Health In Harmony is committed to supporting the inherent connection between human and environmental health. They work with local communities to provide high-quality, low-cost healthcare, while integrating sustainable, locally designed conservation and livelihoods programs — promoting a shared commitment to protect vital natural resources.
Life Challenges of the Women Served
Widows in rural Indonesia often suffer economic deprivation and low social status. A root cause of the widows’ difficulties is the nature of the traditional livelihoods: slash-and-burn agriculture requires heavy labor to clear forested area for planting; and logging the forest is similarly heavy manual labor. Both of these practices are also, of course, destructive of an irreplaceable environmental resource, the living rainforest.
When families in Indonesia must log tropical forests used for palm oil and pulpwood to pay for basic needs such as health care, the impacts are manifold: habitat for rare and endangered species is destroyed; fields are flooded and crops destroyed; increased standing water increases the incidence of diseases like malaria and dengue fever; and the degradation of global air quality.
In West Kalimantan, Indonesia, poor health and grinding poverty push villagers to engage in illegal logging for survival, putting vital rainforest habitat at risk. Logging is not accessible to female heads of households (i.e. widows) and only provides a short-term fix, with negative long-term consequences for valuable plant and animal species, human health, and global climate change.
Health in Harmony works with local communities to conserve the rainforest in two important ways:
- Sustainable livelihoods: Project ASRI trains villagers in organic agriculture and “kitchen gardens.” These income-generating activities – unlike logging – are accessible to women as well as men. Moreover, the particular program that will be supported by DFW, Goats For Widows, specifically benefits female heads of households, integrating them into the newly emerging economic structure.
- Health care: The cost of health care is a major concern of women in the region, especially mothers. The ASRI Clinic provides free services for reproductive health, as well health care training for selected local women in midwifery and tuberculosis treatment. Pediatric and dental care, along with immunizations, are staples of the clinic’s services. Patient education includes information about hygiene and nutrition, targeted to mothers. Distribution of mosquito bed nets helps to reduce the scourge of malaria, to which children are especially vulnerable. This affordable health care prevents a family going into debt.
The Goats for Widows project is closely integrated with ASRI’s very successful project in promoting organic farming. The communities faced a shortage of compost. The creative solution was to introduce goat-raising, specifically as a source of manure. Pairs of goats are distributed to the widows in the community, who are the people most in need of income.
The participants pay for the goats with some bags of manure and, eventually, a baby goat. The sale of manure and young goats has become a reliable source of income for the widows, enabling them to maintain their homes and to send their children to school. ASRI’s goat coordinator, Jili — raised by his widowed mother — has special rapport with the project participants. His responsibilities include not only purchasing and transporting the goats (usually by boat), but also helping to build the goat pens and providing follow-up assistance as needed.
Once a participant has paid for the two goats, she may sell (or raise) further offspring. She also sells bags of manure to the growing number of local organic farmers, who have been trained in the ASRI livelihoods program. Goat manure helps to improve the quality of the soil – and maintaining soil quality is essential to end the environmentally damaging practice of clearing rainforest to make new farmland.
Program supporters often ask us about the potential to use these goats for milk and cheese production. But in Borneo, the soils are too poor to provide sufficient nutrients for goat-milk production and the majority of the population is lactose intolerant, creating a lack of demand. Further, the breeds of goat known for quality milk tend to be somewhat fragile. But the organic goat-manure and meat industry is doing well.
The goats thus provide the household with a reliable stream of income. And the widows’ social status is transformed, as suppliers of needed materials to the community of organic farmers. These formerly marginalized women are not seen as recipients of charity, but are integrated within the economic life of the community.
Questions for Discussion
- Have you ever lived in an area that has changed over time in a way that you feel is a loss, e.g. open meadows turned into a housing development, a wetland filled in for a shopping mall? How did that impact your quality of life? How did it impact you emotionally?
- Have you joined with a group to make a positive difference in your community or in the world. How does that feel? Has it changed you in some way?
- Global issues such as poverty or the marginalization of women can seem so huge and the actions of an individual so trivial. What energizes you to take action, and what keeps you going? What gives you hope?
The Project Budget and How DFW's Donations will be used
Currently there are 36 widows in the program with 69 healthy goats, and ASRI wants to include 50 more widows in the program. This expansion must include a parallel expansion of the organic farming training program that will provide the “market” for the goat manure. As villagers switch from logging to sustainable organic farming, the marginalized households — headed by women — can now participate fully in the economic life of their communities.
|Goats for Widows DFW Budget||
|Care and Feeding Coordinators – 15 women||
|Kitchen Garden Coordinator||
|Farming Coordinator (50% of salary)||
|Director of Outreach and Education (portion of salary)||
|Total to be supported by DFW||
- Each goat costs $90-100, plus transportation costs.
- The goat handler locates goats for purchase, sometimes far away; wrangles and transports them, delivers goats to selected households; this is a male-designated position. The current coordinator is Mr. Jilli who helped establish the program.
- Care and feeding coordinators are a new position for local women. “We would divide the widows into groups of five, and select the woman from each group who was the best at caring for goats and very responsible. We would pay her a small stipend to check on her neighbor widows on a regular basis and coordinate with the two folks above if a goat was sick or they had some other need. These women would also bring the women together for training. This would also encourage them to be teaching each other and to work together to solve issues. They also might be able to work together to sell manure.”
- The kitchen garden coordinator is a new position to be filled by a local woman. “We actually have the perfect candidate. She is the treasurer for one of the organic farm groups and really brilliant. She has been a widow for a long time although she just recently remarried. She is also getting a college degree right now via correspondence course.”
Why We Love This Project
Not only does this program help address the needs of widows, it also works to reduce deforestation by teaching sustainable organic farming methods. Women in this program are seen as active participants in the villages rather than recipients of charity.
Already, the project reports that the Goats-For-Widows participants are investing in the education of their children, thus breaking the cycle of poverty and marginalization. Even without access to farmland, participants learn to create organic kitchen gardens, growing vegetables to feed their families.
The approach is very promising — increasing the health and income in the community, empowering widows to be self-sustaining members of community and raising their status in the society, and in protecting the forest. It is an innovative model for community-based environmental conservation.
"Health in Harmony's vision for attaching care of the person to care of the earth is forward thinking and inspiring." - Dr. Nancy Angoff, Yale University School of Medicine
Evidence of Success
The basic criteria for success are:
- Number of participating widows
- Number of mature goats
More detailed criteria, relevant to sustainability of the program:
- Number of baby goats produced
- Number of widows who have purchased goats directly from participating households versus
The ASRI program has responded to community requests in the past, and has successfully mobilized community efforts to serve common goals:
- ASRI Clinic – more than 25,000 patient visits; affordable alternative payment; free family planning services
- Mobile clinic – has served more than 1500 patients living in isolated villages
- Training community health workers – 16 women trained to provide TB treatment in their communities, as paid paraprofessionals
- Forest preservation – 30 trained forest guardians, working in their own villages; 20 out of 22 districts have joined the conservation program
- Reforestation – 20 hectares have been replanted with tree seedlings, with massive community participation
- Organic farming – 5 village community farms; close to 100 household organic farms; greatly increased production with greatly lowered costs
- Distributed goats to widows to help provide a critical component to the organic farming work
Quotes from participants in Goats For Widows
“Having goats is like having a saving. So, if I would need money for an emergency, for example, I could sell them. But already I had 4 baby goats! I don’t sell the manure, I use it on my own farm and I give some to my neighbors. “
“My granddaughter helps a lot with taking care of the goats. When the female was about to give birth, she went to find a dukun (traditional healer) to help. “
“After my husband died [17 years ago], I did all kinds of work to support my family, and I still do. I even work at construction jobs, carrying the big wooden beams. [She is 70 years old!] My plan is to start a Green Kitchen and use the goats’ manure that way. The female goat is pregnant already, and my idea is to sell baby goats in the future. “
“I am lucky that I have my farm for growing rice and vegetables. I’m really happy to have the goat manure for fertilizer so I don’t need cash [to buy fertilizer]. I also want to sell some baby goats later.”
“I don’t have a piece of land, so I just work on my neighbor’s land [for part of the crop]. After I received the goats I learned how to grow my vegetable patch at home. And now I also have some money from the goats, so my two older children can go to school.”
About the Organization
Goats-for-Widows is a community-based health and environmental program in Borneo, created by ASRI to enhance the livelihoods of female-headed households. ASRI is a project in Borneo supported by Health in Harmony.
Widows in rural Indonesia often suffer economic deprivation and low social status. The program is closely integrated with the effort to establish alternatives to traditional land-clearing practices that increasingly degrade and destroy the rainforest.
Through this program, a widow “purchases” a pair of goats with no advance payment. Goat owners are provided with training and veterinarian support. The participant repays by giving back the first kid goat (to be reallocated to another widow), as well as several bags of the goats’ manure used in the organic farm program. The women can then sell the future offspring, milk and manure, which provide income and creates a higher social standing for them in the community. They are likely to use their income to invest in the education of their children as well as creating their own vegetable gardens to help feed their families.
About the Organization
The vision for Health In Harmony began more than 15 years ago, when undergraduate biology major Kinari Webb traveled to West Kalimantan, Indonesia to pursue a dream of studying orangutans. While in the forests of Gunung Palung National Park, she recognized the direct link between the environmental destruction wrought by illegal logging, the desperate state of human health in the communities around the park, and the impact of rain forest loss on health worldwide.
Thirteen years later, Dr. Kinari Webb returned to the Gunung Palung communities to turn her long-held vision – a comprehensive program that would both serve human health needs and preserve rain forest habitat – into reality.
Health In Harmony supports Project ARSI, a five-year-old project in Borneo, Indonesia. The Indonesian name means “Healthy Nature Everlasting” and the shortening, ASRI, means “harmoniously balanced”. Founded by two women (an American and an Indonesian), Project ASRI focuses on two interrelated aims:
- Conserve threatened rainforest by empowering villagers with alternative, sustainable livelihoods and by engaging them as partners in conservation.
- Provide affordable, high-quality healthcare to local families, eliminating the major source of household debt.
Both of these objectives directly benefit the women of the region.
ASRI works with local communities to integrate high-quality, affordable health care with strategies to protect the threatened rain forests of Gunung Palung National Park.
Through this approach that works at the intersection of human and environmental health, Health In Harmony provides a model that will, in years to come, be replicated to create lasting change in countries, and communities, around the world.
Who runs Project ASRI?
Project ASRI was established in 2007 by two extraordinary women: an American doctor, Dr. Kinari Webb, and an Indonesian dentist, Dr. Hotlin Ompusunggu. Dr. Ompusunggu received the 2011 Whitley Award for this conservation work in West Kalimantan. She has been fighting against illegal logging by trading low-cost quality dental and medical treatment to 60,000 villagers on condition they become involve in reforestation and conservation work.
They continue to direct the project in Kalimantan, living a short bike ride away from the ASRI medical and dental clinic. The reforestation component is designed and supervised, on a volunteer basis, by arborist Campbell Webb (Kinari’s husband). All program components have benefited from advice and training provided by international experts who volunteer services, often for extended periods. The ASRI Clinic welcomes a steady stream of medical volunteers (from the Yale, Harvard and Stanford medical schools) to help train the Indonesian doctors.
HIH and ASRI are committed to country ownership of the program, as a key element of sustainability. Out of 72 staff members, the only non-Indonesian staff members are Dr. Kinari Webb (co-director) and the coordinator for volunteers. Notably, during Dr. Webb’s extended leave of absence this year, the program has continued to implement successfully, and even expand, all its components.
Where They Work
Indonesia is a vast archipelago that sprawls along the equator, nestled between Australia to the south and Malaysia, Viet Nam, and the Philippines to the north. It includes over 17,000 islands (including many uninhabited atolls). From west to east, the largest islands are Sumatra, Java, Borneo (Kalimantan), Sulawesi, and Indonesian Papua, covering a geographic span as wide as mainland U.S. The island of Java, with more than half of the entire population, has historically been politically dominant. The island of Bali, famous for its Hindu culture, is one of the smaller inhabited islands, located at the eastern tail of Java.
Indonesia’s population of 238 million makes it the fourth largest country in the world. Its cultural diversity is spectacular, with hundreds of distinct languages and dialects, each with distinctive forms of clothing, housing, art forms, ritual, and cuisine. Strategically straddling the ancient sea trade route to China, Indonesia experienced centuries of cultural influences, especially from India (hence the name, which means “Indian islands”).
The population is largely Malayo-Polynesian (except for Papua, with Melanesian heritage). The large Chinese minority, scattered throughout the country, suffered severe discrimination under Sukarno and was violently attacked during the pre-democracy turmoil. Government policy is affirmatively multi-ethnic, however. Preponderantly Moslem, Indonesia recognizes no official religion.
West Kalimantan – Gunung Palung National Park
ASRI works with 30 communities around Gunung Palung National Park, West Kalimantan. The park is notable for its diversity of habitat types ranging from mangrove and freshwater swamp forest, to lowland alluvial forest (sand, gravel or silt deposited by running water), to montane forest (moist, cool upland slopes below timberline), and for its diversity of wildlife. The park has the largest remaining population of orangutans and only one of a handful of parks where they can be seen in the wild.
In most of the islands, the staple food is rice. The rice harvest is associated with important rituals: the Javanese, for example, traditionally revere the rice goddess, whose image, fashioned out of rice straw, is carefully placed to protect the harvest from damage. Indonesian culture is famed for its distinctive traditions of music and dance, as well as its textiles, including ikat (tie-dyed) and batik (wax resist-dyed).
Traditionally, textile art — a highly valued cultural symbol as well as a form of clothing — was in most cases the creation of women.
At the end of World War II, Indonesia struggled to escape from three centuries of Dutch colonial rule — followed by three years of Japanese occupation. (Its natural resources, including oil, had been one of Japan’s strategic targets.) The U.S. played an important role, working with the UN, in securing Indonesia’s independence from the Netherlands. Relations with the U.S. became strained almost to the breaking point during the Cold War: President Sukarno took on leadership of the non-aligned nations, receiving support from Indonesia’s then-substantial Communist Party. The CIA apparently targeted him for removal, and is reported to have played a role in the coup that ousted him in 1968. Indonesia’s second president, General Suharto, would remain in power for 30 years, at the head of a quasi-democratic (and notoriously corrupt) military regime. Suharto’s rule ended amid the turmoil triggered by the Asian economic crisis of 1998.
How has such a huge country, rich in resources and home to the largest Muslim population in the world, managed to remain largely ignored in Western news coverage? The media’s inattention is perhaps a tribute to Indonesia’s remarkably successful transition from autocracy to a democratic, decentralized government. Following a short series of presidents selected by the parliament, President Soesilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) was elected in 2004 in Indonesia’s first direct presidential election, campaigning on a platform that emphasized democratic reforms and anti-corruption. In 2009 he was re-elected to his second (and last) term.
Over its 14 years of democratic government, Indonesia’s economy has grown dramatically. It is the 17th largest economy in the world, currently growing at an impressive 6.5%, with an expanding middle class. So far it has been undamaged by the current global economic crisis, having instituted financial sector reforms in the wake of its own earlier economic crisis.
The U.S. and Indonesia signed a comprehensive partnership agreement in late 2010, focusing on education, economic and security cooperation, and the environment. A year later, the two countries signed a Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Compact, authorizing a grant of $600 million as part of this partnership.
“Given the global importance of Indonesia’s environment, the United States supports Indonesia’s commitment to significantly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 26% and preserve its world-class forests and marine environment.” – Scot Marciel, U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia
Butler, R. 2011. Borneo. http://www.mongabay.com/borneo.html. Accessed 13 October 2011.
Curran, L. M., S. N. Trigg, A. K. McDonald, D. Astiani, Y. M. Hardiono, P. Siregar, I. Caniago, & E. Kasischke. 2004. Lowland forest loss in protected areas of Indonesian Borneo. Science 303: 1000-3.
Geertz, Hildred. 1961. The Javanese Family. Glencoe, Illinois: Free Press.
MacKinnon K., G. Hatta, H. Halim, & A. Mangalik. 1998. The ecology of Kalimantan. Oxford University Press, London.
Nelleman, C., L. Miles, B. P. Kaltenborn, M. Virtue, & H. Ahlenius (eds.). 2007. The last stand of the orangutan-State of emergence: Illegal logging, fire, and palm oil in Indonesia’s national parks. United National Environment Programme, GRID-Arendal, Norway, www.grido.no.
White, M. 2008. “Borneo’s moment of truth.” National Geographic Magazine. November 2008.
Health and Harmony website, www.healthandharmony.org
Documents provided by Health in Harmony to Dining for Women
On the DFW September Program webpage for Health in Harmony you will also find:
- Food for Thought: Building a Sustainable Future by Creating a Culture of Inclusion – an in-depth look at the issues of eliminating gender disparity and ensure environmental stability
- Program Presentation – PowerPoint and PDF files provided by Global Grassroots
- Program Videos – links and downloadable files
- Fair Trade, Books, Film and Music recommendations
- The U.N. 2015 Millennium Developmental Goals: http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/