of the people in Segarajaya. With all the increasing income we expect them to earn, we want to help the people have a better understanding of how to manage their money through a financial literacy education project. We are also on a mission to support the children and educators in the village through a holistic education improvement project. Furthermore, health is a key factor for improving their welfare, so we want to raise their awareness of the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle. Last but not least, we also want them to be able to create a clean and comfortable environment by introducing a sustainable waste management system.
Engaging the people of Segarajaya village is the next thing to do. Our programs are very straightforward and for the implementation, we will need to work hand-in-hand with the people of Kali Adem and Paljaya. Fortunately, the momentum is here. Just after Eid al-Fitr, we want to celebrate the holiday along with the villagers of Segarajaya through a “Halal Bi-halal” — an Indonesian ritual where people gather with their family and relatives and preserve harmonious relations. Hopefully, we will capture the meaning of “Halal Bi-halal”, and start a harmonious collaboration with our newly adopted family, KALAMPA.