Let me take you down, because we are going to…… strawberry fields!

The drive uphill to village KB Sabilulungan is long. The curvy road takes us through the hills outside Bandung. The view on the tea-plantations is stunning. So fresh, so green and clearly maintained with so much diligence. During the #GLF2018 we are exploring sustainability of local responses. The 3 hours drive gives me time to contemplate. The plantations confirm my understanding that for any response to become sustainable, rigor and care is needed. The tea plantations that have been flourishing for centuries are the example for us to learn from, right in front of our eyes. The tough leap from level 4 to level 5 in competence as we know it in our #CLCP community life competence process!

Around the corner appears a house, a white house, a huge white house. Overseeing the hills. The house dates from Dutch colonial times. The supervisor could oversee the plantation and his workers. I realize that although the fields are sustained with diligence, the way to get there was not necessarily a nice one. The care for the twigs came from the fine hands and the hard work of the Javanese, the rigor was commanded (oftentimes violently) by their Dutch colonizers. History has taught us where the benefit went. A rigorous process without #SALT! It worked, the tea plantations are still there and of impressing beauty.

But something changed. We witness it when we finally reach the kampung KB, destination of our SALT visit. In the kampung two things are striking. The colorful message at the entrance of the village ‘dua anak cukup’ (two children are sufficient) of the governments family planning program ànd strawberries. Strawberries everywhere.

The villagers want to bring betterment to their lives. To the lives of their children and to the lives of neighbors who are living in very disadvantaged conditions. When the government proposed their family planning program to the village, the villagers embraced it as a way to work toward a better place for all family members in the village. Natural volunteer leaders came forward. For Rokaya this was the moment to put her heart at work. The family planning program encouraged her to reach out to especially women to address any element of family life, for young and old members. “When I am in a meeting and I see a young child that is malnourished I talk with the mother and link her to the necessary care. I go to houses for conversations and we also organize joint activities that keep us healthy and give us a lot of fun. If you would stay over for the night, we could play volleyball together at sunrise in the field in the back of the village. The women of the village meet there early morning, before their day starts”. The response is not an individual one. It is backed up by government who improved the road to and from the villages and provided subsidies for income generating activities. Rokaya also mobilised 7 younger women around her to take care of the families’ health for all in the village.

And what about those strawberries? There are strawberries, strawberry pots, strawberry jam, strawberry plants, strawberry decorations in every little corner of this village! Most villagers work hard, very hard, in the tea plantations that surround the village. They work for the boss and get a salary. But when they come home, there is…. Strawberries! Men, women, children put their hands at work to plant, grow and harvest them. Each family has their garden and income is redistributed through a cooperative. Jojo, family planning officer, does not need to think long when I ask him what the link is between the lovely fruit and his family planning program. “Firstly: our strawberries provide us the additional income that we need to be able to take care of our families as we wish, and secondly the fruits are healthy and nutritious for all of us. Our strawberries contribute to sustainability!”

Rigor and hard work, once combined with ownership and love for those around us gives us a sustainable response that is sweet and healthy. Strawberry fields forever!

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Comment by Phil on Friday

Your story brings Dancing Jajas to my mind. 

It starts with Agnes: "Our idea is to live in harmony. That is our idea and that is how we base our association. And every time we go astray, we tell ourselves again, 'You people don't forget, we are hear to live in harmony.'" That sounds like rigour to me. 

And it ends with Cossy: "Love, care, comfort and respect. Once you do that for elderly people, you live for longer and longer and longer."

And thus we have sustainability. 


Comment by wiwin winarni on November 5, 2018 at 8:01am

Every time close to natural leader like Rokaya, My hearth was warm and I feel confident that sustainability of live can be maintained. Government program takes advantage from these individual, in the same time these community cadres reach their life actualization trough government program. Strawberry is one of manifestation of mutual connection that reflect sustainability!  

Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on October 31, 2018 at 4:53pm

Thanks Marlou for this beautiful description. As a facilitator, how would you use this learning in our Assam project where the response is not sustained?


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