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

Indonesian Youth Programs
Around 85 million children live in Indonesia, making up one-third of the country’s population. Children are necessary for their country’s future, and the education and opportunities they receive are what allow them to have that impact. That is why it is important for children to have programs and organizations that give them more opportunities and allows them to realize their full potential. Several Indonesian youth programs provide these opportunities to children in Indonesia. The Indonesia Youth Foundation, Indonesian Youth Opportunities in International Networking (IYOIN) and Indonesian Youth Diplomacy are prime examples of Indonesian youth programs that aid children in education, provide resources and give them outlets to channel their passions.

Indonesia Youth Foundation

The Indonesia Youth Foundation began on July 23, 2020, as a non-governmental organization. Its objectives include connecting the children of Indonesia and other global youth through a variety of youth activities, offering general knowledge about the country and taking part in world advancement and the development of youth.

One can track the organization’s Youth Empowerment program through a series of articles on the organization’s official website, each entry providing tips on subjects such as boosting productivity and caring for mental health. Also featured is information on education and tourism to provide a better understanding of Indonesia.

Indonesian Youth Opportunities in International Networking

Indonesian youths created IYOIN in 2015. Since then, the self-started Indonesian youth program has spread across several different regions in Indonesia, with 18 local chapters.

The purpose of this organization is to serve as a medium for children in Indonesia to congregate, share and work together to realize their values for the country. The opportunities that this program provides also aim to improve the Indonesian youths’ education and to ensure that the youth will have the qualifications to tackle their futures successfully.

IYOIN became a United Nations SDSN Youth Member in 2017, a program that works to guarantee education that is inclusive and equal for all, in addition to encouraging learning opportunities. IYOIN joined this program because these goals align with its own mission.

Indonesian Youth Diplomacy

Indonesian Youth Diplomacy is a nonprofit Indonesian youth program that promotes and provides international exposure and empowers the next generation of Indonesian leaders. Known initially as G20 Youth Indonesia, efforts to form the organization began in 2010. This process continued in 2011 when the Indonesian Organizing Committee emerged to recruit Indonesian youth interested in contributing to the annual G20 Youth Summit. Recognizing the necessity of involving Indonesian youth in diplomacy beyond what the G20 program provides, the organization updated in 2013. Now known as the Indonesian Youth Diplomacy, it sends Indonesia’s promising young leaders to represent the country in international forums to raise awareness of diplomacy.

Youth programs can offer multiple benefits to children. They provide youth with quality education, a chance to involve themselves in their community and learn essential life skills and create a healthy social environment. All three of the organizations give these opportunities to the children of Indonesia. These Indonesian youth programs are crucial to allow children to spread their wings and learn since the youth are the backbone of their country.

– Celia Brocker
Photo: Flickr

POPs Effect on Health
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency defines persistent organic pollutants (POPs) as toxic chemicals that adversely affect human health. Wind and water can spread POPs from one country to another. They do not easily degrade, can travel through the food chain and from one animal species to another. They also bio-magnify. This means that animals that are higher on the food chain, such as humans, have higher concentrations of POPs in their systems than animals that are lower on the food chain due to ingesting more of them. As a result, POPs’ effect on health is significant.

POPs’ Effect on Health

Reproductive, developmental, behavioral, neurologic, endocrine and immunologic adverse health effects all have links to POPs. Exposure to high levels of certain POPs can cause serious damage or death to humans and wildlife.

POPs’ effect on health is due to the fact they accumulate in fats and do not easily dissolve in water. Children, the elderly and people with suppressed immune systems, as well those who rely on fishing and hunting, are most vulnerable. Babies can also ingest POPs through breast milk and the placenta.

The first 12 POPs and categories of POPs to receive recognition as hazardous are Aldrin, Chlordane, DDT, Dieldrin, Endrin, Heptachlor, Mirex, Toxaphene, PCBs, Hexachlorobenzene, Dioxins and Furans. Dioxins and Furans are unintentionally produced POPs (UPOPs). They are extremely toxic and serve no purpose.

International Cooperation

The Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution Protocol on POPs and the Stockholm Convention, both seek to remedy the problem of POPs. The Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution Protocol recognizes the 12 original legacy POPs along with four more whereas the Stockholm Convention recognizes 29 POPs. They encourage the use of effective, affordable and environmentally safe alternatives to POPs.

The U.S. has signed the Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution Protocol on POPs and the Stockholm Convention but is not yet a party to either of them. This means that while the U.S. will not interfere with the two conventions, it is not bound by them.

POPs and the Human Diet

POPs affect chicken and one can find them in animal fat, cow’s milk, butter and fish. They also exist in vegetables, cereals and fruits in trace amounts. Also, fish can contain microplastics that POPs attach to easily. As a result, humans can ingest them.

POPs can affect children and young people in the following ways: birthweight, length of gestation, reduced seminal parameters, impaired semen quality, male genital anomalies, breast cancer in young women, in utero exposure associated with neurodevelopment and infant neurodevelopment.

Experts also associate the following developmental outcomes with POPs including a decrease in motor delay detectable from newborn to age 2 years old, defects in visual recognition memory at 7 months old, lower IQ at 42 months (maybe some contribution from postnatal exposure), defects in short term memory at 4 years old and delays in cognitive development at 11 years old.

POPs can also cause peripheral neuropathies, fatigue, depression, personality changes, hepatitis, enlarged liver, abnormal enzyme levels, porphyria cutanea tarda, chloracne, polyneuropathy, hepatomegaly and porphyria.

POPs are endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Because of this, they affect the pituitary gland, the thyroid glands, the parathyroids, the adrenal glands, the pineal glands, the ovaries and the testes. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has identified the best available techniques to implement the Stockholm Convention.

POP Threat Reduction: Zambia

A number of measures exist that can reduce the threat of POPs. Traditionally, hospitals burn their waste in low-temperature burning chambers creating UPOPs. Instead, hospitals could use an autoclave to safely and effectively clean the medical waste without producing UPOPs. Increasing public awareness can also help. Moreover, changes to electronics and recycling can also keep POPs from affecting the public.

Three key health facilities in Zambia are now using an autoclave. The NGO Health Care Without Harm provided it to the facilities.

POP Threat Reduction: Asia

Kazakhstan now also uses autoclaves to process medical waste. To date, six medical waste disposal sites, with two autoclaves each, are in existence in Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan has amended its environmental code to include UPOPs emissions. Kyrgyzstan has also received 13 autoclaves.

China has sought to educate the public through communication activities and campaigns about this problem. It has also piloted a design to reduce 20% of POPs in laptop design manufacturing.

In Indonesia, the UNDP is assisting the Ministry of Industry with following up on recommendations from the Stockholm Convention. They are doing this by reducing the emissions of toxic flame retardants and UPOPs resulting from unsound waste management and unsound recycling. Now, Indonesia is removing POPs in its recycling process. At present, Indonesia has reduced 190 metric tons of toxic flame retardants (PBDEs) and UPOPs from the manufacturing processes, recycling and disposal activities. Indonesia has also developed and implemented three pilot projects to access viable approaches for decontamination and the elimination of equipment contaminated with PCBs.

POP Threat Reduction: South America

Colombia has established a long-term development objective to strengthen institutions that manage PCBs. It is doing this by analyzing, quantifying and controlling them at a national scale and by promoting the development of PCB treatment and disposal. It has prepared a technical manual for the environmentally sound management of PCBs. Colombia has eliminated 1,600 tons of PCBs from contaminated oil, contaminated equipment and other wastes. With assistance from the electricity sector, Colombia now has four treatment plants for the environmentally safe management, decontamination, and disposal of PCBs. These pilot projects are responsible for labeling and identifying the PCB content of 3,500 pieces of electrical equipment to date. Colombia has also established 14 accredited laboratories for the analytical determination of PCB content.

Meanwhile, Ecuador has succeeded in eliminating 1,127 metric tons of PCBs from use. It has strengthened the development of national policies to manage PCBs by increasing PCB analytical capacities fourfold. Ecuador has accredited two laboratories for that purpose. In addition, it has successfully inventoried, collected, replaced and eliminated all PCBs from the Galapagos Islands with the goal of keeping Galapagos free of PCBs.

POPs’ effect on health is so varied that it is integral that people eliminate their use globally. Luckily, several parts of the world are doing their part to reduce their use in order to keep citizens safe.

– Wendy Redfield
Photo: Flickr

education in IndonesiaAs it stands, education in Indonesia lacks inclusivity and accessibility. The education system in Indonesia struggled from the start, making it harder to reform years of damage. However, there are steps being taken to improve the learning experience of Indonesian children and adolescents. This includes technology use, improved teacher education and more adequate education spending.

Education in Indonesia

Reports indicate that compared to other Southeast Asian countries, education in Indonesia is lacking in quality and effectiveness. For example, statistics display that 55% of students who pass through the Indonesian education system are functionally literate. This is high when compared to 14% in Vietnam.

Currently, education is compulsory in Indonesia and offered free of cost up until grade nine. Although the government is working on providing free schooling for grades 10-12, this has not yet been achieved. Early education is prioritized and there are high rates of pre-school attendance. Yet, there are disparities between genders and between urban and rural areas. For example, the nationwide preschool GER (gross enrollment ratio) is significantly lower in Papua and Maluku, Indonesia’s remote islands, at less than 50% in 2014.

Tertiary education attainment rates are also very low in Indonesia. The percentage of Indonesians above the age of 25 that had obtained, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree in 2016, was less than 9%. This rate is the lowest of all the member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). There is little incentive to complete tertiary education as the unemployment rate is high, even for those with degrees.

Teacher Education

Until the mid-2000s, Indonesian teachers could teach with just a diploma in the field. In fact, many elementary teachers held only a secondary school qualification. According to statistics, only 200,000 out of 1.25 million teachers had a university degree in 2006. However, legislation has made quality teacher education a priority. Presently, all teachers are required to have completed a four-year higher education in the form of a degree or a high-level diploma. Moreover, in order to be deemed qualified as a public school educator, one must undergo more rigorous certification and training requirements.

Technology for Remote Learning

As of early 2020, COVID-19 added further challenges to education in Indonesia and its already unstable system. COVID-19’s severe effects inhibited Indonesian students from attending school in person yet many of them lack access to internet and are unable to participate in remote learning. However, a recent initiative to collect second-hand cellphones may improve the education situation for Indonesian students.

Ghina Ghaliya, a journalist in Jakarta, was inspired to find a solution to this problem. When the pandemic started, Ghaliya started a group with 11 other journalists, providing food and money to underprivileged Indonesians. However, during the pandemic, the group shifted its focus to enable children to continue learning remotely. Ghaliya and her journalist friends began collecting second-hand cellphones and monetary donations so that children could acquire internet access for their classes. As of November 2020, 200 phones were collected and more than $35,000 worth of donations were given to the group to acquire more cellphones and prepaid internet plans.

Education Spending

Government expenditure on education has increased in recent years. Added funding allows for a more enriching learning experience for Indonesian students. For example, with increased spending, there has been a larger budget for hiring more teachers. As of 2017, the student-to-teacher ratio dropped from 20:1 to 16:1 in elementary schools. This exemplifies how with further spending and more teachers per student, one’s learning experience is augmented.

The education system in Indonesia does not adequately and equally serve its students. However, with initiatives such as allocating money toward education, improving teacher education and incorporating technology into curriculums, education in Indonesia is improving.

Ella Kaplun
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Indonesia
As a burgeoning upper-middle-income country that has dedicated decades to development, Indonesia has made remarkable strides in poverty reduction. However, the tragedies of poverty still plague Indonesia and, in particular, are affecting children across the archipelago. Even so, Save the Children in Indonesia is doing life-changing work to mitigate child poverty in Indonesia through a holistic approach that includes immediate relief and programs that help develop young people to subsist in a 21st-century economy.

Indonesian Development: 1960 to 1997

Today, Indonesia is the 10th-largest economy and a member of the coveted G-20 organization, making it one of the world’s largest and most influential economies. Yet, to get to this economic level, Indonesia has had to marshal many economic ups and downs over the last six decades.

Between 1960 and 1967, Indonesia’s GDP per capita was a measly -.05%. This was largely due to the economy having a heavy focus on agricultural production. Nonetheless, the economy’s structure substantially changed over the next couple of decades towards a process of urbanization, industrialization and a general opening up of the economy to the outside world. The reformation of the economy resulted in the GDP per capita jumping to 5.3% between 1983 and 1996.

Still, the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis substantially reversed decades of progress. Although the crisis began in Thailand when the government turned the local currency, the Baht, into a floating currency; it had destructive effects on the rest of the Asian economies, particularly on Indonesia’s economy. By 1998, the Rupiah, Indonesia’s national currency, lost 30% of its value, its private-sector debt exploded, inflation reached 65% and GDP growth was at a staggering -13.6%.

Naturally, the financial shock increased the rate of poverty in the country. The poverty rate jumped to 24.2% in 1998 from 17.7% in 1996, and in 1998, the GDP per capita contracted by 13%.

Indonesia’s Successful Fight Against Poverty: 2005 to 2025

After years of a slow and fragile post-crisis recovery, in 2005, the Indonesian government stepped up its fight against economic contraction and poverty with the National Long-Term Development Plan 2005-2025 (RPJPN). The plan set up three general development goals for Indonesia that the country codified in the preamble of the Indonesian constitution of 1948. These goals include an Indonesia developed and self-reliant, just and democratic and peaceful and united. The plan comprises four stages with each stage correlating with a newly elected administration that will tailor the project to its agenda.

The plan’s implementation over 15 years has included investment in infrastructure, human capital, health and wellness, science and technology, improving exports and developing Indonesia’s competitive advantages.

The plan’s success is borne out in the numbers: between 2014 and 2018, the GDP grew by 5% annually and, as one might expect, the unemployment rate decreased significantly with over 9 million jobs created in the process. As a result, the poverty rate has been cut by nearly half since 1999, to 9.78%.

What About the Children?

Although Indonesia’s development strategy has paid dividends in reducing poverty, it has not been sufficient to keep many from falling through the cracks. Nowhere is the need to do more, more tragically clear than with the plight of children. For instance, 57% of Indonesian children grow up in families living on less than twice the national poverty line.

Moreover, although Indonesia has reached a near-universal education status, 14% of school-age children are out of school, while 7% work in child labor.

Regarding health, one in 21 girls between ages 15 and 19 gives birth and 36% of children suffer from stunted growth due to malnutrition. Most sobering, however, is that one child in 40 dies before their 5th birthday, a rate that is four times that of the United States of America.

Save the Children and Child Poverty in Indonesia

Save the Children in Indonesia has been working in Indonesia for more than three decades to assist the government in providing relief for children across the country. The organization provides immediate relief in disasters, such as in 2019 after a deadly earthquake and tsunami. Just 6 months following the disaster, it set up shelters, clinics and temporary schools to provide necessary health care, water and hygiene supplies.

The organization has also managed a more holistic approach that meets immediate survival needs and cultivates young people to thrive in a modern economy. For example, the organization provides sponsorship programs that have supported “knowledge, behavior and physical growth,” while also training teachers and principals on classroom management and academic skills. To this end, it also contributes to healthy learning environments by providing educational materials and hygienic supplies.

Perhaps Save the Children’s most ambitious and vital program regarding reducing poverty is its Youth Employment Program. Targeted towards the youth between the ages of 15 and 24, this program teaches skills to foster employability to create economic opportunities. The program has seen 5,000 young people graduate from employability skills training and have enrolled 3,600 in vocational training.

Indonesia has made significant strides in reducing poverty since the Asian financial crisis of 1997. However, the benefits of development have frequently left children out. As the government strives to fill in the cracks of those left behind, Save the Children in Indonesia is actively working towards eliminating child poverty in Indonesia by giving them a chance.

– Vincenzo Caporale
Photo: Flickr

How Agriculture is Ending Poverty in IndonesiaIndonesia has struggled with poverty since the Asian Financial Crisis of the late 1990s. However, the rate of poverty has been steadily decreasing over the years. In 1999, Indonesia’s poverty rate was a staggering 24%. In 2013, it had dropped to 11.4% and in 2019, it stood at 9.4%. Below are the ways agriculture is ending poverty in Indonesia.

Palm Oil Production in Indonesia: Providing Jobs and Alleviating Poverty

Palm oil is one of the most commonly used vegetable oils around the world and is found in half of grocery store items. Its popularity has skyrocketed globally since 1990, with global consumption growing from 14 million tons in 1990 to 63 million tons in 2015, 80% of which is supplied by Indonesia. After the Asian Financial Crisis, millions of Indonesians relied on the palm oil industry to relieve poverty. Between the years 2001 and 2010, 10 million Indonesians saw relief from poverty directly from working in the palm oil industry.

In 2017, 3.8 million Indonesians were working in the palm oil industry. Today,  17 million Indonesians rely on the palm oil industry for work, and 7% of Indonesia’s land is used for its production. Palm oil agriculture is ending poverty in Indonesia because it directly helps farmers in rural areas. Indonesia’s rural areas are most affected by poverty. However, by maintaining and increasing funding for palm oil production, families living in these rural regions can lift themselves out of poverty.

Indonesia’s COVID-19 Farmer Support

Farmers in Indonesia play a significant role in stabilizing the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Ministry of Agriculture saw the necessity of supporting the many farmers of Indonesia—who make up 30% of the population—by providing necessities such as seeds and fertilizer.

The government is also providing 34 trillion Indonesian Rupiahs, or $2,284,494,000, in loan subsidies. The 2.7 million farmers also received 300,000 Indonesian Rupiahs, or $20, which is typically one week of wages, for three months.

USAID: Partnering with Local Farmers

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) partners with farmers in Indonesia to help build a better livelihood, reduce poverty and help the economy. USAID ensures that farmers have a consistent supply of necessary resources needed to produce food at a high quality. This food security ensures that people see long-term benefits and avoid issues of malnutrition, weakened immune systems and cognitive health issues. At the same time, USAID is committed to achieving these goals in an environmentally-friendly way.

In its 2019 Annual Report, USAID clarified how its assistance with agriculture is ending poverty in Indonesia. USAID gained 2.9 hectares of farmland, which supports the livelihood of 11,400 people. Rubber farmers also received training on environmental sustainability and reducing the risk of forest fires, which have reduced by 74%. Additionally, 30% of farmers are now producing government-certified rubber products at a higher quality, which have increased in price from $0.50/kg to $0.80/kg. In addition, productivity has increased by 2.5%. USAID is focused on long-term goals and is expected to acquire 100 million hectares of forest land by 2030.

Agriculture is ending poverty in Indonesia at such a high rate because the agriculture industry is most effective at raising incomes compared to other industries. In a 2016 study by the World Bank, 65% of impoverished workers were able to make a living by working in agriculture The agriculture industry has made great efforts to eradicate poverty in Indonesia. Improvements in the practices of agriculture have correlated in better incomes and lifestyles for farmers, and are projected to steadily increase.

—Karena Korbin
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in Indonesia
In Indonesia, institutions have shackled and chained as many as 57,000 mentally ill patients, according to a Human Rights Watch report. The underfunded and understaffed medical sector, as well as mental health stigma, have led to this inhumane practice known as “shackling” or pasung in Indonesia. Indonesia’s shackling problem is improving, but the country has not entirely eradicated it yet. Additionally, the country is progressing toward improving mental health in Indonesia through its mental health sector.

Here is some information about the initiatives contributing to the improvement of mental health services and the reduction of stigma in Indonesia. The ultimate goal of these initiatives is to prevent mental health patients from experiencing cruel and insufficient treatments.

Indonesia Free from Pasung

The Indonesian government officially banned shackling in 1977 but has been working to formally end the process to this day. In 2010, the Indonesia Ministry of Health started a program called Indonesia Free from Pasung. It asked the government to collaborate with communities to address shackling.

The program provided mental health medications and training to community centers, and made mental health a primary mental health service. It also created community health teams intended to directly release and identify people with mental illnesses.

These teams include Tim Penggerak Kesehatan Jiwa Masyarakat (TPKJM) and the PIS-PK program. TPKJM works to monitor and facilitate the release of people from shackles. The PIS-PK program sends representatives from community health centers to identify families’ mental health statuses through home visits. The program was necessary because people were not frequently visiting medical posts, so were not receiving treatment. The program helped to identify Indonesians with mental health issues and direct them to resources.

The frequency of shackling has improved in the 10 years since the implementation of the program. Additionally, people do not stigmatize mental illness as much in Indonesia anymore. Moreover, community centers are more equipped to identify and treat people with mental health disorders. More groups are arising to address mental health issues and end the practice of shackling as well. However, only 20 out of the 34 provinces in Indonesia have successfully implemented programs to free people from shackling. Without full implementation, these programs are unable to free as many people as they aim to.

The Center for Indonesia Medical Students’ Activities (CISMA)

UNICEF partnered with the Center for Indonesian Medical Students’ Activities (CISMA) to promote mental health support for young people through online sessions on health on Zoom and YouTube. The sessions cover a range of mental health topics such as “Coping with stress during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Their partnership’s aim is to provide awareness and information about mental health.

CISMA’s sessions are an amazing resource because they are accessible and provide psychological support for people who may not be able to see a therapist. CISMA’s initiative is also beneficial to Indonesia’s mental health sector because it raises awareness and tackles mental health stigma. The type of awareness it is spreading can keep people with mental illnesses out of shackles.

The WHO QualityRights Initiative

The WHO QualityRights initiative supports countries in implementing policies and services to improve the conditions of mental health services globally. It developed a toolkit of information to provide guidance on how to improve mental health services. This includes information on assessing mental health services and quality standard goals. It also provides e-training and other materials for mental health professionals, NGOs and people with mental illness and disabilities. This program is encouraging a human rights-based approach to mental health issues.

Indonesia has been improving in awareness and identification of mental health issues. The next steps are for the implementation of policies and programs to improve resources, as well as the quantity and quality of community centers.

International aid can assist in building community centers and medical schools. However, more is necessary, such as quality training and funds to hire nurses, therapists and psychiatrists. The country must also address the availability of medications and adequate facilities by providing more funding for mental health programs.

The country is moving in the right direction to improve its mental health in Indonesia. With increased development and a continued focus on the mental health sector, Indonesia may be able to eradicate the practice of shackling.

– Stephanie Jackson
Photo: Flickr