Eastern Indonesian Field Intensive 2014 a roaring success!

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Eastern Indonesian Field Intensive 2014 a roaring success!

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It is especially dusty now because there has been no irrigation water in the channels all year. This area depends largely on paddy, irrigated by water from a weir in the nearby Noelmina River, west Timor. In Dec 2011 the weir wall was broken during a flood and now the weir wall is being rebuilt - a massive construction project which will take three years.

Two buses are passing his house, adding to the dust in the air. They stop outside his house and a tall blonde, white woman gets out and walks towards his house. She presents him with a chicken with remnants of string around its leg. She is smiling and clearly wanting him to take the chicken. What is going on? Who is this stranger, why is she here, and why is she giving him a chicken?

The woman? She is a CDU student participating in the Eastern Indonesian Field Intensive (EIFI) during which students and staff from CDU and three Indonesian universities (UNDANA in Kupang, UKSW in Salatiga, UGM in Yogakarta) get together to investigate livelihoods and resource management in a rural setting. For a week in July 2014, a group of 30 EIFI participants have been investigating water management and the impacts of the weir reconstruction on people in the village of Linamnutu. Now they are travelling to accommodation in the hills at Camplong, to analyse the data in preparation for reporting back to the village and making a presentation to government and NGO staff and representatives of the village in So'E, the capital city of South Central Timor district. Everyone is enriched by the cross-cultural and multi-disciplinary experiences of EIFI, working together to understand the local systems of agriculture and water management, and many factors influencing local livelihoods.

Team EIFI 2014

Team EIFI 2014, including staff, junior staff and students from CDU, UGM, UNDANA and UKSW and friends from Desa Linamnutu.

The chicken? This is the third offering of EIFI: in 2009, then 2011 and now in 2014. The EIFI staff have formed friendships with many villagers. While staying in the village, the EIFI group camped and held focus group discussions (FGDs) in broken down sheds, and visitors from the village came and went. An old friend from the village visited during a FGD to present CDU's Penny Wurm with a chicken, held upside down with legs tied together. The chicken was soon righted and freed, and decided to adopt us, roosting above us each night, adding to the diversity of material falling from the roof during the night. It was only as the buses trundled out of the village that we realised that EIFI chicken was again tied up, but this time under the back seat of the bus and in danger of dust asphyxiation. We called for a stop, freed EIFI chicken, and gave her to the little boy playing in the yard of a nearby house.

What will the chicken mean to this family? The people of Linamnutu depend primarily on paddy production for their livelihoods. In 2014, with no irrigation water being received, most households are pursuing other livelihood options. Some are growing dryland maize, which was the staple crop before the irrigation system was constructed. Many households are growing vegetables, watered laboriously with well water. Some households have chickens and possibly a pig, goat or cow. EIFI chicken will be a welcome addition to the small livestock resources of the boy’s household.

main street

Vegetable gardens in the main street of Desa Linamnutu.

What are the impacts of EIFI? EIFI 2009 and EIFI 2011 findings described food shortages in Linamnutu village, despite the large investment in irrigation infrastructure.  The district government has responded to these findings by improving roads, and addressing water quality and health issues in Linamnutu village. EIFI 2014 has highlighted the need for better communication of information, especially in preparation for resumption of irrigation: clearing of channels choked with plants and sediment; removal of woody weeds from paddy fields; clarity of roles and cooperation for better water management.

PhD student

CDU PhD student and EIFI I, II and III alumnus, Pia Harkness, pinpointing the location of irrigation block boundaries during a focus group discussion with village Irrigation Management Officers, Desa Linamnutu.

Now there are plans to advocate to the Central Government for improvements to irrigation infrastructure and management throughout NTT province, where more irrigation projects are planned, despite the problems faced by village such as Linamnutu being wide-spread.  Each EIFI team has presented preliminary findings to the District Government Planning Department offices in SoE. This year the Department Secretary proposed that the EIFI project’s findings be presented to the Central Government in an extending workshop, in order to improve the return on the investment already made by the village community, the District Government and Central Government.

vegetable growing demonstration

Incumbent  Village Head Bapak Agus Nome, and village elder Bapak Lukas , standing with a vegetable growing demonstration at the front of Pak Agus’s home, Desa Linamnutu.

 

main street 2

Vegetable gardens in the main street of Desa Linamnutu.

 

Pddy Fields

Dry and weed infested paddy fields, lying fallow while the weir wall is replaced, Desa Linamnutu.