The Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in Indonesia
Indonesia is an island country off the coast of Southeast Asia, and the fourth-most populous country in the world, with nearly as many inhabitants as the U.S. The Human Development Index has classified Indonesia as a middle-income country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also stated that COVID-19 poses a significant threat to Indonesia. Below are six facts about the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Indonesia.

6 Facts About the Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in Indonesia

  1. The pandemic is forcing more people to live in poverty: According to Channel News Asia, as many as five million Indonesians dropped below the poverty line in September 2020, and this number has likely increased further since then. Before COVID-19, Indonesia was making great strides to alleviate poverty. Between 1998 and 2018, the poverty rate fell from 24.2% to 9.66%. During those first few months of the pandemic, poverty has risen by 1.8% and has likely risen higher since.
  2. Past instances of the economic downturn in Indonesia have disproportionately hit the poor: In 2005 and 2006, a global increase in the price of fuel and rice disrupted the Indonesian economy. In this time, the wealthiest 10% of the population experienced only a 0% to 5% decline in expenditure. Meanwhile, the decline for the most impoverished 10% experienced 9% to 12%. The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Indonesia will likely be similar. Low-income families in Indonesia have had to pawn off essential items, and are often unable to receive healthcare. This means that diseases, injuries and infections hamper their productivity.
  3. Indonesian pharmaceutical companies are running scams involving COVID-19 testing: According to the Indonesian police, as many as 9,000 passengers in a single airport received testing kits that employees of a pharmaceutical company washed in order to reuse rather than new kits, which are necessary for proper testing. Since these kits came from a huge public pharmaceutical company, it is likely that many thousands more received improper test kits. The motive for the scam was financial gain. False test results and unsanitary test kits will spread the disease further and continue to exacerbate poverty.
  4. Malnutrition is an especially serious problem: Indonesians already suffered from malnutrition before the pandemic, resulting in more than seven million stunted children under 5 years of age, according to UNICEF. With the advent of COVID-19, malnutrition has only worsened. The Center for Indonesian Policy Studies suggests that food imports have decreased an estimated 17.11%, and the difficulty of importing food products means that children may not receive vital nutrients for development. According to UNICEF representative Debora Comini, childhood illness and death will escalate without substantial efforts to combat malnutrition.
  5. There is a visible solution to malnutrition: Lawrence Haddad of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) says that fortification can mitigate the problem of malnutrition. Fortification is the addition of key nutrients to staple foods such as wheat and rice. Fortification is also inexpensive, especially if it occurs in bulk. The problem is that there are more than 100,000 independent rice millers in Indonesia, most of who are unaware of fortification. Haddad says that “advocacy and education efforts” are the key to engaging the private sector to help curb malnutrition and reduce the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Indonesia. As such, GAIN has undergone efforts for practical instruction on fortifying key foods such as vegetable oil.
  6. The Indonesian government is taking serious measures to combat COVID-19: As of January 2021, regulations have passed that require the fortification of vegetable oil with Vitamin A. If observed, this regulation will reduce malnutrition, even if the country remains limited in food supplies. In March 2021, the Indonesian government ordered more than 20 million COVID-19 vaccines, which are key to resuming productivity and alleviating poverty. However, many of the COVID-19 vaccine companies distribute their supply through a private vaccination program. This means that low-to-middle-income countries may not yet have access to vaccines.

The COVID-19 pandemic has proven dangerous for Indonesia, but various public and private efforts are helping alleviate the situation.  Still, foreign aid will help ensure the recovery from the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Indonesia.

– Sawyer Lachance
Photo: Flickr

Inadequate Sanitation In IndonesiaCommunities throughout Indonesia are receiving help with sustainable and clean water access. Sanitation poses a significant threat to the health and safety of people in Indonesia. USAID reports that 2.4 billion people worldwide have inconsistent access to sanitation. The organization predicts that nearly 40% of the world does not use safe toilets. This can significantly increase the spread of infection and disease.

Proper sanitation is crucial in preventing the spread of infectious diseases, which are more severe to those living in poverty without access to adequate healthcare. The primary cause of child mortality in Indonesia is diarrhea. Typhoid is also a leading threat to the health of Indonesians. Both diarrhea and typhoid are amplified by inadequate sanitation, poor hygiene and limited water supply.

Water Contamination Spreads Disease

According to USAID, “In Indonesia, one in three people does not have access to a flush toilet, latrine or septic system.” Instead, many Indonesians defecate in the streets, which further compromises the health and safety of people living in those communities. Rivers, streams and runoff are often the only water source for residents of rural areas. Without proper resources for treatment, water can carry diseases that are harmful and even deadly to those who consume it.

Only about 7% of wastewater in Indonesia is treated. As a result, many communal water access areas have contaminated water. In impoverished areas, it is not sustainable for communities to continually purchase bottled water. In the capital city, Jakarta, pollution can be found in 96% of the water. There is also a widespread disconnect from infrastructure in residential areas, leaving hundreds of families without consistent access to sanitation.

With the new challenge of the pandemic, Indonesia is facing the highest fatality rate in Asia as a result of inadequate access to sanitation, which is necessary to fight the spread of the disease. When families are struggling to meet their basic needs for consumption and hygiene, regular hand washing and adequate sanitization practices are not a priority.

Educational and Financial Support

Organizations like UNICEF are supporting the government of Indonesia. They help provide more frequent and safe access to sanitation and drinking water. In emphasizing education and health literacy during primary school, UNICEF aims to get ahead of the problem. “Over the past 25 years, the rate of access to sanitation facilities has nearly doubled across the country, increasing from 35% in 1990 to 61% in 2015,” reported USAID. USAID has also greatly contributed to this cause. In 2015, the organization helped more than 2.2 million Indonesians improve their water supply and provided better sanitation to 250,000 people.

The IKEA Foundation is also fighting the issue by providing microfinance loans to Jakarta for the introduction of pipelines and water access to rural residential areas. Families living in low-income areas are spending a lot of money to purchase water. With the installation of pipelines and clean well systems, sanitary water is becoming more accessible and affordable to those who need it most.

Ally Reeder
Photo: Flickr

empowering Indonesian womenIndonesian women made significant gains in recent years but there is still more to be accomplished. Women in Indonesia are often well educated but cultural expectations and economic and legal structures still prevent them from entering the workforce. The employment rate for Indonesian women is 55.5% while for their male counterparts it stands at 83.2%. Indonesian women’s economic empowerment needs improvement. Organizations like The Asia Foundation and U.N. Women are supporting empowering Indonesian women in the workplace.

Indonesian Women’s Participation in the Workforce

Women’s participation in the workplace revolves around cultural, structural and legal barriers. Indonesian culture expects women to stay at home to complete domestic and childcare responsibilities. Because of these cultural expectations, women are largely responsible for childcare. This means they cannot achieve their professional goals. If a mother does work, it is usually to only provide a side income for the household.

An analysis from the World Bank revealed that if Indonesia added another public preschool per 1,000 children, the participation of mothers in the workforce would rise 13%. Surprisingly, in Indonesia, more women are currently receiving tertiary education than men. Despite this, most Indonesian women still leave the labor market after marriage even though fertility rates have dropped. Women who work outside of the house after marriage still only participate mostly in informal labor.

Within the informal sector, women lack access to support systems that formal employment has. Despite more women working in the informal sector, the wage gap for women is 50%. In the formal sector, the wage gap for women is lower than in the informal sector but still concerningly high at 30%. Additionally, women often work in the retail, hospitality and apparel sectors. These are vulnerable sectors, meaning women have little job security, which leads to higher unemployment for women.

Lack of Legal Protection

Although Indonesia has progressive maternal rights regulations, other laws often restrict women from achieving economic empowerment. According to the World Bank’s “Women, Business and the Law 2021” report, there is no law that prohibits discrimination in access to credit based on gender. Additionally, the report states that daughters and wives do not have equal access to inheriting assets from their parents and husbands. These laws can prevent women from rising out of poverty by making it difficult for women to retain economic assets.

Indonesian Women in the Workplace

Expanding women’s involvement in the workplace is beneficial for Indonesia’s entire economy. Improving Indonesian women’s economic power and standing could potentially lead to large economic growth. By closing gender employment and wage gaps, productivity will increase and economic growth will accelerate. It is reported that if women’s labor participation in Indonesia increased by 25% by 2025, it would generate an extra $62 billion and boost Indonesia’s GDP by almost 3%. Improving women’s economic standing leads to better business performance and a better economy.

Improving Indonesian Women’s Economic Empowerment

The Asia Foundation and WeEmpowerAsia aid Indonesian women in the workplace. The Asia Foundation is a nonprofit that works in 18 Asian countries, including Indonesia, to improve lives across the continent. The Foundation’s Women’s Empowerment Program in Indonesia partners with local women and organizations to help Indonesian women achieve economic empowerment. It has provided microloans for 42 women’s groups that have more than 1,500 women members. The Asia Foundation and these loans help Indonesian women build confidence in their economic decisions. The Women’s Empowerment Program works by empowering Indonesian women to effectively advance their development and economic success.

WeEmpowerAsia is a U.N. Women’s program that works to increase the number of women in Asia working in the private sector. In Indonesia, WeEmpowerAsia hosts its WeRise workshop. During these workshops, women entrepreneurs and workers learn how to overcome gender-related hurdles. During its first workshop in early December 2020, 41 female entrepreneurs attended. The workshops help women become more confident and assertive in economic situations.

Looking Ahead

Indonesian women face hardships and barriers to employment and economic empowerment because of cultural expectations and structural barriers. Economic empowerment for women is important for Indonesia’s economy because it generates growth. Programs and initiatives are working toward empowering Indonesian women in the workplace to ensure a better and brighter future for them.

Bailey Lamb
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Child Sex Trafficking in IndonesiaIn recent years, Indonesia has been struggling to address the grim issue of child sex trafficking. Although laws are in place to provide protection for children, there is still much work to be done in implementing these policies. Tourist hot spots such as Bali and urban centers are where trafficking and exploitation of children thrive. Here are 10 facts about child sex trafficking in Indonesia.

10 Facts About Child Sex Trafficking in Indonesia

  1. There are an estimated 70,000-80,000 victims of child sex trafficking in Indonesia. Despite this alarmingly high number, Indonesian authorities arrested only 132 traffickers in 2019. The police struggle to identify victims and rely heavily on assistance from NGOs.
  2. Up to 30% of Indonesia’s commercial sex workers are female victims of child sex trafficking. Underage girls represent a majority of child sex trafficking victims, but boys are also at high risk.
  3. Foreign tourists are often complicit. Australians and Singaporeans, in particular, have been major culprits in committing acts of sexual abuse towards children in Indonesia, along with smaller numbers of other nationalities.
  4. Sometimes friends and family members force children into sex work. When it comes to child sex trafficking, brokers are highly varied and can be family members of victims.
  5. Indonesia is a source and destination country for child sex trafficking. In addition to urban centers in Indonesia, child sex workers have been trafficked to Malaysia, Taiwan, the Middle East and other regions.
  6. Poverty due to natural disasters plays a role. Natural disasters have been a major reason for mass displacement and chronic poverty in many of Indonesia’s thousands of islands. Victims of child sex trafficking often originate from situations of displacement.
  7. There are 4 million impoverished children at risk. This is an estimate by the Indonesian government of children that are living in abject poverty and are at risk of exploitation. Addressing poverty, therefore, is an essential component of ending child sex trafficking.
  8. High rates of urban youth homelessness also lead to increased trafficking. There are an estimated 16,000 homeless children living in urban centers throughout Indonesia. Living on the streets greatly increases the vulnerability of these children.
  9. The police only enforce laws when under pressure. NGOs report that Indonesian police aren’t likely to intervene in child sex trafficking situations unless they are under pressure by the government or the international community to do so. Some of this is due to a lack of funding.
  10. Child sex trafficking is no longer an unknown problem. Thanks to the tireless work of NGOs and aid organizations, there is now more awareness and advocacy for child protection in Indonesia.

Solutions

The NGO Dark Bali operates using three steps of prevention, intervention and rehabilitation in assisting victims. The first step involves combating poverty, offering protection and educating vulnerable families. It identifies intervention as the weakest link in protecting children, so Dark Bali raises awareness of the issue and puts pressure on law enforcement to intervene in cases of child sex trafficking. Lastly, the NGO offers long-term rehabilitation for victims, along with educational programs and job training.

Project Karma is an Australia-based charity run by a former detective that assists Indonesian police in apprehending child sex traffickers throughout Southeast Asia. Their operations have rescued more than 200 children and brought more than 30 sex traffickers to justice for their crimes. In addition to raising awareness, Project Karma also utilizes digital platforms to alert authorities of pedophile rings and posts photos of fugitives throughout the region.

Australia has addressed cases of its citizens sexually abusing children in Southeast Asia by banning travel for convicted pedophiles. This applies to 20,000 Australians that were convicted at home or abroad. For those that sexually abused children abroad, the country has some of the world’s strictest punishments, with sentences of up to 25 years in prison.

Conclusion

Thanks to coordinated NGO task forces throughout the country, the issue of child sex trafficking in Indonesia is a more widely known societal problem. With the continued work of these organizations, the Indonesian government and police forces are under more pressure to implement laws protecting children. Important connections have been made between NGOs and law enforcement that will be crucial to ending child sex trafficking in Indonesia.

– Matthew Brown
Photo: Flickr

The Decline of Deforestation in IndonesiaLast year, Indonesia recorded its lowest annual deforestation rate since 1990. The country lost only 285,300 acres of forest cover— a startling 75% drop from 2019. Belinda Arunarwati Margono, the Indonesian ministry’s director of forest resource monitoring, commended the country’s progress, remarking that, “in the past, we’ve often said that our deforestation was in the millions [of hectares]”, but the 2020 deforestation rate, “is remarkable for us because this is the lowest deforestation figure that we’ve ever achieved.” The decline of deforestation in Indonesia has many contributing factors that made it possible.

Causes of the Decline of Deforestation in Indonesia

Indonesia’s government attributed the drop to their several prohibited forest-clearing policies imposed last year. These include, “a permanent ban on issuing new permits to clear primary forests and peatlands; a moratorium on new oil palm plantation licenses; forest fire mitigation; a social forestry program; land rehabilitation and increased enforcement against environmental violations.”

Due to La Niña, 2020 was one of Indonesia’s rainiest years in the past four decades. As a result, deforestation from forest fires decreased significantly. Additionally, the economic fallout caused by COVID-19 slowed Indonesia’s timber production, contributing to the low deforestation rate. A researcher with Forest Watch Indonesia, Mufthi Fathul Barri, commented on the matter, “The disruption to economic activity can be seen from timber production from natural forests, which declined. In 2019, Indonesia produced timber from 8.4 million hectares of natural forests. In 2020, it was 6.6 million hectares.” As such, the very low rate of deforestation in Indonesia last year will be difficult to mimic in the near future.

Conservation Work

Yet another factor contributing to Indonesia’s declining deforestation rate is the conservation work done by advocacy groups such as Rainforest Alliance. This organization assists farm and forest communities across the island through training and certification. It successfully improves the health of the environment as well as the people. The Rainforest Alliance details their conservation efforts in Kalimantan on their website, which reads, “FSC [Forest Stewardship Council] certification significantly reduced deforestation by 5% points and air pollution by 31% compared to the rates of control villages in non-certified logging concessions.”

In addition, the Rainforest Alliance has helped educate Indonesian people on ecosystem conservation and sustainable farming. Their educational initiatives help protect the ecosystem while simultaneously administering information that can improve the livelihoods of Indonesian farmers. Overall, this aspect of the Rainforest Alliance’s mission offers considerable aid to low-income communities.

The organization’s work in Central Sulawesi has helped restore the region’s watershed, Lake Poso. This was achieved through a community-led program with the Karya Bersama cocoa cooperative in Pamona Seletan. Since the cooperative started working with Rainforest Alliance, their 500 farmers have experienced increased crop productivity, with a 20% yield increase in 2019. Rainforest Alliance’s work with the Karya Bersama cooperative shows significant potential to restore Indonesia’s ecosystem while improving the quality of life in rural communities. This can all be achieved through conservation and sustainable farming education.

Looking Ahead Amidst the Decline of Deforestation in Indonesia

Many factors caused the 75% drop in deforestation in Indonesia last year. The government’s new anti-forest-clearing policies, the rainy season and the slow in timber production due to COVID-19 all contributed. Although the climatic conditions of 2020 and the economic lull offered favorable circumstances for a decrease in deforestation, the Indonesian government, along with organizations can not be discounted for their tremendous efforts. Hopefully, Indonesia can continue the favorable trend into the future.

– Eliza Kirk
Photo:Flickr

Homelessness in Indonesia
Despite Indonesia’s continuous growth both socially and economically, homelessness in Indonesia has been increasing and the coronavirus pandemic has only exacerbated this rise. According to the Homeless World Cup, 3 million people of Indonesia’s population are homeless. Moreover, with a multitude of factors such as natural disasters, urbanization and economic impacts due to the coronavirus pandemic, millions more are potentially vulnerable to losing their homes. However, Indonesia’s homeless continue to face challenges – the government does little to help those who are on the brink of losing their homes, and its policies even limit the homeless’ ability to regain financial stability.

The Government’s Action

Historically, the Indonesian government has done little to combat homelessness in Indonesia, instead opting for more harsh policies which only limit homeless peoples’ ability to financially recover and stabilize, even labeling the homeless as criminals. For example, the Indonesian Criminal Code mandates punishments of up to three months in prison against the homeless, while the sentence of those traveling in a group can receive an extension of six months. The bill, which Indonesia modeled after the Dutch law system during Indonesia’s colonial period, has not undergone modification since 1981, failing to accommodate the massive changes Indonesia has experienced over the past four decades.

Furthermore, the Indonesian government has also outlawed informal settlements (more commonly referred to as slums), a housing alternative that 25 million Indonesians utilize to prevent themselves from falling into homelessness. In the country’s capital, Jakarta, extensive urbanization has occurred, spurring the building of structures like malls, skyscrapers and landmarks. However, this urban growth has taken a toll on the population of the 17th densest city in the world. These developments have increased the scarcity of land, limiting the number of settlements available and making them a hot commodity, driving up prices and forcing the larger population that cannot afford homes to look elsewhere.

Through its criminalizing of homelessness, the Indonesian government essentially suppresses its own people. As Gita Damayana, executive director at the Center for Indonesian Law and Policy Studies, articulates, labeling the homeless as criminals also limits their abilities to procure jobs, only pushing them further down the rabbit hole of poverty. Even though homelessness in Indonesia has become a growing threat to its larger population, the government’s hardline stance against it has only worsened the situation for its already-struggling population.

Solutions for Homelessness in Indonesia

Despite the fact that the Indonesian government has maintained an indifferent stance in assisting its homeless, measures have still occurred to ensure that Indonesians in need can receive assistance. Since 1997, the NGO Habitat for Humanity has been extremely active in maintaining stable homes for Indonesians through projects such as building homes and repairing essential infrastructure like water pipelines, ensuring that families can live in a secure home. Its efforts have been instrumental in aiding over 40,000 families across the country attain safe housing.

Furthermore, Indonesia’s homeless have been the focal point of films and social media campaigns, helping to raise global awareness towards homelessness in Indonesia and empowering them to tell their stories. However, these actions will only be a fraction as effective as they could be as long as the Indonesian government criminalizes homelessness. But in the present, the government will not be taking action anytime soon.

– Nathan Mo
Photo: Flickr

Plastic Waste in IndonesiaPlastic waste in Indonesia is a significant problem but the government and other actors are now taking action to address it. Indonesia’s plastic waste problem causes multiple environmental and economic issues, which exacerbates poverty. New measures and efforts could help get the country on the right track and improve the prospects of many.

The Plastic Waste Crisis

Indonesia is currently dealing with a waste crisis both on land and in the oceans surrounding the country’s islands. Indonesia is the second-largest contributor to the abundance of plastic waste in the ocean. This waste has harmful economic consequences for the country and its people.

Indonesia currently produces 6.8 million tons of plastic waste per year, with only about 10% of it ending up in recycling centers. About 625,000 tons of annual plastic waste ends up in the oceans. Landfills are typically in very close proximity to communities, leading to toxic wastewater seeping into nearby farmland and hindering the growth of crops.

This also flows into rivers, impacting the livelihoods of those who depend on the river’s water. The fishing industry also suffers from the impact of plastic pollution in the oceans as marine life is affected. Viral videos of trash-choked beaches in tourist destinations like Bali also alarm the tourist industry, a huge boon for Indonesia’s economy. There is concern about the potential impact of this excessive pollution on tourism. Fortunately, the issue has received acknowledgment and there are plans to address the problem of plastic waste in Indonesia.

Individual and Community Action

Individuals, groups and the government are stepping up to end and mitigate the plastic waste crisis in Indonesia. Awareness of the problem is the first step. Local Indonesians have played a significant role in starting movements and increasing awareness.

For example, Melati and Isabel Wijsen established the environmental nonprofit Bye Bye Plastic Bags when they were just 12 and 10 years old. Bye Bye Plastic Bags has become one of the largest environmental nonprofits in Bali and is helping to educate children on the environmental harm of plastics.

Another individual, Mohamad Bijaksana Junerosano, founded the social enterprise Waste4Change. It educates the populace on sorting and sustainably managing waste.

Community cleanup initiatives have also become popular recently. Beach cleanups are simple and effective ways to get people involved. In August 2018, more than 20,000 people mobilized in 76 locations across Indonesia for a one-day beach cleanup that also raised awareness of the waste crisis.

Government Action

Both local and national levels of government have taken the most important steps to end the crisis of plastic waste in Indonesia. The island of Bali banned all single-use plastics at the end of 2018. The capital of Jakarta also banned single-use plastic bags in its shopping centers and street markets in 2020.

Indonesia’s national government has rolled out a very ambitious plan to end the plastic waste problem. It aims to minimize marine plastic waste by 70% by 2025 and be entirely rid of plastic pollution by 2040. Indonesia created five action points to make it easier to meet these overall goals:

  • Reduce or replace plastic use by avoiding single-use plastic packaging
  • Rethink the designs of plastic products and packaging to allow for multiple-use and recycling
  • Double the current plastic waste collection of 39% to 80% by 2025
  • Double current recycling capacity by investing in infrastructure capable of processing an additional 975,000 tons of plastic annually
  • Develop or expand on proper waste disposal infrastructure that can process an additional 3.3 million tons of plastic waste annually

Though reducing plastic waste in Indonesia and its oceans is a challenge, ordinary people and the government of Indonesia are taking proactive steps. These efforts will have a positive impact on livelihoods, the economy and the health of people. The future looks bright for a cleaner Indonesia.

Clay Hallee
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in IndonesiaThe streets are showered in debris, rescue dogs rummage through rubble and more than 400 homes are collapsed in piles where they previously stood. Such a sight followed the earthquake that hit Mamuju, the provincial capital of West Sulawesi in Indonesia, on January 15, 2021. With at least 82 dead and around 30,000 displaced, the aftershocks are devastating. However, for many Indonesians, stories like this one are painfully familiar as natural disasters are common and homelessness in Indonesia is rampant.

Natural Disasters, Poverty and Homelessness

Sitting on the fault line of three tectonic plates, Indonesia experiences earthquakes of magnitude 5.0 or lower almost daily. Major natural disasters have hit Indonesia on average once a month since 2004. These events, including tsunamis, landslides and even volcanic eruptions, destroy homes and communities. Each crisis pushes the rate of homelessness in Indonesia higher. Of course, poverty and inequality also play important parts in explaining why almost three million (1.14%) Indonesians are homeless. Natural disasters pose a unique and pressing challenge to governments and organizations trying to fight homelessness, especially in natural disaster-prone areas.

Homelessness in Indonesia

From the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s till the COVID-19 pandemic, Indonesia enjoyed commendable economic growth. It also joined the G20 and cemented its status as a low middle-income country. The poverty rate more than halved from 1999 standing at 9.78% in 2020. On many fronts, Indonesia shows potential for significant economic and social development in the first half of the 21st century.

That being said, the COVID-19 pandemic has undone some of Indonesia’s progress from the last two decades. From March to September of 2020, official statistics reported that an additional one million Indonesians had dropped below the national poverty line. At least 2.8 million Indonesians have lost their jobs due to the pandemic and another 70 million informal workers are at risk of unemployment in the near future.

Against this backdrop, homelessness in Indonesia remains a serious problem. In the first half of 2020, natural disasters displaced an estimated 508,000 Indonesians. Adding to the gravity of these high numbers, natural disasters are no temporary predicament. One year after earthquakes and a tsunami hit Indonesia’s Sulawesi Island on September 28, 2018, an estimated 57,000 people still remain homeless. Moreover, around 25 million Indonesians live in slums or other temporary housing. A recent survey found that even in Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, thousands are at risk of becoming homeless because they are unable to pay rent.

Global Endeavors

Habitat for Humanity, the World Bank, USAID and the Asian Development Bank, among many others, fight homelessness in Indonesia through investment and development expertise. Habitat for Humanity has been working in Indonesia since 1997. In 2019, it helped more than 77,000 Indonesians through a combination of housing, market development and water and sanitation programs. In an effort to promote resilience and recovery in the face of natural disasters, Habitat for Humanity constructs concrete-reinforced houses, provides rubble removal and emergency hygiene kits and rebuilds houses that have collapsed from earthquakes or landslides.

In 2019, the World Bank committed almost $2 billion to projects in Indonesia. These address a broad range of development goals, including infrastructure, the maritime economy and sustainable and universal energy access. In 2017, the World Bank committed $450 million to Indonesia’s National Affordable Housing Program. This program aims to increase access to quality housing through a three-pronged approach of easier financing, household improvements and technical assistance for policy reform. By 2020, the program had already led to housing improvements for more than half a million households.

Vision Indonesia 2045

In 2018, the Indonesian government unveiled an ambitious plan for how the country should develop by 2045, the centennial of Indonesia’s independence. Although the plan spans everything from defense to innovation policy, the central pillars are peace and prosperity. One of the more specific goals is to reach an annual GDP per capita of more than $19,794. This would propel Indonesia into the realm of upper-middle-income countries and usher in lower rates of poverty and homelessness. Especially with the World Bank’s recent commitment of $250 million to support Indonesia’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Project, the current crisis is unlikely to derail Indonesia’s goals. If Indonesia realizes its growth potential and foreign aid continues bolstering its natural disaster and housing resilience, homelessness in Indonesia will decline, protecting millions of vulnerable people.

Alexander Vanezis
Photo:Flickr

Integrating Technology
In 2010, Toshi Nakamura and Ewa Wojkowska created Kopernik, an NGO dedicated to providing proper living standards by integrating technology within rural villages. Toshi and Ewa were former UN workers who researched tribes existing within Thailand, Timor-Leste, Indonesia and Sierra Leone. The organization currently has four divisions that coordinate donations, financial consulting and technology. Each section is divided between locations in New York, Indonesia and Japan. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Kopernik continued its pre-planned projects for tribes in financial distress. This shows how lucrative and dedicated the organization has become.

Partnerships and Projects

Kopernik realizes that changing the world requires collaboration, and proudly announces partnerships whenever a new project undergoes initiation. In March 2020, Kopernik and the Malaysian Administrative Modernization and Management Planning Unit (MAMPU), collaborated to introduce Cirebon, Indonesia to digital resources. A businesswoman named Kurian, who owns a 12-person furniture manufacturing business in Cirebon, received help from Kopernik and MAMPU to reach more lucrative digital markets and develop her online marketing skills; Kurian was able to double her profits and reach markets as far as Mexico. MAMPU and Kopernik have historically helped many women-owned micro-businesses develop, despite poverty-stricken circumstances. Kopernik’s Indonesia headquarters runs a Wonder Woman program that empowers female entrepreneurs to learn about business strategies and cleantech resources. The organization trains local women on the technical use of solar panels, mobile phone chargers and biomass stoves that are a low price.

The Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI)

In February 2021, the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI) partnered with the ecstatic Kopernik. They collaborated on the development of “the Waste for Water: Creating A Community-Led Water Desalination Business to Provide Clean Drinking Water to Coastal Villages in Indonesia” project. In 2016, Kopernik flirted with a similar idea by selling the Carocell 3000 water purifier. It tested the experiment within Likotuden, East Flores. The purifier was able to produce 10 liters of freshwater per day, and safely distilled seawater, groundwater and overall contaminated/polluted liquids from local reservoirs. However, the project showed that 10 liters were not enough to provide for the community.

The two NGOs decided to start their project of integrating technology in the coastal villages within Nusa Penida, Bali and partnered with Wujudkan. They wanted to create a community-operated desalination plant that produced up to 3,000 liters daily. The last part of the project is an information campaign that shared guidelines for safe drinking water, water purification and the importance of preserving and sustaining water management.

Technology

Kopernik’s biggest achievement has been integrating solar technology in Indonesia’s “last mile.” By the end of 2020, Kopernik fostered funding support from the Abu Dhabi government to provide 3,600 solar lanterns and 1,000 mobile charging solar lanterns to the southeastern of Borneo. D.Light, a U.S.-based technology company that sells products for as low as $7, develops the solar lanterns. It also develops solar systems that people can purchase through micropayments.

Kopernik also paired with Greenlight Planet, which offers 6kW solar system installation to people in Sumba for $3.60 per month for a three-year period; Sumba Sustainable Solutions (3S) is a company that partnered with Kopernik to enact similar strategies and resources for solar solutions. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Sumba faced a financial hit from the decreasing tourism industry. 3S devised solutions for boosting revenue in Sumba’s agriculture section. 3S provided a solar-powered corn and rice mill to help farmers create higher sales prices within the crop market. Also, 3S founder Sarah Hobgen claimed that “[instead] of grinding corn manually with stones or pounding rice in a wooden tube, we lend them the mills for just IDR 500, or $0.03 per kilogram.” Both Kopernik and 3S have received international prizes for their support.

Agricultural Work

In September 2020, Kopernik initiated the Good Agriculture Practice (GAP) program in Papua. The program intended to teach agricultural regulations through interactive modules, videos and field practices. This GAP program helped farmers in Papua develop enhanced skills in farm production and post-production. It taught safe techniques to harvest food and agriculture products while including economic, social and environmental sustainability. GAP had farmers focus on the production of cacao, a plant used to make chocolate and cacao butter, by focusing attention on proper plant drying techniques. Kopernik introduced the idea for a solar dryer, which the organization has been blueprinting since 2016.

Kopernik and Papua farmers finalized the dryer within a remote village called Berab. Building a solar dryer involves ventilation and space between the cacao plant. In previous designs, racks were 12.5 cm apart. However, the on-site production showed that 30 cm enabled more ventilation and space for farmers to stir the beans. Due to limited resources, UV plastics replaced the polycarbonate feature, which captures solar light transmission, to capture the right amount of light energy. Additionally, instead of using iron for the framing, the farmers insisted on wood because of familiarity with the resource. Despite the challenges, the farmers finished construction within five days. The device cut the drying process from five days to three.

The Future of Kopernik

Kopernik continues to develop innovative projects, bring together lucrative business partners and work toward integrating technology. The year 2021 is seeing more digital solutions within the company as support for ending poverty increases for Kopernik.

Matthew Martinez
Photo: Flickr

Tourism-Economies
Everyone loves a good vacation or at least it is easy to think that while walking on a white-sand beach and sipping a Mai Tai. The truth lurking behind the tranquility of remote island temples and the prestige of historical landmarks is that tourist economies are not all sunshine and smooth sailing. With off-seasons that take up a large portion of the year and uncertain demand, tourism-economies may be more vulnerable to pitfalls than industrial or agriculture-based economies. The following countries exemplify the great promise and instability of tourism-economies.

Indonesia

Tourism in Indonesia is one of the main draws for foreign currency. In 2018, the number of people coming in from outside of Indonesia rose 12.6% to about 15.8 million. One of the biggest draws in tourism is culture. Countries that do well in tourism carry significant cultural influence in the area or have notable landmarks. For example, the world fetes Italy for its long history, art and cuisine. Meanwhile, statistics have shown that Indonesia underperforms in this sector compared to other countries in the region. Singapore, for example, draws in about 19 million people per year.

Bangladesh

Bangladesh is rapidly developing and this is an overall plus for the economy. However, it could bring a slight hiccup in the years to come. The nation’s main source of income, its textile industry, faces an imminent, irreversible decline with its graduation in development stages. Tourism could be Bangladesh’s biggest hope, with the industry contributing 10.4% to the global GDP. However, tourism only comprised 4.4% of Bangladesh’s GDP as of 2018, painting a bleak picture for the future of tourism. The country has been performing second to least successfully concerning popular destinations in Asia.

What might help is how well South Asia has been performing in tourism. Nations that have performed well in this area, like India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam, drew in 86% of the region’s total earnings in 2018 – a high Bangladesh was able to ride on the coattails of, as it attempted to market itself as a more desirable tourist destination. In recent years, Southeast and Southern Asia have demonstrated success in tourism, with respective 8% and 10% rates of growth.

One factor that greatly affects tourism is the visa facilities in a country. If tourists find the entry process to be too much of a hassle, they may be less inclined to vacation there. In India, a top-performing country in tourism, most of the world can easily obtain an e-Visa. In Bangladesh, however, in order for a person to gain a visa, many of their neighbors need to secure a visa beforehand. This further hampers an already struggling tourism industry.

Nigeria

Some have long thought of Nigeria as having great tourism potential, although obstacles in economic development stand in the way of meeting this full potential. Countries also have accommodation rates to take into account with tourism economies. Too steep a price may turn travelers off while not charging enough will undercut the profit potential of having a tourism economy to begin with. Since not all currencies convert equally, tourism-economies do well when they draw tourists from places with currencies that are more valuable to them. For example, Nigeria has this advantage over the U.S., with $1 being equal to 381.25 Nigerian Nairas. The average hotel rate in the U.S. was $131.21 per night as of 2019, while in Nigeria, the daily rate averaged anywhere in-between the equivalent of $27 and $128.

Relative Problems

Where tourism differs from other income-generating industries is that demand is less certain. If there is a use for a product, then a demand exists, and if there is a demand, then a country can profit by supplying for that demand. However, with tourism-economies, the “use” that creates demand is fickle, and as such, the success of the country “filling the supply” is less secure.

When the culture cannot compete, visas are too difficult to secure and prices just are not right, it does not just mean that the economy slows. People working in tourism potentially cannot generate an income, even if they can technically perform their jobs correctly. Travel trends and off seasons are out of the control of the low-to-middle income people working in the industry. For those already in a precarious financial situation, finding financial growth and stability in a tourism economy is incredibly difficult. In the past year, the global COVID-19 pandemic has also created further problems for the tourism industry.

Barefoot College International

With COVID-19, travel restrictions and business shutdowns, the tourism industry is all but entirely gone in most countries. As the earning potential of a tourism economy is insecure, some organizations strive to help populations attain more secure means of income. Barefoot College operates in more than 90 countries and is expanding across Africa, Latin America and South Asia.

Barefoot College has a variety of boots-on-the-ground efforts to help impoverished communities, including clean water and environmentally conscious health initiatives. It also has a strong education program that provides academic and practical skills that can help people increase their earning potential and make it easier for them to get jobs. Its focus is on digital education so that its work is accessible for people anywhere in the world.

After 40 years, 75,000 children have received an education, 65% of whom have been girls. From here, 40% of the children educated through Barefoot College have been able to enter their country’s mainstream education system. Of those educated through Barefoot College, 30% went on to become employed at jobs that required literacy. After graduating, 85% of those considering migrating decided to stay in their village to use their acquired knowledge and skills there.

While tourism-economies can be very profitable, changing factors such as a global pandemic cause many of these economies to be unstable. Organizations like Barefoot College help provide much-needed stability to tourism-economies. Moving forward, it is essential that more organizations work to find long-term economic solutions for countries that rely heavily on the tourism industry to help ensure a stable economic future.

Catherine Lin
Photo: Flickr