Ismail, Overcoming Drought in Tagawiti through Rainwater Harvesting

Plan Indonesia melaksanakan proyek adaptasi perubahan iklim yang berpusat pada anak (Child Centered Climate Change Adaptation/4CA) di 32 desa dan 13 sekolah yang tersebar di Kecamatan Ile Ape dan Lebatukan, Kabupaten Lembata. Proyek ini berlangsung selama tiga tahun, mulai dari tahun 2016 hingga tahun 2018 untuk memberikan pelatihan terkait adaptasi perubahan iklim dan penanggulangan risiko bencana kepada masyarakat setempat.

The problem of drought continues to be a concern for citizens in the Tagawiti Village, Ile Ape District, Lembata Regency, East Nusa Tenggara Province. When the dry season comes, the residents in the village, which currently consists of 228 families or 627 lives, are affected by the lack of water. Oftentimes, it becomes hard for them to gain freshwater as there is only a small amount of water catchment area in the village. Most of the water supply is brackish, so they will need to go to the nearest freshwater well, located approximately 3 kilometres from their houses.

It is why the freshwater well owned by Ismail Unu, head of the Tagawiti village, becomes a help in the situation. Ismail was able to create the well after a consistent effort of retaining rainwater for the past five years. He has been steadily collecting rainwater through the 60-80 cm deep-absorption holes created near his house and yard.

Photo: Ismail showing the drilled water right next to the house where he planted the water. Credit: Yayasan Plan International Indonesia / Agus Haru

“In the rainy season, we must not let the rainwater come into waste. We need to retain them, so they could return to the earth through the absorption holes,” Ismail said to the Yayasan Plan International Indonesia (Plan Indonesia) team.

The story of Ismail’s water absorption activities started with the child-centred Climate Change Adaptation (4CA) program, carried out by Plan Indonesia in 32 villages and 13 schools in Ile Ape and Lebatukan Districts, Lembata Regency. The program was carried out for three years, from 2016 to 2018.

During the program’s implementation period, with the help of implementing partner CIS Timor, Plan Indonesia had carried out training about climate change and disaster risk mitigation for the local citizens. Plan Indonesia had also reached an agreement with the Lembata Regency Government (represented by the Disaster Risk Mitigation Forum (FPRB) and the village government) to create a regulation, namely the Perdes No. 5 Tahun 2017, about rainwater harvesting or locally known as Tampan (Tanam dan Panen Air).

The regulation tried to encourage the citizens to create infiltration holes in their homes and their yards. The holes were expected to serve as a rainwater catchment during the rainy season. There were variations to the size of holes, tailored to the ability of each family to create holes in their houses. To further encourage the citizens, the local government gave out mango sprouts for citizens who managed to create a sufficient amount of holes near their houses.

However, in three years, the results from the rainwater harvesting program were yet to be seen. As a result, the villagers were dispirited and they stopped implementing the regulation.

Yet, Ismail held on firmly. Although many have abandoned the regulation, he kept on with the rainwater harvesting activities. He continued to create absorption holes, as he believed that the holes could be of help in retaining the rainwater.

“Maka, saat musim kemarau, kita akan merasakan manfaatnya. Air sumur bisa bertahan lama, tanaman-tanaman terlihat segar dan juga udara akan sejuk,” ungkap Ismail.

Photo: Ismail with one of the sandalwood trees growing in his yard. Credit: Yayasan Plan International Indonesia/Agus Haru

With a sincere heart, Ismail continued with his effort to overcome the drought in his village. He was committed to ensuring the success of this activity and creating benefits for others. He was also determined to prove that his years of hard work would eventually come to fruition.

In the end, Ismail’s hard work does bring desirable results. Not only that has helped it to make the trees near his house greener, in 2020, the activities carried out by Ismail has also resulted in the first freshwater well in Tagawiti village.

“My faith was proven true. When we dug into the ground, the water that came out from the well was clean and clear. Thank God, it also came out in a very large amount,” Ismail said.

Ismail’s hard work came out as an innovation in the village. Before this, the Tagawiti villagers were reluctant to dig into the ground because the water was brickish. However, the local citizens can now use the water from Ismail’s freshwater well. They no longer had to rely on brackish water to feed the livestock and water their field. They could now use water from Ismail’s well for daily activities.

After seeing this successful attempt, Ismail began to encourage others to start implementing the Tampan program again, to create more freshwater absorption in their village. He also encouraged the citizens to not give up, even though their attempt might not be successful from the start.

“From what we have gained during the last five years, we could see that we must have faith in what we’re doing to succeed. We should not give up that easily,” he said.

“From now on, I encourage the villagers to share this good news to others—and to hold to the firm belief that results won’t betray your hard work. We need to continue with the Tampan program,” he concluded.

This article is written by Agus Haru, Communications Officer for PIA, Yayasan Plan International Indonesia.