Indonesia: East Sumba INFOCUS
Indonesia has been losing forests at an alarming rate in the last two decades with over one million hectares cleared every year. In East Sumba, on the Sumba Island, the forest cover amounts to a mere 6–10% of the total area, and destructive farming practices such as slash and burn agriculture has contributed significantly to the barren and degraded landscape that now dominates the region. Environmental degradation and poor natural resources management are key factors in causing food insecurity and malnutrition among the local population. Infertile and rocky land, as well as regular droughts, represent serious challenges to sustainable food production for the communities. Children are especially vulnerable to malnutrition and have reportedly shown signs of related conditions such as wasting and stunting.
The name of World Vision’s project in East Sumba captures its underlying ideas and objectives – INFOCUS: Increase Food Security within the Community through Sustainable Livelihood and Natural Resources Management System. Improving natural resources management has been identified as a long term solution to increasing agricultural output and building sustainable livelihoods for rural communities. World Vision Indonesia is supporting the population with the implementation of a suite of activities and practices, including Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR), raised bed farming and water management systems, which are designed to restore degraded landscape and to provide a more reliable access to food.
The project focuses on building awareness to ensure natural resources are used wisely and effectively and empowering community members to take the initiative to protect them. Communities’ ownership of the land and the tools to achieve the objectives are integral parts of the approach adopted. Hence, INFOCUS is supportive of existing community organisations, cultural norms and customary mechanisms that aim at protecting nature. Special efforts are being made at the village and district level to prevent land burning practices through law and community-based regulation. The project is also working towards improving capacity at the grass-roots level to deal with numerous problems that have so far hampered the development of adequate agricultural systems in East Sumba (e.g. pests, lack of water, longer dry seasons, erratic rainfall patterns, etc.).
Communities soon recognised the benefits of the project and have enthusiastically embraced its activities. Progress targets are being overachieved thanks to people’s active participation and to the positive results from the field.
Project activities include:
- Community-based reforestation using Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration
- Community-owned forest plots built with raise-bed farming technology and agroforestry
- Community-based water management promoted through community mobilization, fire prevention and reforestation of catchment areas
- Child participation in environment improvement efforts through training and schools involvement
- Establishment of saving groups to increase resilience
- Differentiation of food sources through livestock and vegetable plots
- Improved mothers’ knowledge on child feeding practices
- Strengthening political and social environment to improve food security
“FMNR Revolution” sweeps through Timor-Leste and East Sumba, Indonesia
Production of high value timber is just one of the many INFOCUS project’s achievements that Rob Francis has witnessed during a recent visit to East Sumba