East Bali Poverty Project: Sustainable Development
    Category: Forbes Life By : Scott Younger Read : 711 Date : Monday, September 04, 2017 - 13:55:32

    Growing up in post-WWII Britian, David Booth knows firsthand about hardship. That experience had a profound influence on him and drove him to commit his skills to poverty alleviation, epitomized by the East Bali Poverty Project (EBPP). After more than 25 years as a civil engineer, he decided in 1998 to use his experience for sustainable poverty alleviation. By chance he came to Indonesia and here he decided to commit his future to helping the most under-privileged communities overcome poverty. He settled on the lost community of Desa Ban barely surviving on the remote northeast side of Mt Agung in Bali. With 83% illiteracy, widespread illnesses and infant mortality rates off the charts, conditions were appalling. The following describes what has been taking place over the past two decades, with initial funding almost entirely personally provided by him.

    Early Days

    The community of Desa Ban consists of 17,000 people spread across 19 individual villages and hamlets. The first six months were spent in engagement, gaining their confidence and asking them what help should be provided. They replied that of utmost importance was a better life for their children. The conditions in 1998 were worsened by poor access to many communities. David set the ground rules, including no corruption in any form, and began to prioritize the work to be done. He had to create roads for vehicles, overcome severe health issues and then turn to issues of diet.

    Using his professional experience, David designed simple roads using as much local material as possible, only importing cement. Construction was undertaken by the community itself, with each family providing one person for the construction crew, using the gotong royong principle. He created an underlying foundation for sustainable development—ownership and empowerment. The team constructed 25 km of roads linking 19 communities within the project area. Skills learned were later applied by members of the village groups for building roads elsewhere in Desa Ban and beyond.

    The next issue, and vital for health, concerned providing ready access to clean water; many had to travel up to five hours to get water. To this end, water tanks (cubangs) were constructed across the communities to collect and filter rainwater. Villagers were put to work to tap into springs emanating off the mountain slopes, preparing catchments and laying simple pipework to large concrete tanks with relatively easy access to a number of the villages—thus reducing time to collect clean water to an hour at the most, using new roads.

    For the access roads in the higher reaches, the steep slopes had to be stabilized environmentally, sustainably and cheaply as possible. Research showed that a clump grass, vetiver, could be planted successfuly across the project area. Its deep roots stabilized land set out for cultivating crops and vegetables (greens, potatoes, tomatoes) that would lead to improving and widening the diet of the people, with children taught to take the lead.

    Early in 2000, construction of the first school started and, as before, this and subsequent schools over the next few years were built by the villagers. Schools were fitted with solar panels to provide power. There are now six schools in Desa Ban with up to 300 children each year receiving education across the elementary curriculum and junior high. The standard government curriculum has been supplemented with additional courses, including art subjects. From nothing, the project has now had its first university graduates.

    It is a salutory lesson that poverty is a particular disaster for the millions of youngsters so stranded in Indonesia and across the world. UNICEF noted some 37% of Indonesian children are undernourished and undereducated, a poor statement for one of the world’s most important countries. 

    Read full version of the article