Projects

on 6 Oct, 21:46

Spearheading organic farming: Koperasi Belia Islam

This is a project located in #Malaysia.

Related SDGs:

  • #SDG11 (Sustainable cities and communities)
  • #SDG15 (Life on land)

Data collection methods: Interview

Updated since: 2014

Background:

Koperasi Belia Islam (KBI) is a credit co-operative based on Islamic financial principles, started in 1977. It is the economic arm of the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia, or ABIM) and generates income for its members and part of the expenses needed for the running of both organisations.

In the recent years, KBI shifted its services towards community mobilisation, and initiated its organic farming programme. The objectives of the programme are to generate additional income for households, to create wealth from waste by using low cost farming technologies, and to contribute towards food security, food safety, and food sovereignty of the country. It forges a smart partnership involving the land owner, the entrepreneur, the investor and the co-operative. Projects have been initiated in the below communities, in urban, rural and peri-urban settings:

  • Kampung Bidadari, Bintangor, Sarawak
  • Kampung Bukit Cerakah Jaya, Selangor
  • Felcra Resettlement Area in Pulau Banggi, Sabah
  • Felcra Resettlement Area in Batang Lupar, Sarawak
  • Kariah (parish) of Salahudin Ayubi Mosque, Kuala Lumpur
  • Kampung Lunas, Kedah

Communities are guided to plant vegetables organically for their own consumption. When the production stabilises, they are given guidance to form co-operatives to sell the vegetables. The projects are implemented through the recruitment and training of community mobilisers, who are able to identify support systems such as local organisations and institutions, local industries, natural and human resources. Box 1 delves deeper into a field visit of Kampung Bukit Cerakah Jaya, one of the organic farming projects initiated by KBI.

  • Approximately 10,000 members in the co-operative
  • Spearheaded six communities to start organic farming

Philosophy/Values/Traditional knowledge

KBI is founded and run based on principles of Islamic finance, which encapsulates certain values and ethics. For instance, profiteering based on usury and interest is strictly forbidden, and investments are made abiding by certain ethical standards. There is also an emphasis on social justice and sharing of profits and risks. In that, the organic farming programme is less concerned about financial returns on investment, and places more importance on community empowerment and education. Therefore, organic farming is marketed based on its health benefits first (through personal consumption of produce), and income generation second (through selling surplus produce).

The programme is also inspired by international movements such as the Growing Power movements in the US and La Via Campesina (International Peasant Movement), where goals extend beyond food production, into growing minds and communities. The Growing Power movement develops community food systems to provide high quality and affordable food for all; while La Via Campesina uses small-scale sustainable agriculture to promote social justice and dignity, and as a means to oppose corporate-driven agriculture and neo-liberalism.

Sustainability from the Triple Bottom Line

Environmental: Organic farming improves soil structure and has less impact on biodiversity. Not using chemical fertilisers and pesticides minimises air and water pollution, and reduces the carbon footprint of food production. Communities growing their own produce also lessen their food miles.

Social: There are many social benefits that accompany the environmental benefits of organic farming. There is positive impact on human health with less exposure to harmful chemicals while producing or eating organic food. People are empowered at the local level to have more control over what they eat, and are less dependent on external sources and cash for food security. KBI aims to alleviate poverty and increase social inclusion, by stimulating the development of micro-enterprises and creating jobs through the farming, processing, packaging and marketing of organic products. Communities are enriched by the increase of social capital through working together, and the increase of environmental consciousness amongst their people.

Economic: In terms of economic sustainability, KBI derives income from trading the organic produce that come from the projects that it has started. However, as the level of production is not very high, it is still supported by other money-making activities within the credit union.

Challenges faced

Some challenges cited include the difficulty in maintaining the projects without on-the-ground supervision, and the difficulty in getting younger people interested in organic farming. Working with local communities with some state funding, their projects are affected by the changing of political parties at the state level who may withdraw their support. At the federal level, government subsidies on chemical fertilisers and pesticides incentivise conventional farming at the expense of organic farming.

on 6 Oct, 21:32

Environmental Consultancy: Wild Asia

This is a project located in #Malaysia.

Related SDGs:

  • #SDG12 (Responsible consumption and production)
  • #SDG15 (Life on land)

Data collection methods: Interview

Updated since: 2014

Background

Wild Asia is a social enterprise that provides environmental consultancy in the areas of standards compliance and improvement of business practices. Through consultancy projects, assessments, and training, Wild Asia provides the technical knowhow to companies to ensure that their practices are environmentally and socially sustainable.

Among the different areas focused on are:

  1. Palm oil: Wild Asia works with small, medium and large companies, in all stages of the supply chain from plantations to retail. Services provided include consultancy or advisory support, social and environmental assessments, risk assessments and assurance programmes, as well as training and capacity building. One of the schemes under the palm oil initiative is the Wild Asia Group Scheme for Small Producers (WAGS), which supports small producers in their farming practices to reach international standards such as RSPO, to increase marketability.
  2. Responsible tourism: Wild Asia has held its annual Responsible Tourism Awards since 2006, recognising tourism operators that try to run their businesses sustainably. Similar to its palm oil initiative, it also provides consultancy and training to businesses that are interested to green their practices.
  3. Biodiversity: On biodiversity, Wild Asia works on spreading awareness and providing consultancy on areas with High Conservation Values (HCV). It was one of the earlier implementers of HCV concepts of the HCV Resource Network, and is endorsed by RSPO to provide HCV assessments.
  4. Sustainable building: Wild Asia provides technical assistance to individuals and project developers to build low-impact buildings, and to retrofit existing buildings. It draws upon its in-house expertise in Earthship Biotecture to create rainwater harvesting and hydroponic systems for its clients.

About the Wild Asia Group Scheme for Small Producers

Philosophy/Values/Traditional knowledge

The tagline of Wild Asia is “promoting change, inspiring people, engaging businesses”. These encapsulate the philosophy that the organisation operates with, that can be seen as a form of humanistic capitalism. It sees the industry as potential change makers. In equipping companies with the solutions and technical capabilities to improve their practices, Wild Asia achieves its financial, social and environmental goals. In providing training and showcasing best practises (in the Responsible Tourism Awards), it provides inspiration to people on existing efforts and tangible possibilities.

Organisational model

Wild Asia is a registered business which operates as a social enterprise.

Sustainability from the Triple Bottom Line

Environmental: Wild Asia provides environmental services as their core business, focusing on improving existing business practices towards sustainability. By advocating for change in environmentally sensitive sectors and providing tangible solutions to companies to change their processes for the better, Wild Asia brings about a multiplier effect with every project run. A tangible example is the reduction of pesticides used, through education on proper practices in agriculture.

Social: In terms of social sustainability, Wild Asia works from two angles: external and internal to the organisation. External to the organisation, the consultancy projects and training programmes aim to improve the well-being of people who work within various parts of the palm oil supply chain, including worker welfare or livelihoods of small-holders. Within the organisation, the working culture supports work life balance of its employees. Many of its employees do not work full time, and are given flexible office hours.

Economic: Wild Asia has expanded from its beginnings in providing online information on sustainable tourism in Borneo to a business of improving business practices in other areas as well. It is economically sustainable, run by an office of 16 employees in Malaysia and five to six associates posted in other parts of the world for different projects.

Challenges faced

  • It is difficult to find and retain good talent, especially from the younger generation.
  • Some companies that they work with are unwilling to pay a premium for quality work, as there are competitors in the market who offer lower prices with less quality. As the company has the image of a non-profit and non-governmental organisation, it affects the rates that clients are willing to pay.
  • There is no legal entity for social enterprises to provide tax breaks or incentives, which makes it harder for the company to survive while competing with regular enterprises which do not have a social mission.
on 22 Sep, 09:39

Educating and Financing the Poor: Credit Union Promotion Club

This is a project located in #Malaysia.

Related SDGs:

  • #SDG1 (No poverty)
  • #SDG2 (Zero hunger)
  • #SDG4 (Quality education)
  • #SDG8 (Decent work and economic growth)

Data collection methods: Interview

Updated since: 2014

Background

The Credit Union Promotion Club (CUPC) was founded in the 1970s and registered under the Society’s Act in 1974. It was initiated by some community leaders who wanted to use a financial entry point to help the poor and needy within their communities. The main function of the CUPC is to establish and support credit unions, which are non-profit co-operatives that provide financial services to their members, by linking savers and borrowers in the same community. Credit unions pool the funds of members to provide capital and do not rely on external funding. The non-profit nature of the co-operatives enables the members to have higher returns on their savings and lower interest rates for their loans, as well as less fees to pay.

The CUPC provides education and training programmes related to co-operative administration, management and financing. It provides a platform for like-minded co-operative organisers (mostly from churches and NGOs) to discuss issues faced by their co-operatives, and to network with registered credit and other co-operatives. The CUPC plays a role to help co-operative leaders to understand globalisation processes and their impacts on local co-operatives and communities. It also acts as an internal monitor and evaluator for co-operatives within the Club.

The CUPC also does pre-credit union organising work, targeting the urban and rural poor, including plantation workers, indigenous communities, squatter communities, factory and industrial manual workers, land settlers, flat dwellers, small business owners, drop out youths, as well as single mothers and widows. Credit unions are important for the poorest 40% of the nation because they lack the access to financial services and social mobility. The CUPC aims for holistic human development of the community, through financial intermediation. The three-pronged approach used is: 1) eradication of poverty, 2) eradication of ignorance, and 3) empowerment of local leadership. Credit union promoters go to poor communities and understand the problems faced, and provide them with support and educate them through non-formal curricula.

Some facts and figures (numbers as of 31 December 2013):

  • Number of credit unions organised –502
  • Total membership – 49,079
  • Children’s membership – 34,000
  • Monthly savings – RM57,148,819.03
  • Special savings (including children’s savings) for 2013 – RM17,740,962.58
  • Profit for 2013 (of 502 credit unions) – RM4,603,278.04
PaulSinnappan

Paul Sinnappan, CUPC’s founder

Philosophy/Values/Traditional knowledge

The concept of credit unions was brought into Malaysia by a Jesuit-run organisation, the Social Economic Life in Asia (SELA), in the year 1966. It was then picked up by social workers and priests from the Catholic Church in Malaysia, which then sent some students abroad to learn about the concepts and implementation of credit unions. Besides its Catholic Christian roots, the CUPC is inspired by several different strands of ideology, including Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Antigonish principles, and the principles of cooperatives as stipulated by the International Cooperative Alliance.

Organisational model

CUPC is a registered society in Malaysia.

Sustainability from the Triple Bottom Line

Environmental Sustainability:

  • The environmental impact of the CUPC’s activities mainly centres on environmental education. Among topics covered are water and energy conservation, the importance of organic farming and traditional natural remedies, as well as problems of plastic pollution and mass deforestation.
  • The CUPC also adapts lessons from “Sittars” in India, explaining that air, water, sky, earth, as well as flora and fauna exist not only in nature but also in human beings.
  • As part of their work with indigenous co-operatives, CUPC spearheads studies of indigenous knowledge on preserving nature and using medicinal plants.
  • It also works on protecting customary land rights and fighting against land grabbing by introducing land mapping.

Social sustainability:

  • The focus of CUPC is poverty alleviation and community empowerment through providing funding, education and opportunities to the poor and marginalised. Through identifying vulnerable communities and propagating the adoption of credit unions, the CUPC’s outreach team builds trust with the underprivileged and provides them with skills and knowledge to lift themselves out of debilitating circumstances.
  • The education programmes provided include practical skills (e.g. accounting and business development), values and mind set shift (e.g. self-reliance), and understanding of structural issues that form their circumstances (e.g. globalisation).
  • An important part of organising credit unions is the community-building that also happens in the process, which is instrumental in creating social capital and lifting communities out of poverty. The financial services provided to the community, such as insurance and small loans, also acts as a social safety net.

Economic sustainability:

  • The operation costs of the CUPC are kept low. Various sources of income include training and consultancy fees, membership fees, interest from credit unions, etc. Fixed costs are low because the offices are owned by the organisation, and many of the credit union leaders work as volunteers or are compensated modestly.
  • The registered credit co-operatives are also now making enough of profit to manage and administer themselves, owning their own buildings, paying their own staff, covering all administrative expenses and conducting in-house training programmes.

Challenges

  • The main challenge faced by the CUPC is the demographic shift of the poor in the country. While it used to focus on the rural poor, urban poverty has become the norm rather than the exception. The main difference between the “old poor” and the “new poor” is the disintegration of communities in urban areas, leaving no social support for the vulnerable. What was done in the past was to engage the whole community to solve social problems and to establish credit unions; however in urban areas of scattered nuclear families, trust-building becomes a much harder process. As urbanisation speeds up, the types of social problems faced also become increasingly complicated, such as alcoholism, gangsterism, prostitution, violence against women and so on. As such, CUPC has had to revise their training programmes to adapt to the changing circumstances.

Featured image: Paul Sinnappan, CUPC’s founder speaking at a conference for social change via businesses for Christians. Picture Credit: ChristianityMalaysia.com

on 20 Sep, 21:01

Community Recycling: Taiwan Buddhist Tzu-Chi Foundation Malaysia

This is a project located in #Malaysia.

Related SDGs:

  • #SDG12 (Responsible consumption and production)
  • #SDG11 (Sustainable cities and communities)

Data collection methods: Field visit, interview

Updated since: 2014

Background: 

Taiwan Buddhist Tzu-Chi Foundation Malaysia (here forth Tzu-Chi) is a Buddhist association that originated from Taiwan in 1966, and has been registered in Malaysia as a foundation since 1996. Since 1990, the founder Master Cheng Yen enlisted Environmental Protection as one of the organisation’s “8 Charitable Footprints”. Her followers all over the world are urged to recycle as part of their service in exercising their faith. There are four regional headquarters in Malaysia: the Central (Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Pahang), the South (Negeri Sembilan, Malacca and Johor), the North (Penang, Perlis, Perak, Kedah, Terengganu and Kelantan), and East Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak). Each of the headquarters report directly to the main headquarters in Taiwan.

Recycling is considered to be a meaningful activity to reach out to the public, with a low barrier of entry and visible results. Tzu-Chi regards their recruitment of recycling volunteers as “recruitment of Bodhisattvas”, i.e. enlightened and compassionate beings who serve others selflessly as the embodiment of Buddha’s spirit. Through recycling at a personal level, many volunteers are inspired to spread the message to their friends and family, or to expand to implementing recycling systems at the workplace.

In terms of operations, Tzu-Chi volunteers run recycling points and recycling stations. Recycling points are temporary locations that the members congregate at specific times to collect recyclables. Recycling stations provide a permanent location for collecting, sorting and storing recyclables. The recycling points and stations are positioned in high density residential areas. Volunteers organise to meet at varied times that enable different types of participants to come, e.g. weekday mornings for housewives and retired people, weekday evenings for office people to come after work, and weekends for families.

Tzu-Chi has volunteers to sort through unwanted clothes (which they get in high volume) and repair broken electrical appliances. For goods that are still in good quality, they are sold through Tzu-Chi second hand centres at a low price. These centres are frequented by migrant workers, who buy the products for personal use or for re-selling at the market. Other recyclables (such as paper and plastic) are sorted to increase their value, and sold in bulk to interested buyers. The money earned is channelled into Tzu-Chi’s operations or charity purposes.

See the video by Youth On Unity to have a clearer idea on Tzu-Chi’s recycling:

Philosophy/Values/Traditional knowledge

The philosophy behind Tzu-Chi’s recycling can be encapsulated in three steps: to purify one’s heart and soul, to ensure peace and harmony in society, and to free the world from disasters and calamities. Through the process of recycling, the volunteer cleanses her soul from negativity and greed for material possessions. She uses recycling as a tool for spiritual betterment, and the positive difference is then amplified at the societal level and then the global level. As the individual benefits from the act, she does it willingly and without compensation.

Organisational model

Tzu-Chi has been registered in Malaysia as a foundation. It has 13,500 volunteers actively engaged in recycling. There are 1,000 recycling stations and recycling points across the country.

Triple Bottomline

Social sustainability:

  • While collecting and sorting through waste, volunteers experience gratification in turning trash to resource and preserving the environment, and reap the meditative effect of doing repetitive and manual work. The act of recycling has been helpful to people suffering from depression or general loneliness and isolation.
  • People from all walks of life come together to serve as “the earth’s gardeners”, with recycling as the tool to rekindle the community spirit and solidarity with other living beings, as well as the sense of appreciation towards life in general.
  • The recycling stations also double as centres for education (for recycling and for Buddhist teachings) and community activities. Tzu-Chi does not discriminate among race or religion, and has volunteers of different faiths.

Environmental sustainability:

  • From the recycling programme, volunteers learn about waste and product cycles experientially, and view “rubbish” as “resource” with a zero waste mentality. Through sorting through household waste of others, their own consumption patterns change.
  • Tzu-Chi also does considerable environmental education, reaching out to its thousands of volunteers through newsletters and face-to-face activities. Among the environmental acts advocated are vegetarianism, as well as refraining from burning joss paper during the Seventh Lunar Month to pray to the dead (which is common in Chinese customs) that releases considerable carbon emissions.

Economic sustainability

  • There are four funds that are administered within Tzu-Chi – the Charity Fund (for low income families, disaster relief and home visit programmes), Development Fund (for supporting the organisation to promote its 4 missions), International Fund (for international disaster relief) and Building Fund (for construction of infrastructure such as the Jing Si Hall). Tzu-Chi collects donations from its members and volunteers, and allows them to choose the Fund that they wish to contribute to. The Charity Fund and International Fund are well-funded, therefore income from the recycling programme goes to the Building Fund or the Development Fund, in maintaining the Tzu-Chi’s operations.

Challenges

  • Committed volunteers are difficult to find.
  • Some of the waste are theoretically recyclable but are trashed because there is no local buyer in Malaysia.
  • While working on the ground, Tzu-Chi sometimes faces problems with bureaucracy, on applying for permits for their recycling points and recycling stations. On using recycling stations that are provided by the municipality councils, the stations vary widely in facilities provided, from “proper” recycling stations that include toilets, to just a small patch of vacant land.

Feature image credit goes to Leo Club of SMK Jinjang

 

 

on 18 Sep, 17:55

Barry’s Place – Ecolodge on Ataúro Island

This is a project located in #TimorLeste.

Related SDGs:

  • #SDG1 (No poverty)
  • #SDG2 (Zero hunger)
  • #SDG5 (Gender equality)
  • #SDG6 (Clean water and sanitation)
  • #SDG8 (Decent work and economic growth)
  • #SDG15 (Life on land)

Data collection methods: Field visit, interview

Updated since: August 2016

Case study

Background:

Barry’s Place is an ecolodge located on Ataúro Island, Timor Leste. The hotel is a family business, run by Barry and Lina Hinton. This permaculture-based social enterprise has been running for 12 years, and is an important connection hub for all the other social enterprises and NGO-run projects on the island.

Ataúro Island is located 35km away from Dili, the capital of Timor Leste, and is populated by approximately 10,000 inhabitants. Unemployment among the island dwellers is high, with the main work being subsistence farming and fishing. However, of recent years, there is a thriving SSE community on the island, including:

  • Boneca de Ataúro, a women’s co-op which employs about 60 women, manufacturing and selling embroidered dolls, bags and educational toys
  • Biajoia de Ataúro, a hearing-impaired co-op which makes and sells jewelry from local materials
  • Empreza Di’ak, an NGO which works on business development in areas such as agriculture, poultry-farming, fishing, handicrafts, and tourism for the poor, particularly youth and vulnerable women
  • Blue Ventures Conservation, a conservation ecotourism social enterprise, providing volunteer expeditions to generate income for local communities

Barry’s Place is an economic hub on Ataúro. Not only does it only hire local people, it also provides a marketing channel for the other SSE organisations, by giving their information in its website, its guest information book, as well as in the form of travel advice to guests at the reception. As Ataúro does not have many hotels, many tourists come through Barry’s Place when they visit the island. Besides that, Barry’s Place is the connection link between the locals and foreigners who want to implement community projects, in clarifying the needs of the locals and the expectations of the donors.

Philosophy/Values/Traditional knowledge

The owners of Barry’s Place have a strong commitment to ethical tourism and community development. They aim to provide assistance to the community in a way that builds on the richness and strengths of the community’s way of life, without creating a mentality of welfare or aid dependency. The permaculture philosophy adopted also forms a worldview of working with nature, rather than against nature.

Organisational model

Barry’s Place is a business owned by Barry Hinton and his family, and employs about 28 staff. On the website of Barry’s Place, it is stated that the ecolodge is a social enterprise, defined as “a revenue generating business with primary social objectives (human and environmental well-being) whose surpluses are reinvested for that purpose in the business or in the community, rather than being driven by the need to deliver profit to external shareholders and owners”.

Triple Bottomline

Social sustainability:

  • Hiring local people from the island: Out of all the 28 employees of the establishment, all are local; Barry’s Place also provides them work year round, even when it is low season and there is no need for workers.
  • Supporting community projects: A long list of community projects is listed in the website of Barry’s Place: the projects include linking foreign aid to local initiatives, building infrastructure, financial donations for educational and cultural activities, awareness campaigns on issues such as water and permaculture.
  • Supporting women’s activities: The co-owner of Barry’s Place, Lina Hinton, participates actively in the “Feto Atauro” (women of Atauro) initiative which aims to build the capacity and potential of local Atauro women through forming Village (Suco) networks to disseminate information, facilitate training, and liaise with guest speakers and dignitaries. Barry’s Place also organises regular Zumba dance activities to promote women’s health.

Environmental sustainability:

  • Eco-friendly design of hotel: The environmental sustainability of Barry’s Place lies mainly in the design of the ecolodge. Compost toilets and solar panels are installed; the chalets are also built with eco-friendly principles that ensure that they are comfortable to stay in without consuming a lot of energy. Barry’s Place also experiments with permacultural projects such as aquaculture rearing ducks and fish, as well as growing organic vegetables.
  • Raising environmental awareness through leading by example: The eco-friendly building designs such as the compost toilets have been emulated by the villagers on the island.

Economic sustainability:

  • Financially sustainable: Barry’s Place is financially sustainable, with good reviews from tourists who have stayed in their ecolodge. It also caters food for day-trippers and volunteer expeditions that come through the island.
  • The ecolodge has also become an epicentre of economic activity, generating jobs for tuk-tuk drivers, housekeepers, builders, tour guides, fishermen, farmers, kiosk owners, bakers, etc. on the island. Visitors to the lodge also help support the local shops and co-operatives on the island.

Challenges

The challenges as highlighted during an interview with Barry Hinton, the owner of Barry’s Place, are as follows:

  • Lack of general infrastructure: On the island, there is still a lack of general infrastructure. Waste management is done through bury and burn, and there is a lack of fresh water. Electricity by the grid is available only at certain hours.
  • Low capacity in local workers: It is mentioned that the capacity of the workers is a problem as most of the locals have a lower level of education as well as no background in hospitality services. The decision to hire local also means that training has to be done from ground up.
  • Lack of support by the government: The focus of the government in development is on mega projects, and this does not translate into policy directions that are beneficial for smaller hotels like Barry’s Place. Ataúro is part of the Special Zone of Social Market Economy (ZEESM) of Oecussi Ambeno and Atauro, which translates to a focus on high end transportation options like helipads and five-star hotels. The high level of red tape involved in doing business and paying taxes is also prohibitive to small businesses.
  • Politicking among locals: The tight-knit nature of the Timorese society also translates to jealousy among families and businesses. Although this is the case, the fact that Barry’s family is not entirely local (Barry is Australian and his Timorese wife is from mainland Timor) sometimes work to their favour, as decisions can be made independently without having to succumb to nepotism.

 

on 7 Sep, 13:50

KIKA Community Agro-Biodiversity Resource and Learning Centre

This is a project located in #TimorLeste.

Related SDGs:

  • #SDG1 (No poverty)
  • #SDG2 (Zero hunger)
  • #SDG3 (Good health and well being)
  • #SDG5 (Gender equality)
  • #SDG8 (Decent work and economic growth)
  • #SDG13 (Climate action)
  • #SDG15 (Life on land)

Location: Manatuto, Timor Leste

Data collection methods: Field visit, interview

Updated since: August 2016

Background:

The Centre is a collaborative effort between RAEBIA and a farmers’ co-operative, Ilimanuk. It has been running since 2012. The Centre serves 87 resettled indigenous families to increase their capacity in converting their livelihood from hunting-gathering and collecting fire wood to sustainable agriculture.

The approaches taken by the Centre include reforestation, introducing crop varieties, soil conservation, composting, creating terraces, restoring traditional village regulation of tara bandu (which protects everything that gives life, and is elaborated below). The 2.3 hectares of land that it is on was originally barren, able only to support the growth of eucalyptus trees and grass. This was compounded by the fact that the indigenous people were gathering firewood in an unsustainable way.

Besides their grassroots movement, RAEBIA also works on advocacy in the region and in Portuguese-speaking countries against the big agro companies that push for industry farming practices. They work closely with the government to implement projects from aid funding, and exert influence in what sorts of projects to accept. RAEBIA insists on agroecology and lobbies against farming practices that are unsustainable, including projects with hybrid seeds and chemical input.

Philosophy/Values/Traditional knowledge:

RAEBIA has facilitated more than 10 villages in performing participatory land use planning (PLUP). They help villagers to understand what the land use plan is, and the future plans as well. This information is then put into the village regulations. The tara bandu ceremony then officiates the village regulations. During the inauguration of the village regulations, all power players are invited – including religious and traditional spiritual leaders, as well as government officials, to sign the village regulations so that it would be respected by all. This process enables the community to understand the importance of resources and resource management. The PLUP process takes about 3-4 months, to go to the household level to collect information on land use, and to solicit participation in land use management. Tara bandu is a Timorese tradition, applicable to not only the indigenous people but all Timorese people.

Organisational model:

RAEBIA serves as a facilitator and the farmers are key actors. RAEBIA itself is a registered society, with a board including the founder, the patron, the management, and two farmers. Annually it has a gathering of farmers to provide feedback and comments in what help they would like to get.

Triple Bottomline:

Social sustainability:

  • Food security: the percentage of food that the villagers produce and consume (as opposed to food that they buy) has increased from 20% to 80% within the four years of operation of the Centre.
  • The focus is on family farming, not commercial farming, focusing on self-reliance and empowerment as RAEBIA does not want the farmers to be mere workers.
  • Women is a key thematic area, and RAEBIA makes sure that women’s involvement is there in farming, and food processing.
  • The work of RAEBIA is connected to health, because food and nourishment is intimately connected to health. In terms of health, the co-operative also sets aside money to help its members in health problems.
  • Healthy, strong and united communities are equipped with the knowledge and resilience to combat the effects of a harsh environment and the impacts of climate change.

Environmental sustainability:

  • The techniques taught by RAEBIA follow principles of agroecology (i.e. organic, no GMOs, no chemical pesticides).
  • RAEBIA serves as a seed bank, and a centre for experimentation for cultivation of crops.
  • Through converting land use to sustainable agriculture from hunting and gathering, as well as chopping down of trees for firewood, the environment is conserved.
  • RAEBIA promotes control grazing to minimise livestock impact on the environment.

Economic sustainability:

  • The farmers grow crops, and established the farmers’ co-operative Ilimanuk to process their produce, in order to diversify the economy.
  • Ilimanuk also has their own credit union, and livelihood opportunities for women, such as using sewing machines provided for tailoring, and selling fried fish.

Challenges

  • Land ownership is a problem in Timor Leste because of its colonial history with the Portuguese and Indonesians leading to a lot of confusion with land titles. NGOs are now fighting for land reform. Even in the case where there are no land titles, the community recognises the land ownership of certain individuals out of inheritances. The 2.3 hectares used by the Center belongs to the King, and RAEBIA has had to negotiate for the usage of the land.
  • Poor farming practices are challenging. Traditional free grazing is still in practice and is not sustainable. Slash and burn is also a problem, although this is not a traditional practice. Farmers are not so confident in their local knowledge of managing the land which does not involve slash and burn.
  • Other environmental challenges include water scarcity and deforestation.
  • There is also a “dependency mentality” of community members.
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