The Link Between Agriculture and Poverty Reduction
The link between agriculture and poverty reduction has significant documentation. Developing countries that have risen from high levels of extreme poverty have seen improvements in agriculture and an increase in farmers’ wages that cooccur with drops in the poverty rate. According to an OECD report, one can attribute 52 percent of poverty reduction to growth in agriculture incomes. In addition, for a measure of 1 percent GNI growth, agriculture contributed the most to poverty reduction. The policy that seemed to work the most was significantly increasing the protection of agriculture exports by reducing high taxes on exports and reducing overly inflated exchange rates. The greatest advantage of improving agriculture is that the poorest of society benefits the most. The lower the literacy rates, the stronger the poverty-reducing effect.

Vietnam

Changes in Vietnam over the decades exemplify the link between agriculture and poverty reduction. It lifted its people out of extreme poverty by focusing on improvements in its agriculture sector. The poverty rate was northward of 60 percent in 1990 and fell to just 20.7 percent in 2010. Vietnam lifted an estimated 30 million people out of poverty in total. During that time, the government incentivized farmers to invest in their land. Instead of food shortages, the country was able to export its commodities at a surplus. Multilateral trade agreements formed, and the country moved from a closed economy to one open to trade. In the 1980s, Vietnam had food shortages, and today it is a major exporter of rice to world markets.

Indonesia

Some developing countries did not focus on developing their agriculture sectors. In addition to this, those countries experienced the opposite trend. In contrast to Vietnam, Indonesia slowed in poverty reduction last decade. Overall growth in this sector has been weak with researchers making little progress. The poverty rate declined by only half a percentage point in each 2012 and 2013, which was the smallest declines in the last decade. One of the reasons might be a recent trend where small farmers experience eviction from their land in favor of large companies. These companies then use the land for palm oil and rubber. However, are signs that suggest that the agriculture sector may be rebounding. In 2017, there was an increase in both agriculture employment and production. Currently, 32 percent of Indonesians work in the sector. Additionally, rice production went up to 75.4 million tons and up from around 70 million tons in 2014.

Guinea

Guinea is another country that focuses on other sectors for its economic growth. Mining makes up 80 percent of Guinea’s exports, and agriculture makes up the rest. Despite mining being a lucrative industry, it only employs 2.5 percent of the working population. Based on simulations using the 2014 population census, the poverty rate increased to 57.7 percent. Surprisingly, experts often cite Ebola as one of the causes, but low agriculture productivity is an equally large problem.

There is plenty of room for growth in this sector, both in terms of technology and land area farmed. In addition, farmers use very little agricultural inputs such as fertilizer and mechanization. In contrast, there are signs that agriculture is becoming more of a focus. The country has decided to invest in agriculture. In 2018, Guinea allocated 12.5 percent of its budget to agriculture, up from the current level of 7.3 percent. Additionally, IFAD and the Guinean government reached an aid agreement that will raise wages for 65,000 rural farm families and aims to increase family farm production.

For the poorest nations, choosing the sector to focus on reducing poverty is important. Evidence suggests that the link between agriculture and poverty reduction is strong. Developing countries that invest in the agriculture sector and promote policies that benefit farmers tend to fare better in this respect than countries that focus on other sectors.

Caleb Carr
Photo: Flickr

Facts about Sanitation in Indonesia
With 264 million inhabitants, Indonesia is one of the world’s most populous countries. It is also the largest economy in Southeast Asia, with average income levels dramatically increasing in the last 20 years. Nevertheless, millions of Indonesians lack safe water and continue to live with sub-standard sanitation facilities. These 10 facts about sanitation in Indonesia will give a brief overview of the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector in this nation.

10 Facts about Sanitation in Indonesia

  1. Open defecation: Almost 25 million Indonesians do not use toilets. Instead, they defecate in open spaces, which can contaminate water sources and expose others to diarrheal diseases. One out of four Indonesian children under the age of 5 suffers from diarrhea, making it the leading cause of child mortality in the country.
  2. Low-quality water: Only 7 percent of wastewater is treated in Indonesia. A 2017 survey in a rich urban center in Java found that nearly 90 percent of water sources and 67 percent of household drinking water were contaminated with fecal bacteria. Another survey conducted by the Indonesia Infrastructure Initiative found that 38 percent of 7,000 households across 22 Indonesian provinces reported issues with their water quality.
  3. Improved water supply access: Indonesia has made moderate but steady progress in improving access to improved water for its population. Around 84 percent of the population had access to improved water supply in 2011, a commendable increase from 70 percent in 1990. While access in urban areas changed very little during this period, from 90 percent to 93 percent, the rural population enjoyed most of the increased access, where the rates increased from 61 percent in 1990 to 76 percent in 2011.
  4. Improved sanitation access: The rate of access to improved sanitation grew at 6.5 percent annually from 2006 to 2015. However, nearly 100 million people were still living without improved sanitation in 2015, the majority of them from rural areas. While three out of four people in urban areas have access to improved sanitation, less than half of the rural population has such access.
  5. USAID’s effort: USAID is committed to ending preventable child and maternal deaths worldwide by expanding and improving WASH services. In addition to funding innovative microfinance programs, USAID also trained and developed small-scale construction contractors to ensure access to sustainable and safe toilets for these communities. In 2015, USAID has helped more than 2.2 million Indonesians gain access to improved water supply and more than 250,000 people with improved sanitation services.
  6. Economic cost: Approximately $6.3 billion, the equivalent of 2.3 percent of national GDP in Indonesia, is lost due to health and water-related issues. Poor sanitation caused at least 120 million cases of disease and 50,000 premature deaths in Indonesia, costing the nation $3.3 billion annually. The economic costs of polluted water also exceed $1.5 billion per year.
  7. Remote island communities: Remote coastal communities are most affected by the lack of clean water and sanitation services. These communities heavily rely on spring and rainwater, which are inadequate sources in dry seasons, and thus they are forced to use contaminated standing water and seawater. SurfAid, an NGO supported by the Australian government, has partnered with these coastal communities to construct clean water facilities as well as to organize educational campaigns to promote handwashing behaviors and sanitation. The organization has successfully increased access to clean water and sanitation coverage in Nias from 10 percent to 95 percent.
  8. The Citarum River: Around 35 million people residing in the Bandung metropolitan area and the greater Jakarta region heavily depend on the Citarum River for agriculture, water and electricity. However, the water quality of the river has decreased dramatically over the past two decades, making it one of the world’s most polluted rivers with severe pollution from lead, aluminum, manganese and iron. With $500 million in funding from the International Monetary Fund and the Inter-American Development Bank, the Indonesian government declared a seven-year Citarum cleansing program, committing to making Citarum water drinkable by 2025.
  9. Menstrual hygiene: In Indonesia, inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene at schools can present great challenges for adolescent girls, especially during menstruation. A survey in 2013 found that most girls never change menstrual pads or cloths at school due to ill-equipped facilities and inadequate water. Only 9 percent of the latrines accessible to girls in urban schools are considered functional, clean and light, posing excessive encumbrance for menstruating girls in the remaining schools. Almost one in seven girls had missed at least one school day during their last period.
  10. Handwashing: The Ministry of Health estimated that only 12 percent of children between the age of 5 and 14 wash their hands with soap after defecating, 14 percent wash their hands with soap before eating and 35 percent wash their hands with soap after eating. Realizing the importance of hygiene promotion in children, Red Cross organizes campaigns in schools that teach basic hygiene principles through different activities such as hygiene kits distribution, drama and operetta performance to deliver the messages effectively to children.

These 10 facts about sanitation in Indonesia highlight some of the commendable progress that the government and different NGOs have made in the WASH sector and also describe some challenges that need to be addressed urgently. Ensuring universal access to clean water and improved sanitation should be one of the priorities for Indonesia, as it is a basic human right and vital for the socio-economic development of the nation.

– Minh-Ha La
Photo: Flickr

Indonesia Ends Child Marriage
In child marriages, underage brides usually must quit school to settle down with their adult husbands. According to many international human rights treaties, the minimum recommended age of marriage is 18. In Indonesia, 50,000 girls are married by the age of 15. In September 2019, Indonesia made an important step to end child marriage by raising the minimum age requirement of brides. If Indonesia ends child marriage, maybe other countries will follow suit.

The Problem

In Indonesia, the general consensus is that if a girl has any association with a boy to whom she is not related, they marry as soon as possible. The assumption is that any heterosexual relationship can and will lead to sex and pregnancy. Girls are often pressured into marriage at a young age.

Every year, 340,000 Indonesian girls will get married before they turn 18. Once they settle down, 85 percent of married or pregnant girls drop out of school. This is often due to schools discouraging married or pregnant girls from attending. Furthermore, 16-year-old girls are often too young to become responsible mothers. However, birth control in Indonesia costs $3 a month, which is more than many women and girls can afford.

The New Movement and Its Implications

Indonesia’s 1974 Marriage Law permits girls as young as age 16 to get married. However, under Indonesia’s 2002 child protection law, anyone under the age of 18 is considered a child.  These competing laws create a situation where girls still marry young despite legally being children.

On September 17, 2019, Indonesia announced that it was raising the minimum age requirement of brides in order to end child marriage. Now, women have to be 19 before they can get married. It is expected that this new motion will open young women up to new opportunities that were previously only available to young men. The country hopes to see full, legal implementation of this change within the next three years.
However, this new motion may not curb child marriages completely. Families can appeal to religious courts to have their children unofficially married off before they reach the legal age. As a result, around 1 percent of Indonesian girls are still getting married before the age of 15.

The Future for Indonesia

Child marriage remains a problem in Indonesia even as the world enters a new decade. Girls feel pressured to marry young and may not wait until the legal age to do so. Therefore, the country still needs to work to change the attitudes of its citizens. However, if Indonesia ends child marriage by raising the minimum age required to marry, maybe it will help encourage these girls to stay in school.

Cassie Parvaz
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Teaching Indonesia’s Impoverished Population to Fish “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” – Ancient Proverb. The Indonesian government is taking the above saying to heart. It is doing its best to teach the poor population how to provide for themselves rather than merely providing aid. The government has grouped poverty reduction programs in Indonesia into three clusters: Social assistance, community empowerment and microenterprise empowerment. Simply put, cluster one is similar to giving Indonesia’s impoverished population fish while cluster two is giving the population a fishing rod and teaching them to fish. Finally, cluster three is facilitating fishing by providing a boat.

The Three Clusters

  • Social Assistance – This cluster of poverty-reduction programs in Indonesia is focused on providing direct assistance to poor households. In the past, the government had taken measures to implement “a single ‘combo’ card-based cashless payment system” in order to promote financial inclusion. It also reallocated fuel subsidies to directly assist poor and vulnerable families. Furthermore, the non-cash food assistance program has transformed the delivery of nutrition-sensitive food assistance. This is the first step to reducing Indonesia’s impoverished population.
  • Community Empowerment – With a more macro focus when compared to social assistance, this cluster gives poor communities the social funds they need to improve basic social and economic services. The programs included in community empowerment fall under PNPM. PNPM is an umbrella policy that attempts to self-help community capacity by creating jobs and achieving a better standard of community welfare. Examples of PNPM programs include social activities, such as the activity of posyandu (a community-based vehicle to improve child development) and BKM, which provides free medical service. It also includes economic activities such as women entrepreneurs weaving traditional clothes and micro-credits for women entrepreneur groups. The PNPM programs have seen great success in recent years with the community participation level reaching 39 percent and per capita consumption increasing 9.1 percent.
  • Microenterprise Empowerment – This third cluster looks at providing access to credits for microenterprises without having them be “hindered by the requirement to provide collaterals.” Most of these enterprises are independent and “highly labor-intensive,” employing “low levels of skills and technology.” According to the SMERU Research Institute, microenterprises provide income and employment for significant portions of workers in rural and urban areas. Microenterprises comprise more than 50 percent of the nation’s GDP. Each unit microenterprise can absorb 1-5 workers. In addition to the independent enterprises, “the government provides a subsidized guarantee scheme at 70 percent in which the government pays the premium” to find unbankable businesses that lack collateral.

The above programs have already achieved a great measure of success. They have reduced poverty by half from 24.3 percent in 1999 to 10.4 percent in 2013. However, there is room for further improvements. In 2014, “only one-fifth of the poorest 10 percent in Indonesia” had received all the benefits to which they were entitled.

Future Reformation

Possibilities for reformation in cluster one include a two-way updating system to the connection between the target database and the program-based beneficiary lists. This would help major social assistance programs reach the right people. Since needs change during certain times, having additional monitoring and evaluation to fill in the gaps in program design will improve the planning of the programs. Moreover, redesigning the Credit for People Initiatives by providing an incentive for smallholders for productive assets accumulation would leverage the poor with adequate access to the program and increase the impact of clusters two and three as well.

To add to the effectiveness of programs that are reducing Indonesia’s impoverished communities, the government has also established a national team, chaired by the Vice President. It is the Vice President’s hope that with the specific changes being looked at in each of the clusters, Indonesia will eventually bring the vast majority of those in poverty to a more sustainable economic situation.

Shvetali Thatte
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Sanitation in Southeast Asia
In many developing Southeast Asian countries, governments seldom prioritize sanitation when there is a limited spending budget. However, over the past decade or so, many countries in the area have experienced steady economic growth which has led to gradual improvements in sanitary conditions for the people. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Southeast Asia.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Southeast Asia

  1. Increased Coverage for Improved Sanitation: As of 2018, 95.5 percent of Southeast Asia’s urban population and 85.6 percent of its rural population had access to improved drinking water. This marked a 2.4 percent increase in access for urban locations and an 8.9 percent increase for rural areas since 2005. Approximately 80.8 percent of people living in urban areas and 64.3 percent living in rural areas had access to improved sanitation such as flush toilets and piped sewer systems in 2018. Access to improved sanitation is also increasing at greater rates than improved water in most countries.
  2. Improved Health Due to Better Conditions: Around 0.71 percent of all deaths in Southeast Asia in 2017 was the result of unsafe sanitation conditions. This percentage has dropped 2.3 percent since 1990 and is lower than the world average of 1.38 percent. Cases of infectious diseases, diarrhea, malnutrition and other negative health effects that open defecation caused have also gone down as the share of the population practicing such actions decreased. As for countries where substantial toilet infrastructure is still lacking, such as Cambodia, Timor, Laos and Indonesia, scientists are working to design and install new flush toilets. One team at the Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok has received a $5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to fund such a project.
  3. Creating Comprehensive National Policies: Certain developing Southeast Asian countries lack comprehensive regulations regarding the design and construction of sewers and other sanitation systems. Existing regulations often fail to take variations in local conditions into consideration and people do not always strictly enforce these regulations. Some also neglect to assign the responsibility of management to an institution.
  4. Establishing Institutional Management: Limited ability to implement sanitary systems and unclear institutional division of responsibility has caused gaps in service provision, resulting in low-quality infrastructure, delayed constructions and miscommunications. Multiple international committees have called for government officials to receive training in all essential aspects of sanitation management.
  5. Raising Awareness Among Policymakers: Internationally, the U.S. Agency for International Development recommended that local policymakers become aware of the benefits improved sanitation systems have regarding health, environment and economy through regional research collaborations and water operator partnerships. The intergovernmental Association of Southeast Asian Nations has also come together to discuss Indonesia’s progress in delivering improved water and sanitation to its people. Locally, increasing media coverage and discussions about sanitation are also helping the subject gain focus.
  6. Raising Awareness Among Local Community: Many locals are unaware of the dangers that lie in unsanitary defecation and do not understand the purposes of an improved sewer system. In Indonesia, Water.org has held media sessions to encourage dialogue and awareness regarding sanitation. Similarly, many community health centers and international organizations are working to educate locals on the benefits of improved sanitation, as well as to inform them of the services and financial support available.
  7. Community-led Sanitation Installations: Community-led total sanitation efforts have drastically improved conditions in many Southeast Asian countries as self-respect became the driving force behind the movement. With help and guidance from local authorities, community households can get the financial and institutional support necessary to connect to the more improved sanitation systems.
  8. Financing On-Site Sanitation Installations: Government sanitation funding often focuses on the large-scale municipal infrastructure like waste treatment plants, tending to overlook the construction of supporting connection infrastructure necessary for on-site household sanitation systems. As a result, people have turned to local banks and other financial institutions for loans that would enable them to build the necessary infrastructure necessary to access improved water on a daily basis.
  9. Local Programs Improve Water Sanitation: There are several local efforts that are working to preserve Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake, Tonle Sap, so as to improve the lives of approximately 100,000 locals living in the surrounding area. The Cambodian enterprise Wetlands Work is selling innovative technologies, such as water purifying system HandyPod that uses bacteria to turn raw sewage into grey water. Meanwhile, the NGO Live & Learn Cambodia is in the process of testing new toilet innovations.
  10. Water Privatization Limits Accessibility: The privatization of water is a common phenomenon in Southeast Asia. In Indonesia, for example, European companies Thames Water and Suez have 25-year contracts with the local government in 1997 to provide water for the country’s capital, Jakarta. With the goal of ensuring piped water coverage for 97 percent of the popular by 2017, the actual number came up to only 59.4 percent. However, in Surabaya, another Indonesian city, the government provided water publicly through the government and coverage reached 95.5 percent in 2016. Calculations determine that average water prices in the city are one-third of that in Jakarta.

These 10 facts about sanitation in Southeast Asia show how these countries are making consistent progress in procuring improved sanitation for their population. With the assistance of intergovernmental organizations and nonprofits, more people are now living under safe and sanitary conditions.

– Kiera Yu
Photo: Flickr

Deforestation in Indonesia

Indonesia is a large, island country in Southeastern Asia that is home to the second-largest rainforest next to the Amazon in South America. It is also home to some of the world’s largest palm oil plantations and logging operations. Deforestation in Indonesia for the past half of a century is largely to blame for mass species extinction. But animals are not the only ones who are affected. Indonesia’s poorest rural communities are hurt and displaced alongside the wildlife in the area.

How Deforestation Affects Indonesia’s Poor

Due to unethical agricultural practices, Indonesia has lost 80 percent of its total original forest coverage and continues to lose 6.2 million acres per year. Deforestation in Indonesia is a direct cause of loss of habitat in tropical areas since the animals have nowhere to go. However, cutting down trees is not the only step in clearing a swath of forest. The next steps that are typically taken are draining the swamps and burning the remaining brush to totally clear the land.

Peatlands are very common in Indonesia. This refers to a type of swampland made up of nutrient-rich soil from thousands of years of decaying plant matter. When these peatlands are drained and burned, they release a thick, noxious haze that carpets the surrounding area, and even travels to neighboring islands and countries on the air currents. The fumes poison the wildlife throughout the remaining forest and find their way into rural villages. More than 100,000 annual deaths in Indonesia can be attributed directly to the inhalation of particulate matter from these landscape fires.

Since deforestation in Indonesia leaves the land in the prime condition for mosquitos, there has also been a recent spike in mosquito-transmitted illnesses like malaria and dengue fever. Many communities affected by deforestation do not have ready, affordable access to vaccines for these diseases, and must deal with the outbreak largely on their own. The best option for these people is to sleep in mosquito nets and try as best they can to keep insects at bay during their most active hours.

Fighting Deforestation

Although the statistics seem gloomy, there is still hope and progress is being made. Indonesia is one of the few tropical countries to make official pledges to lessen or halt deforestation. Incentivized financially by Norway in 2017, Indonesia experienced a 60 percent drop in primary forest loss from 2016. Indonesia’s Peatland Restoration Agency has also been tasked to restore 5.9 million acres of decimated peatland.

The results of these regulations have been disputed, however. Many critics of the programs, such as Greenpeace, state that the programs leave loopholes that companies may exploit to further expand their palm oil plantations. In the moratorium, primary forests that have never been touched by corporations are protected under Indonesian law. But secondary forests (forests that have been previously transformed according to palm oil agriculture) are not protected.

NGOs Fighting Deforestation Now

NGOs like Greenpeace have been raising awareness of deforestation in Indonesia and lobbying the Indonesian government for more transparency in terms of deforestation statistics. Transparency efforts have been largely ineffective as far as the Indonesian government goes, but corporations have begun to be more open with their promises to halt deforestation in their palm oil farming practices.

Public pressure from many consumers has pushed companies to take significant measures to lessen their products’ effects on the environment and the people who live in it. For example, Wilmar International, the world’s largest palm oil producer, promised in December of 2018 to keep up maps that monitor hundreds of its suppliers to ensure no rainforests are being cleared.

 

While the overall situation of deforestation in Indonesia does not seem promising, anti-deforestation efforts have had significant impacts. More people than ever are aware of the detrimental effects of clearing the rainforest. Indonesia is seeing fewer cases of deforestation per year than it has in the past three decades and palm oil production companies are doing more than they ever have before to ensure their products are sustainably sourced.

– Graham Gordon
Photo: Flickr

Corruption in Indonesia
Corruption in Indonesia is present in all three branches of parliament and private business. According to a study conducted by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), less than half of the respondents trust the local government, police and private sector. Transparency International identified decentralized decision-making, ambiguous legislation and a weak judicial system as main sources of corruption in Indonesia. Here are 10 facts about corruption in Indonesia.

10 Facts About Corruption in Indonesia

  1. Forbes named the former President of Indonesia one of “the world’s all-time most corrupt leaders.” Mohamed Suharto was President for 31 years in the 20th century. Throughout his reign, others suspect that he embezzled between $15 and 35 billion.
  2. One out of seven citizens pays a bribe for utilities. Bureaucratic corruption increases the average cost of living, which disproportionally impacts the country’s poor. Bribery costs add an additional fee to fundamental health care, education and sanitation services, thus increasing the overall costs and access to these systems. Further, corruption in Indonesia distorts the distribution of government spending and therefore hinders the development of important public projects such as increasing access to clean water.
  3. Approximately thirty percent of firms have suffered extortion while conducting business in Indonesia. Further, several of these firms (13.6 percent) identify corruption in Indonesia as a major obstacle. For firms often have to pay bribes or give gifts to acquire licenses, permits or contracts in order to conduct business. Corruption in Indonesia is a business norm where companies include gifts in total costs.
  4. In the 2019 elections, Parliament member, Bowo Sidik Pangaroso, attempted to buy votes for reelection. Authorities found more than 400,000 envelopes filled with cash in his basement just weeks before the election. Both vote-buying and candidacy-buying are common forms of corruption in Indonesia. The Charta Politika agency surveyed three constituencies about money politics and found that on average, 49.3 percent of voters supported cash and gratuitous handouts.
  5. Eighty-nine percent of corruption in Indonesia occurs at the local level. After the election of President Suharto, the country started to shift from authoritarian rule towards democracy. Suharto’s first step to democratization was the decentralization of the Indonesian government. However, the lack of accountability for local governments created an environment that fostered corruption. For example, inadequate oversight in the forestry sector cost the government $4 billion per year from illegal logging.
  6. Corruption is expensive. Last year, corruption in Indonesia cost the government $401.45 million. This cost is $55.4 million less than in 2017.
  7. The Corruption Perception Index (CPI) ranks Indonesia 89. Using Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), Indonesia ranked number 89 out of 180 countries with a score of 38/100 in 2018. This is significantly better than its rank and score of 118/180 and 32/100, respectively, in 2012.
  8. Many attribute more recent success in reducing corruption to President Joko Widodo, more commonly known as Jokowi. Indonesia elected Jokowi in 2014 on an anti-corruption platform. He simplified regulations for businesses to attract foreign investment. For instance, Jokowi signed Presidential Decree No. 20/2018 to simplify and accelerate the process of acquiring a work permit for expatriate workers by 34 working days.
  9. Indonesia has an organization dedicated to eliminating government corruption called the Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi (KPK). This corruption eradication commission formed in 2002 as an independent organization in charge of investigating and prosecuting high-profile corruption cases. In 2016, it reported a 100 percent conviction rate and recovered approximately $35 million in state assets.
  10. The new generation has zero-tolerance for corruption in Indonesia. A group of students in Indonesia held their school accountable for corruption. The school was profiting from money that it received to go towards nonexistent construction projects. When student organizer Darmawan Bakrie and his friends realized the injustice, they established the Save our School campaign. Despite threats and warnings from the school, students and parents worked together and succeeded in holding the school accountable. The local mayor saw the campaign in the news over the course of three months and removed and transferred (but did not fire) the guilty officials from their positions and held them liable for the money they stole.

Corruption in Indonesia holds deep roots in its democracy, but the future looks bright with the Save Our School campaign as just one example. Many participants (58.5 percent) of the CSIS study believe that the Indonesian government is honest in its desire to eliminate corruption.

The central government and anti-corruption organizations work on a day-to-day basis to hold individuals accountable for their actions, but they still have a long way to go. If successful, anti-corruption practices can decrease inequalities, create foreign business opportunities and decrease national poverty levels.

– Haley Myers
Photo: Flickr

Aid to Indonesia

Indonesia is no stranger to natural disasters; it has experienced a lot of destruction throughout the years. A major natural disaster occurs in Indonesia almost every year in the form of tsunamis, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Christian organizations are planted internationally in order to minister and bring aid to those in need. World Vision Ministry is one such organization that has been in Indonesia since 1960. Here is a look at World Vision’s aid to Indonesia.

World Vision’s Foundation

World Vision in Indonesia is based on a vision of a world that is committed to the well-being of children. The organization strives to build thriving communities where peace and justice can prevail with security, opportunity and contentment. This is accomplished through its relief, development and advocacy work. World Vision has become one of the world’s largest charities with annual revenue reaching more than $1 billion. It has ministries in 90 countries, focusing on children.

In the 1970s, World Vision Indonesia initiated a community development approach that provides more integrated support toward the empowerment of the poor communities and their children. Its involvement improved basic education, health, income generation and basic infrastructure for Indonesia. In 1998, World Vision raised 14 million to aid the poor in Jakarta, Indonesia. As a global humanitarian organization, World Vision’s ministry is dedicated to continuous aid to Indonesia whether it be a food crisis or assistance to victims of natural disasters.

Programs to Empower

According to the ministry, World Vision introduced the Area Development Program (ADP) approach in the 1990s to create an effective and lasting transformation in the lives of people in poor communities. The organization describes the ADPs as nurturing an inclusive approach to tackle poverty across extensive areas, normally involving several villages and communities. World Vision’s aid to Indonesia through the ADP approach has led to more sustainable developments and impacts through longer intervention and lifetime concentrated programs.

Today, World Vision has a partnership with Wahana Visi Indonesia, which supports around 50 ADPs in aid to Indonesia’s North Sumatra, Jakarta, East Java, West Kalimantan, Central Sulawesi, East Nusa Tenggara, North Maluku and Papua. World Vision in Indonesia has helped to save lives in many ways, but it is most effective in its emergency response.

Emergency Relief and Support

World Vision has administered emergency relief support to those affected by natural disasters or communal conflicts for many years. In 1963, World Vision supported the victims of Mount Agung eruption in Bali and then provided aid to Indonesia in the resettlement of displaced people in West Kalimantan, Maluku among other sites in the 1970-80s. The ministry remained Indonesia in 1997 and 2009 following the drought from the El Nino weather phenomenon, severe economic crises, earthquakes and the major tsunami in Aceh province.

In December 2018, World Vision provided aid to Indonesia when the Sunda Strait tsunami struck Java and Sumatra, resulting in more than 300 deaths. The ministry distributed hygiene and household items to families who lost their homes and provided safe places for mothers to feed their young children.

Margie Siregar, Humanitarian Emergency Affairs Director with World Vision, spoke with NPR’s Ari Shapiro while she was in Jakarta, Indonesia. “We had 30 aid staff already in the place before the earthquake happened and now we are providing some public kitchen and children feeding,” Siregar told NPR. The workers of World Vision also provided the children with a child-friendly space where they could play and recover from the trauma. In Central Sulawesi, an estimated 460,000 children in four districts were affected according to World Vision Indonesia.

Combatting Poverty

Each fiscal year, World Vision raises around $20 million from donors and sponsors in various countries to combat poverty and bring lasting transformation in the lives of the children to facilitate their communities. In 2018, 86 percent of World Vision’s total operating expenses went to aid Indonesia by establishing programs that benefited children, families and communities in poverty.

Parents in Indonesia are being empowered to care for their children through education on child protection and disaster risk reduction thanks to World Vision’s aid to Indonesia. Those who are interested in aiding the families affected by the recent tsunami may donate to World Vision’s Indonesia tsunami relief fund.

Carolina Chaves
Photo: Flickr

Artificial Intelligence Helps the Impoverished
Artificial intelligence has evolved from a futuristic fantasy to our living reality. The possibilities for artificial intelligence-based solutions are continuously developing. Therefore, the potential to expand the reach of various initiatives to help those in poverty is increasing. Recently, companies have recognized that artificial intelligence helps the impoverished by contributing to various sustainability initiatives in impoverished countries. The globally impoverished disproportionately suffer from the negative impacts of environmental issues. Artificial intelligence can help those in poverty restore a sense of empowerment in struggling communities.

How Artificial Intelligence Helps the Impoverished with Sustainability Goals

  • Wadhwani AI – The focus at Wadhwani AI is to bring artificial intelligence to communities in need (and thus that are the least likely to have access to artificial intelligence). One of their current projects focuses on cotton farming. Cotton is the third-largest crop in India with 75 percent grown by small farmers who struggle to have a stable income. Pests are a huge problem for small farmers for both economic and mental health reasons. After 40 percent of cotton crops were destroyed by a pink bollworm attack between 2017-2018, 100,000 cotton farmers committed suicide. As many pesticides have proven unreliable over time, Wadhwani AI is developing technology to detect pests, reducing crop losses and pesticide use.
  • GringgoRecycling collection is incredibly limited in impoverished areas. Generally, only 40 percent of trash is collected in South East Asia. Gringgo, based in Indonesia, uses an app to help collect plastic waste. The app connects waste collectors to uncollected recyclables in their area that can be sold for a profit, increasing income for waste workers and cleaning up waste simultaneously. Recycling facilities purchase these recyclables and convert them into various commodities. For example, plastics can be converted into fuel for the cement industry. Selling waste back to recycling industries (effectively taking it out of the waste stream) reduces ocean pollution, as many landfills are located near rivers, causing much of the collected waste to end up in oceans. Gringgo aims to increase recycling rates by 50 percent by 2022 and reduce the plastic in oceans by 25 percent by 2020 in South East Asia.
  • Makerere University – Air pollution causes more than 700,000 deaths in Africa yearly. Additionally, 98 percent of cities in low and middle-income areas do not meet air quality guidelines. Finding solutions to reduce air pollution is imperative. Based in Uganda, Makerere University demonstrates how artificial intelligence helps the impoverished by aiming to improve air quality. By using low-cost technology, Makerere University hopes to obtain more data on air pollution and the communities most at risk. Sensors attached to taxis around Uganda track pollution and will ultimately forecast future air pollution rates. Policymakers will use this data to make informed decisions regarding industrial changes to reduce air pollution. As data on air pollution rates in specific communities is currently lacking. However, this study could raise awareness among citizens about the unhealthy pollution rates in their own communities.

AI expansion is inevitable; it is already happening. While there are many possibilities for how artificial intelligence can help the impoverished, companies may also question the ethics of new technologies and possible impacts. That being said, it is clear that artificial intelligence can help those in poverty when paired with an open dialogue with those involved in terms of how to help.

– Amy Dickens
Photo: Flickr

Indonesia's Natural Resources

Indonesia is a bountiful country full of natural resources, such as coal, copper, gold, oil and natural gas. However, regardless of the strides Indonesia has made toward lowering its greenhouse gases emissions, it has been a challenge for the country to become “energy- and food- secure while also protecting forests.” The World Resources Institute (WRI), an environmental think tank, supports the efficient use of Indonesia’s natural resources by assisting the government through analyses and advice for the most equitable way to use the county’s land.

Green Development

The premise of the green development framework is to keep current and ongoing development projects underway in order “to keep within this ecological “carrying capacity.” Propelling this shift in Indonesia’s natural resources paradigm is the government’s acknowledgment that the rate at which the country is plowing through its natural resources is not sustainable for the future.

Shortages in housing, water and food are just a few examples of the environmental and public health consequences that the current usage rate of natural resources has on development. Some concerns lie at the regional level rather than the national. For example, the islands of Bali and Java are at a critical level when it comes to their water resources.

The new course of development includes initiatives to hone in on major areas such as water, fisheries, energy and transportation, agriculture and peat. The key goal is to find “a balance between [economic] growth and environmental carrying capacity.” WRI Indonesia is working with the private sector to convert peat restoration into “viable” opportunity for business.

The Ocean

Being a well known marine nation, another pertinent Indonesian resource is the ocean. “The country’s waters support over 3,000 species of bony fishes and more than 850 sharks, rays and chimaeras,” and the fishing industry employs roughly 12 million Indonesians. Despite the many benefits of fishing, avoiding the exploitation and loss of fish needs to be a significant area of focus.

In some rural parts of the country, the water toxicity has increased significantly due to the runoff of pesticides and fertilizers as well as an increase in algae in the riverbeds. This has led to an unfortunate loss of marine life. To help solve the marine pollution crisis NGOs, activists and community groups have made efforts to clean Bali’s beaches. In 2017, volunteers collected 40 tons of trash from several different beaches. Further environmental reforms will be necessary to prevent toxicity from reaching the beaches.

Low Carbon Development

In an effort to account for its ecological carrying capacity, Indonesia has set in place the KLHs or Strategic Environmental Assessment. This assessment is carried “out prior to issuing permits for land or forest management”  as a way of weighing the environmental impact of the companies requesting the permits.

Indonesia has set a bold and challenging goal in its first-ever low carbon development and green economy framework. The plan will focus on the energy and land use sectors of five different areas. The end goal of the green development plan is to continue to grow economically, but find “a balance between growth and environmental carrying capacity.”

Research suggests economic benefits as high as $26 trillion are foreseeable if strong stances are taken in climate change. These benefits include “new jobs and better health outcomes globally.” The new green development framework could propel “rapid economic growth, reduce the poverty rate and decrease greenhouse gas emissions.” The way forward for Indonesia’s natural resources and economic development goals could be further improved with support from other nations.

Without a doubt, Indonesia’s natural resources play a major role in the country’s economy and livelihood. The pledge to transition to a more sustainable economy and green development characterizes the brave nation that is Indonesia. The green development framework paves the way to preserve and celebrate the history of the country for generations to come.

Karina Bhakta

Photo: Flickr