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POKJA OAT: Community Movement to Create a Resilient Community with the Creation of Traditions and Local Food Security

 

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As a Founder of POKJA Oat, Mama Aleta strives to empowering women's dignity and freedom #choosetochallenge by sharing sacred traditional tribe knowledge towards the protection of the indigenous people's rights while building a resilient community with solid local product and knowledge

In an area near the city of Soe, in South Central Timor Regency, East Nusa Tenggara, three indigenous tribes belong together in a circle called as the Tiga Batu Tungku community, which consists of the tribe Mollo, Amanuban, and Amantun. These three tribes are all part of a workgroup called as Kelompok Kerja OAT (Pokja OAT) or the A’taimamus Ama Organization. The history of how this workgroup is established is firstly driven by the presence of a mining operation in Mollo District that made the local community felt that they were being exploited by them in 1995. Previously, this mining operation was established at four places which were Nausus, Nuamollo, Fatu Naetapan, and Fatu Lik.

In 1996, the people from the three tribes started to feel worried and confused while trying to decipher the signs of a new farming season and how seasons come and go in order for them to farm their crops. Farming is their source of income, yet climate change has changed the pattern of farming for these people which is more difficult for them to predict when to sow and harvest. Since then, the impact of climate change has stymied the profits that are produced from people’s farms each year.

The people started to think that nature is not favourable for them anymore. The duration of seasons is unstable where the rainy and dry seasons are prolonged. Their supply of water has reduced in the dry seasons which resulted in many plants are not in their peak condition, and some are not strong enough to grow due to the lack of water received, and so on. They have tried to mitigate the effects of climate change by planting local plants such as sorghum for their food provision which has to be harvested at least twice a year. They also have tried to plant nutritious kinds of plants as well such as Lombok (chili), onion, garlic, and labu kuning (crookneck pumpkins).

From all the four sites that were used for mining, the three tribes chose Nausus as the place for them to gather and carry their activities. Each year, the people from the three tribes gather at Gunung Batu Nausus to hold activities such as celebrating the Ningkam Haumeni Festival, share traditional tribe knowledge, and also learn and discuss a topic together. Eventually, after the activities became a routine, in 1999, the workgroup that is usually called as Pokja OAT was established by Ibu Aleta Cornelia Baun or Mama Aleta. Nausus, the gathering place for the three tribes, was slowly laid out each day for farming, raising livestock, and crafting traditional trinkets and handicrafts of the people. This location is now a tourism site for the locals and tourists alike. All of these activities have preserved the local wisdom and have given accommodation for visitors to learn more about the tribes’ traditions and values. Additionally, Pokja OAT has also empowered women to actively participate in the community by weaving cloths using natural materials. The products that were produced were blankets, shawls, and unique traditional local tribe cloths which helped to develop the businesses in the Tiga Batu Tungku community.

This year, besides climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic has inhibited the flow of profits even more in the community. The locals are scared and confused on whether to do their activities as usual outside their homes, as most of their daily activities are based outdoors. There was a claim that the government’s COVID-19 support didn’t reach every family that needed it in the area. Many of them haven’t received the needed provision. Overall, the restriction of social interaction has caused the cycle of the community’s economic ecosystem to be disrupted. All of this has contributed to the impediment of the community’s nature conservation programs to prevent climate change where its activities were delayed. Despite all this, the community still strives to maintain their livelihoods independently.

In order to support the community’s livelihood and prepare them both for climate change’s unpredictable seasons and the COVID-19 pandemic, this year The Samdhana Institute collaborate with Pokja OAT to implement their project of land utilization for their local plants’ farm. The goals of this project are to increase the local people’s knowledge especially for the youngsters about gardening and farming, grow local plants as food crops for the Tiga Batu Tungku community, and increase the people’s concern and awareness towards conserving the environment around where they live. The outcome of this project is to have a farm that could be used as a place to cultivate and nurture local food plants and herbs, which could be harvested sustainably. Other than that, the parameter of this project is at least 75% of the people in Pokja OAT are participating or aware of conserving their environment and this farm and 50% of them use this project as an opportunity to cultivate their plants as means of an additional income for their household.

In carrying out the project, the community started by spreading the plant seeds on the watered grounds then prepared the seeding hole for the Lombok plant seeds, and plotted plant plots daily for batang saree, garlic, onion, lemongrass, mint leaves, genoak, Siamese pumpkin, crookneck pumpkin, and medicinal herbs such as various gingers and telang flower so they are easy to differ and plant on the marked plots. There were also reforestation activities at the ecotourism site in Nausus. However, the journey of this project was not without challenges. The unpredictable season made some difficult arrangements for the people to plan their seeding and planting times due to the long dry season. The supply of water was not sufficient for the early-stage growth of the plants due to the water source being dried out. Specifically, the long dry season had given a long time for the seedling and soils to be prepared before a one-week long-only rain came down and gave a very limited water supply for the plants to grow.

Initiating an independency to produce local food was never been easy, some challenges must be overcome and become a learning process for community joint in Pokja OAT. They will continue to make efforts to cultivate local plants and herbal medicines which are not only beneficial as a potential to increasing their livelihood but can also be introduced to the wider community, as a useful lesson towards a resilient community with solid local food security.

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Women have been associated with nature. We have worked with many of the women strive to get back to their roots, utilizing local knowledge and tradition to be resilient while conserving the environment along the way. 

In this Women’s Month, we celebrate nature as our “Mother Earth". 

We are proud to present this song by Sandrayati Fay IN DARAMUDA project, titled “SUARA DUNIA” reflecting the nature as we are, reconnecting with nature is part of our humanity, “the water is my blood, the stone is my bone and the land as my body”.

To hear more from Sandrayati Fay, visit: 

 

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