FMNR Hub convenes collaborative meetings in East Sumba, Indonesia

September 3, 2014

No organisation can do everything – each has its strengths and constraints. But bring those organisations together to work in harmony and the whole is often greater than the sum of the parts. That’s why from 25-29 August the FMNR Hub convened a series of collaborative meetings in East Sumba, one of the most easterly islands of the Indonesian archipelago. The aim is to bring a number of organisations together to help scale up sustainable agricultural production and climate resilience using FMNR as the foundational system, and thus economic development.

Topographic Map of Sumba Island

The East Sumba district of Sumba Island is located in the Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT) province of Indonesia. Sumba is mountainous with the northern side flat, rocky and considered unproductive, while the southern side has numerous cliffs with productive plateaus. The climate is characterised as dry-tropical with rainfall occurring for only three to four months annually. High reliance on rain-fed agriculture with irregular rainfall and a short rainy season has made food security a serious challenge.

In 2010, El Nino conditions compounded these problems, resulting in an extended dry season and extreme heat which devastated maize and rice crops in some 156 villages. 2011 brought problems of flooding to crops in lowland areas.

Typical landscape of Southern Sumba

While the environment is harsh, there is ample evidence of individual farmers working within the constraints to create very productive biodiverse farming systems even on so-called waste land and even in the driest parts of the island. However such cases were the exception. For the majority of farmers, environmental impacts are compounded by reliance largely on rice and maize, the near total loss of indigenous forests, annual burning of grasslands, overgrazing and shifting agriculture and consequent severe soil erosion and loss of soil fertility.

Three years ago World Vision introduced the INFOCUS project across funded by Australian Aid and World Vision Australia. Through FMNR and high-value tree plantations, such as mahogany and teak, INFOCUS has made excellent progress in 36 villages. In that time, over 100,000 high value trees have been planted and about 1,000,000 trees regenerated through FMNR. At the same time, the UNDP is working across 40 sites in Sumba to increase climate adaptation. The District Government, World Neighbours and the local NGO Pelita, also have extensive rural development programs throughout East Sumba.

Meetings' participants:

  • Bupati, East Sumba (district governor)
  • Head of Agriculture Department, East Sumba (and other officers)
  • Head of Forestry Department, East Sumba (and other officers)
  • Head of Department of Environment, East Sumba (and other officers)
  • Head of Church Synod, East Sumba
  • Indonesian Ministry for Environment
  • Dean of Agriculture, University of Nusa Cendana
  • United Nations Development Program’s SPARC initiative
  • Australian Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade’s PRISMA market development program
  • World Agroforestry Centre
  • World Neighbours
  • Pelita (local NGO)
  • Beyond Subsistence (Australian agroforestry NGO)
  • World Vision Indonesia
  • World Vision Australia

On 25 August, 10 NGOs and agencies gathered together for what was called a ‘technical group meeting’. They identified strengths and constraints in their respective programs, issues facing rural development and climate adaptation in East Sumba, the gaps that needed filling, and the opportunities for working together. After a field trip to test their ideas, the group met with the district government to find out its needs and priorities, and to present the group’s ideas for appraisal. The NGOs and agencies then reassessed its ideas and on 29 August met again with government to find ways of working together. The Bupati (district governor) and department heads were most gracious in their support for the group and committed to collaborating to help transform the lives of hundreds of thousands of East Sumbanese.

Group photo of meetings’ participants

It was very pleasing to see all the organisations to be so willing and eager to collaborate and work together. This meeting paved the way for the participating organizations to share information, learn from each other, contribute to each other’s programs and make more efficient use of resources. The unified and collaborative approach, along with the long term nature of the proposed interventions were of particular interest to the government which has dealt with many disjointed and short term interventions over the years. The Hub is compiling a full report on the meetings and a plan for working together.

Rob Francis is Project Manager – Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration within the Food Secuirty and Climate Change unit at World Vision Australia