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Maintaining Food Security Through Indigenous Wisdom

JAKARTA – KEMITRAAN, together with 10 local CSOs through the Estungkara program since 2022, has been assisting indigenous communities in 7 provinces in Indonesia, with food issues being a primary focus to support food independence and security. In the process, facilitators are needed who not only master technical aspects but also the substance of facilitating activities in various community discussion forums to achieve optimal results.

For this reason, KEMITRAAN, together with the Terawang Indonesia Institute, held training on the use of an instrument called Sisi Bulat for facilitators from 10 local CSOs on May 15-16, 2024, in Jakarta. The Sisi Bulat method tested in this training is the result of a participatory qualitative study in Southwest Sumba from 2018 to 2020, aimed at mitigating the threat of annual hunger and finding the concept of food sovereignty.

“In community assistance, erratic cultural transitions require us to prepare communities to be ready for shocks and not become complacent. The community needs to be involved as the determinant of the root of their own problems,” explained Prof. Laksono from Terawang UGM in his presentation.

Sisi Bulat stands for Cyclic Hunger Month Alert. This method was developed to address the problem of hunger in Southwest Sumba. Famine usually occurs at the beginning of the rainy season around January, when food reserves are depleted for planting capital, coinciding with traditional activities such as Pasola, Nyale, marriages, deaths, and so on.

To address this, famine mitigation is carried out by harmonizing the natural cycles, distribution, and consumption of farm products with the patterns of natural, social, economic, and cultural cycles that require appropriate social contracts. This is experienced by the indigenous community of Rendu Butowe, Nagakeo, East Nusa Tenggara Province.

“In our assisted village, every August, the community is very busy with various traditional events, ranging from adult circumcisions, weddings, and not to mention if there is a grief event, so food will run out quickly in this season,” said Sisilia Wunu, Assistant to the Rendu Butowe Indigenous Community.

Sisilia’s experience shows that customs also have an influence on community food systems. Sisi Bulat is designed to enable indigenous people to identify and understand changes in their communities and find solutions as mitigation measures.

Training participants were invited to determine their own issues to be discussed using the Sisi Bulat tool, related to issues of violence against women, the economy, and disability, divided into 4 groups. In each group, participants were invited to play 3 games: quartet cards, snakes and ladders, and the seasonal calendar. After that, the activity continued by filling out an independent action plan and policy brief as advocacy material, according to the results of the discussion during the game.

At each stage of the game, participants can actively discuss topics that arise and share experiences when assisting in their respective communities. In this case, Sisi Bulat helped participants identify the problems occurring. For example, in group 2, participants discussed economic issues, especially women in the Chinese Benteng Community who lack money to meet their needs, and this condition differs from the indigenous people in Southwest Sumba.

After looking at the seasonal calendar, it was found that there is a correlation between traditions such as Chinese New Year, Cap Go Meh, and the need to spend money for community members. Additionally, household financial management is often the burden of women, but sometimes they do not have full rights in making decisions. Therefore, the existence of cooperatives among Chinese Benteng women is considered the right solution to overcome this. The seasonal calendar also sees the need to develop other economic potentials to increase income, especially during the months of traditions and children’s schooling.

“Sisi Bulat is very interesting, especially for us as community facilitators. Being physically present in the community is not enough, so this tool can help in exploring problems and mapping solutions from the community’s perspective,” said Desmond, a facilitator of the To Kulawi indigenous community, Sigi Regency.