HIGHLIGHTS

  • He organized Yayasan Dian Desa, Light of the Village Foundation, with himself as director. They began seriously to apply their engineering skills, but with a difference: they would work only where rural people showed initiative and cooperation.
  • For a growing number of young Indonesians impatient for change, he offers evidence that outside of government there are opportunities awaiting their creative efforts for bettering rural living.
  • The RMAF board of trustees recognizes his stimulating Javanese villagers to genuine self-reliance with simple, readily applicable appropriate technology.

 CITATION

Rural development throughout Asia and elsewhere generally comes in two models: projects are designed and directed from outside and sometimes constructed with local labor, or villagers themselves take the initiative to transform their communities. Cases of the latter are rare. To wait for aid is more tempting, especially since such assistance usually does not require a contribution of goods or labor, or disturb the village leadership structure.

Thus the modernization of rural Southeast and South Asia founders while hundreds of millions wait for the modernizing process to be done for them. Yet no government or foreign or domestic donor alone can construct the immense water conservancy works required to double rice production in the next 15 years. Roads can be built, but without local participation in maintenance, monsoon rains soon make them impassable. Repeated national campaigns for sanitation, health and increased production can succeed only if farm families themselves want and will labor for improvements, and their children are educated to value work.

ANTON SOEDJARWO first went to the countryside around Yogyakarta in Central Java in 1968 when he and three fellow engineering students at Gajah Mada University, not wanting to go home and be idle during the semester break, were challenged by their Swiss Jesuit hostel master to help the farmers. Realizing the neglected and impoverished lot of villagers, they eventually organized Yayasan Dian Desa, Light of the Village Foundation, with SOEDJARWO as director. They began seriously to apply their engineering skills, but with a difference: they would work only where rural people showed initiative and cooperation.

Water was the first community need for which they devised solutions. With a dry season frequently lasting five months, farmers or their wives were squeezing water from banana stalks, or walking two to ten kilometers daily for water, taken often from stagnant ponds. Simple gravity flow systems made with bamboo pipes were tried successfully. These were soon augmented with hydraulic rams for lifting water from lower levels. Building from 4 up to 25 cubic meter ferro- or bamboo-cement catchment tanks followed in 1977; water used sparingly from these cisterns could supply much of a household’s or several households’ needs until the next rain. With these various innovations some 250,000 villagers now have a year-round water supply.

Fuel-conserving cooking stoves were another practical introduction. As population pressure resulted in the denudation of mountainsides, wood for cooking had become scarce and only a few families could afford kerosene. Built of clay, sand, rock and dung, these modifications of the Lorena Stove, originally designed in Switzerland, require only one-half of the wood formerly used for household cooking.

As Dian Desa over the past decade became an “institutional entrepreneur,” with maturing leadership, SOEDJARWO determined to practice what he preached and instituted income-generating projects to reduce reliance on outside aid, both by villagers and Dian Desa itself. A special highland clove provided to villagers yields of buds worth US$10 per kilogram. Poultry farming on a small scale has been made economic with a feed composed partly of snails and earthworms, and by a method for preserving fresh eggs for six months. Eels are raised commercially and coffee processed and marketed. The winged bean, grown by the farmers, is manufactured into bean cakes and catsup by the foundation’s factory.

The crux of Dian Desa’s success is that it encourages a radical change from the mendicant mentality that governments and others unknowingly foster. It tells villagers bluntly: “If you do not want to help yourselves and prefer to starve, that is your choice. We are not Santa Claus. All we offer is to show you how to work for what you need.”

SOEDJARWO has turned down attractive job opportunities in Jakarta, but took time to start a course on village-relevant engineering at Gajah Mada University. Now 35, he has become an example. For a growing number of young Indonesians impatient for change, he offers evidence that outside of government there are opportunities awaiting their creative efforts for bettering rural living.

In electing ANTON SOEDJARWO to receive the 1983 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership, the Board of Trustees recognizes his stimulating Javanese villagers to genuine self-reliance with simple, readily applicable appropriate technology.

 RESPONSE

First of all I would like to express my gratitude to the Magsaysay Foundation for giving me the honor of receiving the Ramon Magsaysay Award. I was quite surprised when I first learned from my staff about the Award; being honest, this was completely beyond my dream. However I believe that this happened because of the good cooperation, understanding and support of the government, of colleagues in our own and other nongovernmental organizations, and of all the friends who have been very faithful and supportive of Dian Desa’s work. On this occasion I would like to thank them.

I would also like to express my wish that individuals will realize that helping others, however small their efforts may be, is worth far more than doing nothing; they can make a difference.

As we all know, there are millions of people who still subsist below the minimum standard of living?for a myriad of multifaceted reasons. There being many reasons for poverty, a wide array of possible activities exists for overcoming this condition. There is a real need of activators who can play the role of initiators in addressing this problem. It is surely not the responsibility of the government alone, but the responsibility of the people?or in other words, our responsibility?to help change society.

Unfortunately, within society there is usually a class system that may lead to a condition or situation where people work only for recognition or status. And such a situation, in my opinion, is quite dangerous for development. In my experience more activators will bring better performance and hasten development faster than one prima donna with many titles or high status, or than government alone. I think this is the situation in the rural development process; I believe President Magsaysay foresaw this years ago.

In closing I once again would like to thank the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation, the Indonesian Government and all the friends who have given their support to Dian Desa. I believe this honor will be a challenge to us to fulfill and transmit the desire of the former President of the Philippines, His Excellency Ramon Magsaysay.

 BIOGRAPHY

The first of seven children (four boys and three girls) of Sutanto, a Chinese-Indonesian batik merchant, and his wife Suhartini, ANTON SOEDJARWO was born October 20, 1948 in Pekalongan, on the north coast of Central Java, Indonesia. Although his childhood name was HIAN, he received the Christian name BARTHOLOMEUS when he was baptized around the age of eight. At his confirmation at 10 he was given the additional name ANTONIUS, shortened by his friends to ANTON, the name he finds easiest to use. When it became the custom to take a surname, he, with the approval of his brothers and sisters, adopted SOEDJARWO as the family name.

Since the family was Roman Catholic, ANTON attended church schools: Pius Primary and Middle schools (1954-1962) in Pekalongan, and Loyola High School Seminary in Semarang from which he graduated in 1965. During semester breaks his father took him hiking in remote areas of the country. At the time he would have preferred to spend his time “in Jakarta or at a recreation area,” but SOEDJARWO recognizes today that his feeling for rural life began with the excursions he made as a youngster. His father also took him to museums which helped him understand his people’s past.

Because of the turmoil resulting from the September 1965 attempted communist coup in Indonesia, the schools were closed for the academic year. Therefore it was 1966 when SOEDJARWO enrolled at Gajah Mada University in Yogyakarta to prepare himself for a career in civil engineering. He completed the usual three year course for a bachelor’s degree in only two and a half years, and after 1967 earned his own money by playing the guitar in a local club and by writing and mimeographing study-pamphlets. Since engineering textbooks at the university were largely in English, a language most students found difficult to understand, SOEDJARWO wrote booklets in Indonesian which gave practical information on solving specific problems. They were popular and were distributed, not only in Yogyakarta, but at other university towns on Java and even in Medan on Sumatra.

(For the complete biography, please email biographies@rmaf.org.ph)