Nurul Fitri Ramadhani, Jakarta – The Villages, Disadvantaged Regions and Transmigration Ministry has enlisted the help of civil society organizations (CSO) to address problems at the village level.
"CSOs will have direct involvement with the community. They will collaborate with us to tackle problems within the villages. We have to create innovations based not only what the government wants but what the community wants," the Villages, Disadvantaged Regions and Transmigration Minister, Marwan Jafar, said in a meeting with CSOs and experts on Wednesday.
Several CSOs attended the meeting including representatives from the Alliance of Indigenous People (AMAN), the Agrarian Reform Consortium (KPA), the Indonesian Farmers Union (SPI), human rights watchdog Setara Institute and the advocacy and social policy research institute Prakarsa.
Government policies with regard to villages, Marwan said, do not always match with what villagers really need.
Marwan said that such a discrepancy had occurred in the agrarian sector where problems such as land grabbing continued between villagers and companies because the government did not have a national database on land conflicts.
For data on poverty and ecological crisis at the village level, the government continues to rely on the data supplied by the Central Statistics Agency (BPS), National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas) and the Social Affairs Ministry, all of whom have produced different sets of data.
Marwan believes that the involvement of CSO and experts could help address the problem. "With such a working group, we can share information and explore the best recommendations with regard to future steps. Also, civil society groups could conduct better research on the root cause of agrarian conflicts," Marwan said.
The initiative to involve CSOs in addressing problems at the village level is a follow up to President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's plan to accelerate development in the country's 73,000 villages, several of which are located in border areas, Marwan said.
The government expects to set up 2,000 developed and independent villages in the next five years and has doubled the allocation of village funds to around Rp 47 trillion (US$3.4 billion) this year to achieve the target.
This year, the village funds are reportedly to be spent entirely on infrastructure projects in the villages; to repair damaged roads, construct irrigation networks and for clean water procurement.
Marwan said the government would hire local villagers as workers and use construction materials, such as cement, sand and bricks, derived from the villages themselves.
"I know that there must be many complaints from CSOs and even from the villagers about the use of the funds, demanding that the funds go toward improving the quality of education and the health sector, but it's the President's decision," Marwan said.
The executive director of the independent watchdog on state and local budgets Pattiro, Sad Dian Utomo, said that the government needed to make sure that the infrastructure projects and investments are not harmful to the local environment.
"Make sure that the projects contribute to the improvement of the villagers lives," Sad said.