Mama Bambu Nurture Love for Bamboo while Preserving Heritage

Mama Bambu Nurture Love for Bamboo while Preserving Heritage

At the end of 2020 the Environmental Bamboo Foundation implemented a bamboo nursery program that places women at the center. We started with something very simple: we wanted to share our experiences about how to grow bamboo. At that time, women who wanted to learn about bamboo or grow bamboo seedlings became our first partners. What started as simple turned out to be a leap of thought and hope among the women, later known as Mama Bambu (Bamboo Mamas).

The Meaning of Land and Bamboo for Ngada Women (an introduction)

Ngada culture adheres to a matrilineal system. In a matrilineal society, the successors of the mother’s line are seen as very important. As a result, family relationships are much closer and more pervasive among residents who are descended from the maternal line.

Traditionally, Ngada women are entrusted with the right to control Ngia Ngora (customary land) and Napu Bheto (bamboo forest). So caring for the bamboo clumps also means caring for ancestral heritage, preserving customs, and conserving ecology for all generations.

When the Ngada woman defends her bamboo forest, she is not only doing it for herself. For Ngada women, taking care of bamboo means protecting her community and future generations from destruction.

The Mama Bambu program not only provides space for women to be physically present in every decision-making regarding bamboo conservation and utilization in Ngada, but more than that Mama Bambu presents the views and values ​​of sustainable use of bamboo.

Celebrating International Women’s Day in Bangka Wela

With slightly trembling hands, Maria Danus held a piece of paper containing a welcoming speech that she had prepared together with some of the caretakers of a bamboo farmer group for the commemoration of international women’s day. Being the chairman of the committee was Maria Danus’ first experience and delivering a speech in front of village guests was something that had never crossed her mind. “I was very nervous when I read the speech. But I am proud to be able to carry out my duties for International Women’s Day with the other women,” said Maria Danus.

The first International Women’s Day commemoration was held in Bangka Wela Village following the success of the Balang Leca Bamboo Farmer Group in producing 8,000 bamboo seedlings in no more than 3 months. In this activity, the Belang Leca bamboo farmer group invited the village community, representatives of BKSDH (Forest Resource Conservation Center) and FMU (Forest Management Unit), as well as farmer groups from neighboring villages to plant bamboo seeds around a spring in Bangka Wela village.

“We are very happy to commemorate Women’s Day and proud of ourselves for doing many things and getting a lot of knowledge,” said Liana Wati Hayati, secretary of the Balang Leca Bamboo Farmer Group. The whole series of events to commemorate international women’s day was organized by the Belang Leca Group. “We divide the tasks, there are those who take care of food, cleanliness, lead the prayers, sing the PKK (women’s organization) song, and prepare bamboo seeds to be planted,” added Liana.

The Belang Leca Bamboo Farmer Group is a partner of the Environmental Bamboo Foundation in a family-based bamboo nursery program in Bangka Wela Village, Ngada Regency, East Nusa Tenggara. Because the nursery activities are family-based, in carrying out various activities, family members work together and share roles.

“Finding bamboo seeds is difficult and takes a long time. That’s why we share roles. The fathers went to the bamboo forest to collect bamboo branches, the children filled the soil into polybags, and the women chose seedlings, planted them in polybags, and kept them in the nursery,” explained Antonia Mbue, head of the Balang Leca group.

By sharing roles, nursery work becomes lighter and faster to complete. “At first, we thought we could only produce 2,000 bamboo seedlings because the time was short,” said Antonia. “However, after successfully producing 2,000 seedlings within a month, we became more confident and then committed to producing 6,000 seedlings in the following month,” continued Antonia.

In less than three months, the Belang Leca bamboo farmer group succeeded in producing 8,000 seedlings. These seeds will later be planted on critical lands in Ngada Regency, East Nusa Tenggara once they are strong enough.

Knowledge Sharing Among Mama Bambu

Every month the Bamboo Mamas who are members of the Belang Leca bamboo farmer group hold an arisan (community savings gathering). The purpose of the arisan is to save and share the good practices of each group member.

The arisan event is held in turns, from one Bamboo Mama’s house to another. Every Mama will share good practices on how to care for and produce good seeds. Each group member may ask questions and share experiences. For example, the soil in polybags should not be too dense or the seedlings should not be planted too deep.

The Mama Bambu program not only focuses on economics and conservation but also builds the confidence of its members. “The Mama Bambu Arisan is an initiative of the Balang Leca Bamboo Farmer Group which indirectly trains their ability to speak in public, think critically and express opinions in group discussions”, explained Septiani Maro, Coordinator of Manggarai Regency.

Bamboo Money Strengthening the Role of Bangka Wela Women

This family-based nursery program in Bangka Wela also applies an ecological fiscal transfer in which each member of a bamboo farmer group receives an aid of 2,500 rupiah for each successful seedling. Within three months of implementing the family-based nursery program, the Balang Leca bamboo farmer group received a total of 15 million rupiah. The money received is used for various needs of Mama Bambu families, most of which is for the education of their children.

Antonia Mbue admitted that the money she received was used to finance her child who is studying Pharmacy in Malang, East Java. “I am very proud of the results of our hard work in this program because our economic condition is now better. We can send our children to school with bamboo money. If we didn’t have this activity, we might have become workers in Kalimantan,” said Antonia.

When women become the center, and are not only seen as beneficiaries of a program such as this family-based nursery, a Mama Bambu can play a role in deciding the use of money for family members. Moreover, in the community, the success of a family-based bamboo nursery has made Bangka Wela village proud and has ensured the Bamboo Mamas’ roles will be taken into account during decision-making in the village.

Introduction text by Yuvensius Stephen Nonga

Integrating Gender Issues in Agrarian Reform and Social Forestry

Integrating Gender Issues in Agrarian Reform and Social Forestry

A webinar was held on 13 April 2022 to discuss strategies for integrating gender issues into agrarian reform and social forestry programs and policies.

This webinar aimed to identify problems and challenges in the implementation of agrarian reform and social forestry, obtain information and lessons learned from good practices in integrating GESI strategies in the implementation of agrarian reform and social forestry, and formulate strategies for accelerating the implementation of gender-responsive agrarian and social forestry reforms.

Yayasan Bambu Lestari took part in this webinar and shared good practice and strategies for integrating gender issues into its activities in East Nusa Tenggara.

A total of 48.8 million Indonesians live in forest areas. 10.2 million of them live below the poverty line and depend on forest resources for their lives. Agrarian conflicts and land disputes are issues that are often experienced by people living in or around forest areas.

There are at least two triggers for the agrarian conflict: the lack of precise laws and policies governing agrarian issues, both related to views on land, land status and ownership, land rights, as well as methods for obtaining land rights; and inaction and injustice in the process of resolving land disputes, which ultimately lead to conflict.

The government seeks to narrow the inequality of land tenure and ownership through the agrarian reform program, a national priority program to develop Indonesia from the margins and improve the quality of life of the people. There are three forms of agrarian reform:  asset legalization, land redistribution, and social forestry.

Agrarian reform is also the answer to strengthening the space for land management by women. Their involvement and role in the form of a management space will greatly help improve the community’s economy.

Equal participation is a form of gender justice in the development process, including through social forestry by taking into account the experiences, needs, and barriers experienced by men and women. Therefore, gender integration in agrarian reform and social forestry should be able to ensure equal participation and rights between women and other community members by considering the important role of women in realizing sustainable forest management.

“This requires working together and synergizing efforts to create a women-friendly and child-friendly Indonesia. We ask for your support on how to accelerate the integration of gender issues into the context of agrarian reform and social forestry,” said the Deputy for Gender Equality at the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection (PPPA), Lenny N. Rosalin, S.E., M.Sc., M.Fin.

Gender mainstreaming has been reflected in the general policies and technical operational policies of social forestry within the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, so that a greater role for women in social forestry is made possible in the regulations.

“Until now, about 1 million households have access to social forestry and 141,000, or 13% of them, are women. We hope that in the future the number can increase to 30 to 40 percent.” said the Director-General of Social Forestry and Environmental Partnerships of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Dr. Ir. Bambang Supriyanto.

Suggested steps to achieve gender equality and social inclusion in agrarian reform and social forestry policies and programs include:
1. Critically examining the substance of a series of policies and programs and their implementation to find out the position in the GESI mainstreaming stage
2. The position in that stage of empowering women, vulnerable groups and marginal people
3. Overcoming various sources of barriers to the participation of women, vulnerable and marginalized groups so that empowering participation can be realized
4. Create the basis for building more equal power relations
5. Encourage equal decision-making (control) processes.

Gender Equality and Social Forestry: our experience with Mama Bambu in NTT

At the end of 2020 the Environmental Bamboo Foundation implemented a bamboo nursery program that places women at the center. These women pioneers are known as Mama Bambu ( Bamboo Mamas).

We started with something very simple: bamboo. At first, we wanted to share our experiences about how to grow bamboo. At that time, women who wanted to learn about bamboo or grow bamboo seedlings became our first partners.

What started as simple turned out to be a leap of thought among Mama Bambu: if we plant bamboo, we take care of the environment, and if we plant bamboo, we will have a source of bamboo not only for our daily needs but it can be legacy for our next generation.

In 2021, 388 Mama Bambu managed to produce 2.5 million bamboo seedlings. This number of seedlings can be planted on an area of ​​72,000 hectares for both ecological purposes (restoration of critical land, conservation of water resources, prevention of landslides, carbon sequestration) and economic purposes (material resources for industry/bamboo crafts).

The success of this nursery program shows that women are able to take an active role at the forefront of environmental conservation efforts as well as participate in the adaptation and mitigation of climate change. Women must also be given a main role in the Social Forestry schemes.

The Mama Bambu experienced increased knowledge about environmental conservation, gained new skills in making bamboo seedlings and natural fiber polybags, and are able to use digital media to find and exchange information. We distributed smartphones and provided training on how to use them.

There was an increase in economic capacity and financial control among Mama Bambu, all of whom received an incentive of Rp.2500/seedling which is a source of additional income for families experiencing economic difficulties due to the COVID-19 Pandemic and Typhoon Seroja. We facilitated the creation of individual bank accounts for each Mama Bambu so that they have direct access and control over the incentives they receive.

Increased knowledge and new sources of income gave each Mama Bambu the confidence to be actively involved in decision-making processes at the family and village levels. In various dialogues with government officials, including the District Head (Bupati) and Governor, each Mama Bambu was able to clearly describe what they had achieved.