Present Conditions on Sumba
Health facilities are still a serious problem in SBD despite some improvements. A very important factor is the totally inadequate availability of decent toilets. Even more important and urgent is the widespread ignorance of even the basics of cleanliness and personal hygiene.
As to nutrition, most people still think about the quantity of food they have, not its nutritional value. This shows in the very large number whose growth is stunted and the number of badly undernourished children and adults.
In most villages there is very limited availability of, and knowledge of the importance of, a clean and healthy lifestyle. This should include clean water for drinking and cooking, personal cleanliness, a clean house with a clean bathroom and toilet, and proper disposal of waste and rubbish. Very many houses are still utterly dirty, which is exacerbated by the habit of raising livestock directly under the traditional wood and bamboo houses.
Under these conditions, the focus of YHS continue to be teaching and helping inculcate the Community-Led Total Sanitation method now used throughout the developing world, as well as helping villages to build water tanks, toilets and washrooms. YHS is also committed to helping increase nutritious food availability, especially for pregnant women, babies and toddlers..
Currently education facilities are no longer the serious problem they were years ago, as the government has prioritized building better and more schools. The acute problems now are the poor quality of the teaching, low literacy rates due to lack of both libraries and a reading culture, and very low participation by parents.
YHS is no loger building classrooms and is now focused on literacy and environmental education programs in both formal and community-led schools, and on increasing teacher capacity and supporting forums that promote education issues.
Since most people are farmers, the environmental conditions greatly affect their productivity and prosperity. From year to year water is less available as the water table sinks, the land is increasingly barren through over-use of factory fertilizer, the rains are uncertain and large families divide the land into ever-smaller farms.
Farming methods are still manual and inefficient. Farmers sell their crops directly and very cheaply to the large traders and none of the crops is processed locally. So productivity is low and most families live barely at subsistence level.
To address this, YHS focuses on teaching sustainable agriculture methods such as verticulture, and growing high value, high nutrient crops. We also teach small business skills, such as working in small cooperatives of local farmers, improving quality of crops, processing crops locally where possible, and product certification.
Renewable Energy and the Environment
On June 1, 2015 the Government of Indonesia, together with the Dutch Internationa NGO HIVOS, declared Sumba to be a ‘Renewable Energy Iconic Island’ (decision of the Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources No. 3051/K/30?MEM/2015).
With the local government energy authorities, HIVOS solar, wind and micro-hydro power plants as well as developing biomass, solar water pumping and home biogas usage.
In 2015 YHS began collaborating with Yayasan Rumah Energi (YRE), a HIVOS offshoot, in constructing home biogas units using waste from families’ livestock. Besides producing energy, the biogas waste (bio-slurry) is hugely useful as organic fertilizer. So far YHS has built 226 home biogas units in western Sumba.
We have also constructed a communal solar power plant in the village of Tana Kandumuk, Desa Homba Karipit, where YHS collaborates with the Indonesian National University of Singapore Association (PINUS). This power plant lights 22 houses as well as the new toilets, public bathrooms and the meeting hall which YHS built there in 2017 with funds from PINUS.
Looking ahead, YHS will continue to work with YRE to build biogas units using animal waste, and to promote the use of the bio-slurry to improve crop fertility. We will especially support the many isolated areas far from electricity.
Our communities are spread in almost all of Sumba Barat Daya and in small part to other areas of the island. Nearly all of our work is assisting subsistence farming families with low education levels, poor health and still using traditional non-cash economic systems.
Initially ours program were carried out wherever requested, building facilities such as school buildings, village water tanks and toilets, reaching tens of thousands of residents. Now the Indonesian government and other parties have become involved in physical development, leading YHS to shift its focus to intensive and sustainable assistance to certain communities / villages as models or pilot projects.
Reflecting on YHS’s journey, we realized that development focusing only on the physical without changing the ways of thinking, attitudes and behavior of citizens is not sustainable. For example, toilets are built, but residents do not maintain them.