Livelihood recovery in the wake of the tsunami in Aceh

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1 Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies ISSN: (Print) (Online) Journal homepage: Livelihood recovery in the wake of the tsunami in Aceh Craig Thorburn To cite this article: Craig Thorburn (2009) Livelihood recovery in the wake of the tsunami in Aceh, Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies, 45:1, , DOI: / To link to this article: https://doi.org/ / Published online: 26 Mar Submit your article to this journal Article views: 1021 View related articles Citing articles: 10 View citing articles Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at Download by: [ ] Date: 15 December 2017, At: 16:23

2 Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies, Vol. 45, No. 1, 2009: LIVELIHOOD RECOVERY IN THE WAKE OF THE TSUNAMI IN ACEH Craig Thorburn* Monash University, Melbourne This article provides a brief overview of issues relating to livelihood recovery assistance and achievements in Aceh since the December 2004 tsunami. Livelihood programs were intended to help tsunami-affected households quickly resume productive activities and return to normal life. They formed an important component of the tsunami recovery portfolios of the Indonesian government and many international donors, distributing millions of dollars worth of equipment, cash and other forms of support to tsunami victims. This article queries the effectiveness and impact of some of these programs in Acehnese villages, particularly during the early phases of recovery. It is unlikely that an international response on the scale witnessed in Aceh over the last four years will occur again with future disasters. Nonetheless, the livelihoods approach is probably here to stay, and many important lessons can be drawn from the Aceh experience. INTRODUCTION The Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami of 26 December 2004 and the subsequent reconstruction effort are events without precedent in human history. The tsunami devastated the lives and livelihoods of millions of people. Hundreds of agencies and thousands of people from countries all over the world have been involved in helping to rebuild shattered communities in the 14 countries affected by the tsunami. Billions of dollars have been committed, making this the largest post-disaster recovery and development endeavour undertaken in the developing world. The Tsunami Evaluation Coalition s Synthesis Report (Telford, Cosgrave and Houghton 2006) estimated that within the first few weeks after the tragedy, government and private sources committed over $13.5 billion (for all affected countries). This translates to an astonishing $7,100 for each of the 1.9 million people directly affected by the tsunami many times more than for any previous disaster (as little as $3 per victim was provided for the 1998 floods in Bangladesh, for example). This number was subsequently scaled back to roughly 60% of the * Parts of this paper appeared in the report of the Aceh Community Assistance Research Project on post-tsunami recovery (Thorburn 2007), written by the author and published by the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) in December Permission by AusAID to reproduce sections of the report is gratefully acknowledged. AusAID does not guarantee the accuracy, reliability or completeness of any information contained in the material and accepts no legal liability whatsoever arising from any use of the material. Users of the material should exercise their own skill and care with respect to their use of the material. ISSN print/issn online/09/ DOI: / Craig Thorburn

3 86 Craig Thorburn original figure as recovery agencies operating in tsunami-affected countries made more accurate calculations of the cost of rebuilding. The Indonesian province of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam (hereafter Aceh ) was the region most severely affected by the tsunami and received the greatest portion of recovery assistance. The assistance figures for Aceh are roughly in line with the region-wide numbers. International donor and NGO commitments to recovery in Aceh (and the neighbouring Nias islands in the province of North Sumatra) amounted to $5.54 billion (World Bank 2008b), or roughly $3,350 for each surviving resident of the 80 sub-districts experiencing major or moderate tsunami damage. Contrast this with Aceh s pre-tsunami per capita GDP of Rp 9.8 million, or approximately $1, In addition to international funding, between 2005 and 2009 the Indonesian government allocated $2.23 billion) of its own funds to the recovery effort, increasing total tsunami recovery and reconstruction allocations for Aceh and Nias to $7.77 billion. The sheer volume of this aid in combination with the ambitious deadlines set for the recovery process inevitably resulted in serious overlaps and redundancies, mis-targeting and hastily planned and implemented programs, and a large amount of money being squandered. Four years into the recovery, tremendous strides have been made in the effort to build [Aceh] back better, to borrow the phrase, coined by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, that subsequently became the mantra of the Indonesian government s Agency for the Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of the Region and Community of Aceh and Nias (Badan Pelaksana Rehabilitasi dan Rekonstruksi Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam dan Nias, or BRR). Scores of national and international relief and recovery organisations have engaged in the recovery effort. Allowing people to resume productive activities and supporting the recovery of local and regional economies is a vital step in the transition from emergency relief to longer-term recovery. It forms one of the primary objectives of the Indonesian government s master plan for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Aceh and Nias. 2 Many people in Aceh had been living in poverty before the tsunami; thousands more were suddenly plunged into poverty. In Aceh, the security of lives, livelihoods, possessions and communities had already been shattered by 30 years of armed conflict between the Indonesian military and the Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, GAM). According to the government s own statistics, in 2002 (the latest year for which figures were available), nearly half of the population had no access to clean water, one in three children under the age of five was under-nourished, and 38% of the population had no access to health facilities (BPS 2004). And the situation was getting worse: between 1999 and 2002, the poverty rate in Aceh doubled, from just under 15% to nearly 30%. Within just one year after the tsunami, Oxfam (2005) estimated that nearly half the people who had lost their jobs as a result of the disaster were again earning a 1 Even this figure is misleadingly high, because 40% of Aceh s GDP in 2004 derived from oil and gas and related manufacturing. Proceeds and benefits from these sectors notoriously did not flow to the people of Aceh, who suffered one of the highest poverty rates of any Indonesian province 28.4% in 2004, when the national figure was 16.7% (World Bank 2006). 2 See the BRR website, <http://www.e-aceh-nias.org/home/> (especially the agency s mission statement at <http://www.e-aceh-nias.org/about_brr/profile.aspx>).

4 Livelihood recovery in the wake of the tsunami in Aceh 87 living, and projected that their ranks would continue to grow over the following two to three years. THE ACEH COMMUNITY ASSISTANCE RESEARCH PROJECT (ACARP) The Aceh Community Assistance Research Project was a multi-donor supported qualitative social research project, aimed at identifying and better understanding the factors that supported or constrained recovery and redevelopment in communities in Aceh in the wake of the Boxing Day 2004 earthquake and tsunami. Field research was undertaken by a group of 27 Acehnese social researchers, led by a team of senior researchers from the provincial capital of Banda Aceh and from Jakarta and Australia. It took place over a three-month period between July and September 2006 in 18 tsunami-affected villages in the districts of Aceh Barat, Aceh Jaya and Aceh Besar. 3 The objectives of ACARP were to identify key organic and external factors that have influenced the success of communities in rebuilding their lives; to study the factors and conditions that contributed to the re-establishment and successful engagement of local community capabilities in the wake of major upheaval from natural disaster and conflict; to document and analyse the interaction between communities and external agencies in the reconstruction and recovery process, highlighting community perceptions of progress, constraints and the value of external assistance; and to train a group of Acehnese researchers in sound social research methods and build momentum for continuing social research initiatives and evaluative projects in Aceh. Teams of three researchers spent a total of four weeks in nine matched pairs of villages from sub-districts within the study districts. In each pair, one village was apparently recovering better than its counterpart, allowing for some comparative analysis. The researchers accrued a large quantity of data, including 533 household questionnaires, 298 interview transcripts, 54 focus group discussion transcripts and 87 case studies and family histories. Research teams also prepared village profile documents for each of the 18 villages, following a standard format. The project collected plans, reports and other forms of secondary data from donors, NGOs, national and provincial government agencies and the international and Indonesian media. The main part of the ACARP report focuses on village governance, particularly leadership, decision making and problem solving, transparency and accountability; women s participation; and social capital. 4 The report also includes shorter sections on livelihoods and economic recovery and development and on housing and infrastructure. This paper presents an overview of the ACARP report s findings on livelihoods and economic recovery. Following a brief discussion of early recovery, particularly the vital role played by cash-for-work programs, the paper looks at the ubiquitous livelihoods assistance programs, and how these are playing out in various sectors in the survey villages. 3 For a more detailed description of ACARP s project structure and donor support, see appendix 1. 4 For a summary of ACARP s findings on village governance, see Thorburn (2008).

5 88 Craig Thorburn A caveat is in order. Although one of the primary objectives of the ACARP study was to document and analyse the effectiveness, impact and constraints of external assistance in supporting community and economic recovery, this proved extremely difficult. As with post-disaster situations everywhere, conditions in post-tsunami Aceh posed formidable challenges to the conduct of systematic social research. Most donors and implementing agencies were exceedingly generous with their time, knowledge and access to documents, but were often unable to provide specific information about approaches taken in particular villages. Data on individual programs and projects available from the BRR RAN (Recovery Aceh Nias) database 5 and collected from donors were often either too general generic statements of organisational philosophy rather than specific accounts of approaches taken in particular contexts or too narrow and specific spreadsheets of numbers of items or amounts of funds distributed to numbers of beneficiaries. As well, Acehnese communities are surely suffering from survey fatigue, some of their members having become rather jaded after answering the same questions from so many people so many times, only to see the survey teams drive off, leaving the communities not knowing whether their responses will yield any results that are of use to them. Community members often find it difficult to recall precisely who did what, and when. There have been so many projects and programs, field visits, promises and plans, assessments and evaluations that they all begin to blend together in people s memories. Villagers can generally name the housing provider in their village, and recall some relevant details about specific forms of livelihood assistance they have received such as how much was given by which organisations, whether in the form of a grant or a loan, and whether they ever saw the providers again. Beyond this, however, their recollection of the recovery begins to meld into a blurry mélange of twin-cabs and Land Cruisers, extension agents and trainers, foreigners with cameras and tape recorders, bulldozers and backhoes, tents and temporary bridges, and crates and containers of instant noodles, rice sacks and corrugated roofing sheet. Many of the findings presented in the ACARP report and in this paper are therefore necessarily of a general nature, combining anecdotal evidence with the perceptions and opinions of aid providers, recipients and sundry government sources. EARLY RECOVERY An early technical report by the National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas) and the Consultative Group on Indonesia (CGI) outlined the framework for a tsunami recovery strategy and identified a number of principles for reviving the regional economy (Bappenas CGI 2005; see also Kuncoro and Resosudarmo 2006: 24 7). During the rehabilitation phase which the report authors envisioned proceeding from months 3 to 12 emphasis was on providing shortterm employment opportunities to generate household income and to stimulate the rebuilding of the rural and small-scale infrastructure necessary for commerce 5 BRR RAN (Recovery Aceh Nias) Database: List of Projects by Sector, viewed 3 October 2007 at <http://e-aceh-nias.org/upload/by%20sector pdf>.

6 Livelihood recovery in the wake of the tsunami in Aceh 89 and the delivery of essential public services. Much of this took the form of cashfor-work (CFW) programs and other forms of short-term assistance. Commendably, the recovery effort quickly alleviated most of the transient poverty and suffering that was created by the tsunami, and the transition from emergency relief to longer-term reconstruction was rapidly achieved. An important component of this achievement was the vital role played by various cash transfer assistance programs during the early recovery period. This included regular distribution of basic sustenance (jaminan hidup, or jadup) cash transfers to displaced families to supplement in-kind distribution of rice, oil, noodles and tinned fish. As many as 516,000 people were receiving jadup funds during the early months of the recovery. This much-needed assistance, coordinated by the Indonesian Department of Social Affairs, played an important role during the early months before NGO grants could be distributed (Adams and Winahyu 2006). More central to this analysis, however, are the CFW programs implemented in nearly every village in the tsunami-affected parts of Aceh. A relatively recent innovation in post-disaster responses, CFW programs are considered easier to administer than food-for-work (FFW) programs, and can be less disruptive to local markets: they infuse cash into economies while leaving recipients to decide how to allocate it in light of their own spending and saving priorities, and they harness idle labour in circumstances where people are no longer able to participate in their routine employment activities. 6 CFW programs were initiated in Banda Aceh within two weeks of the tsunami, and soon spread to outlying areas, reaching their peak intensity during the first three to four months of By the end of 2005, all CFW programs had ceased in Aceh. Data on the numbers of participants and the amounts distributed are not available, but the vital role played by these programs is widely acknowledged. A study conducted by the international aid organisation Mercy Corps showed that CFW income made up 93% of total household income during the typical 3 4 month duration of CFW programs supported by that agency (Doocy et al. 2006). Another important finding of the Mercy Corps study concerns the role that CFW programs played in the restoration of community life and hope. Within five months of the tsunami, in almost every community where CFW was carried out, people were living in their villages in temporary or semi-permanent structures, and local traders were beginning to operate small kiosks and shops. CFW income was spent on fresh fish, fruit and other food items, cigarettes, snacks, fuel and transport; it was used to augment savings, mainly in the form of gold, or invested 6 A common criticism of CFW programs is that they can exert inflationary pressure on local economies. This is a somewhat spurious claim, as in many post-disaster situations in developing countries there effectively is no local economy in the immediate post-crisis period, and any large infusion of aid funds inevitably leads to some temporary localised inflation. Aceh was no exception. However, the BRR and the United Nations Development Programme did a commendable job of curbing the inflationary effect of CFW programs. They did this by establishing guidelines for all NGOs and donors providing CFW assistance, including capping daily CFW payments at a level comparable to the daily rate for unskilled labour before the tsunami (Rp 50,000). For a detailed discussion of the effectiveness and relative merits of CFW assistance in post-disaster situations, see Adams and Winahyu (2006) and Doocy et al. (2006).

7 90 Craig Thorburn in small businesses. People also used CFW income to support revival of community religious or cultural events. During the program s heyday several agencies, led by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the BRR, took steps to maximise the positive impact of CFW programs while minimising possible negative impacts. These steps included attempts to standardise wages paid by different organisations at pre-tsunami wage rates (see footnote 6). Through trial and error, implementing agencies also came up with an appropriate supervisor-to-participant ratio to ensure the quality and efficiency of work, and supported this with monitoring through unannounced visits, to pinpoint problems and guarantee compliance with guidelines. Exit strategies included slowing CFW activities as the programs neared completion (for example, reducing the numbers of work days per week), and shifting to output-based labour payments (OBLPs) organised on a perproject basis (Doocy et al. 2006). The latter is viewed as a transitional strategy, between emergency relief and longer-term recovery programming. The OBLP system has the advantage of increasing community involvement in planning and management, and its more output-oriented character represents a further step toward resumption of normal community life. When the ACARP research was carried out some 18 months after the cessation of CFW assistance programs it was widely argued that CFW undermined the vaunted tradition of gotong royong mutual assistance. However, that view is not supported by evidence collected in the ACARP research. 7 LIVELIHOODS AND LIVELIHOOD SUPPORT The term livelihoods has become commonplace in international aid parlance since the early 1990s, spearheaded by the writings of Robert Chambers (1987, 1995) and the adoption of the Sustainable Livelihoods Framework as a new departure in policy and practice (DFID 1999: 3). Chambers and Conway (1991: 1) describe livelihoods and sustainable livelihoods as follows: A livelihood comprises people, their capabilities and their means of living, including food, income and assets. Tangible assets are resources and stores, and intangible assets are claims and access. A livelihood is environmentally sustainable when it maintains or enhances the local and global assets on which livelihoods depend, and has net beneficial effects on other livelihoods. A livelihood is socially sustainable [if it] can cope with and recover from stress and shocks, and provide for future generations. In practice, most livelihood programs consist of distributing assets (equipment, capital, skills training) to poor households, while attempting to inculcate participatory approaches to planning, targeting and decision-making processes. In spirit, these programs are held to be a significant departure from old-style economic or regional development approaches. BRR RAN database estimates (see footnote 5) show that approximately 12% of all tsunami relief ($225 million of the $1.786 billion that had been expended by 7 For a detailed discussion of the relationship between CFW programs and gotong royong, see Thorburn (2007: section 4.1.5, Social capital ).

8 Livelihood recovery in the wake of the tsunami in Aceh 91 September 2007) was devoted to rehabilitating and developing the productive sectors, primarily small and medium-scale enterprises, agriculture and livestock, and fisheries that is, livelihoods. According to BRR RAN data, economic development programs account for 15% of funds allocated and 21% of disbursements in the 18 ACARP villages. This amounts to per capita allocations and disbursements (to September 2007) of $406 and $303, respectively, for economic development programs. 8 The Bappenas CGI technical report cited above (Bappenas CGI 2005) emphasised the need to restore productive assets as a vital step in the transition from emergency relief to longer-term recovery in Aceh. This includes rehabilitating fisheries infrastructure and facilities, providing boats and gear, and reviving fisheries-related craftsmanship, as well as rehabilitating farms and providing relevant tools, equipment and inputs. The report s longer-term reconstruction phase strategy (months 12 36) stresses the importance of community-led reform to rehabilitate fisheries-related ecosystems and promote sustainable mari-culture. It also advocates agricultural technology transfer, diversification and commercialisation; agribusiness development; and programs to provide small and medium-scale enterprises with training, consultancy, advisory services, marketing assistance, information, technology development and transfer, business linkage promotion and linkages to finance and financial services. What subsequently transpired was a deluge of livelihood programs which, after temporary and permanent housing construction and provision of basic social services, were the facet of the recovery process most often encountered by households in tsunami-affected areas. The prevalence of livelihood programs in Aceh is so pronounced that the term has made its way into the Acehnese lexicon, just like gender, NGO, twin-cab and cash-for-work. The ACARP survey contained three questions that sought to identify the aid programs considered to be most beneficial ; to be least beneficial and/or most problematic ; and to have made undelivered promises. 9 Reflecting the diversity of experiences, housing led the list in relation to all three questions. Beyond housing, 23% of the programs cited as most beneficial provided economic development assistance primarily cash grants or loans for enterprise development. Yet of the programs considered least beneficial or most problematic, 20% of responses were also in the economic development assistance category, with livestock and agriculture programs in particular generating many complaints. In response to the undelivered promise question, 31% of respondents listed economic development assistance programs primarily enterprise development funds or other financial aid. 8 The accuracy of these figures is somewhat suspect. There is considerable co-mingling of categories in the RAN database. Many of the economic development programs on the database also include infrastructure components, and vice-versa. Most integrated health care programs include enterprise development components. Cash-for-work is sometimes classified as economic development, at other times as infrastructure. Many aid providers have been remiss in updating their information with the database managers. The actual figures are probably much higher. 9 These and other questions in the ACARP household survey questionnaire can be found in Thorburn (2007: appendix 2).

9 92 Craig Thorburn KEY LIVELIHOOD ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS IN THE SURVEY VILLAGES Fisheries Nearly all respondents who indicated that most or all household consumption came from household members own production were from fishing villages. Even though only about half the households in the survey villages that had owned boats before the tsunami had new boats when the survey was conducted, fisheries appears to be the economic sector (other than construction) that has recovered best since the tsunami. This said, many respondents were critical of assistance received for fisheries. the boats [received from BRR] were made from inferior materials, not like the ones we owned before. Already, most of those boats can t be used, they re broken. It s the same with the nets, hooks and other equipment. Most people say they re too big, don t fit with conditions here. Only the engines can be used. They never consulted with the fishermen about the boats they were going to supply, just came and distributed them. Yes, it is true that some people who received aid sold it because they couldn t use it, then used the money to pay other expenses. (Interview PM-07) 10 There are people whose profession is farming. But they were given boats. Not just one time they got a boat, but two times! (Interview PK-13) Most of the aid we received isn t appropriate for fishermen here, like the boats and the engines. In the past, the old men used small boats, but we ve been provided with these big boats and engines. We can t even get them out to sea most of the time. It s a lot worse because the estuary is so much shallower now since the tsunami. (Interview CC-01) Obviously, it has not all been as haphazard as this. In the Aceh Jaya district, a number of villages have vibrant post-tsunami fishing industries. With the aid that s been distributed through the Panglima Laot, 11 IMC [International Medical Corps] came and consulted with the fishermen first, and then provided the boats. In fact, there was another NGO from France, Triangle, that helped people build their own boats. They also helped with the fish landing facility, and an office, warehouse and meeting hall for the Panglima Laot. (Interview LL-15) Three factors have contributed to the success of programs in Aceh Jaya. First, the donors consulted with recipients, and were thereby able to provide more appropriate equipment. Second, they worked closely with the local Panglima Laot, which helped assure that the aid went to people who needed and could use it. Finally, their programs included support for auxiliary facilities to assist with 10 Interview excerpts are identified by the initials of the village name and a sequential transcript number. 11 The Panglima Laot is an adat (customary law) institution in many Acehnese communities, charged with the oversight of custom and ceremonial practices in marine fishing; management of fishing areas; and settlement of disputes. The term also refers to the individual who heads the organisation of the same name.

10 Livelihood recovery in the wake of the tsunami in Aceh 93 handling and marketing the catch, and for maintenance and repairs and construction of new fishing boats. These investments have paid off handsomely. Very few fish or shrimp ponds have resumed production in the survey villages; most are still waiting for the BRR or the provincial government to send backhoes to rebuild the dikes and conduits. A few caged or floating pen aquaculture programs often established in newly-formed lagoons (suak) where there used to be rice paddies have been somewhat successful. Livestock Livestock is another form of livelihood assistance that has seen some success. Informants primary criticisms of livestock assistance have concerned the quality or health of the animals provided; the lack of appropriate skills training and extension services (many of the recipients have little or no experience in raising livestock); and perceived inequality in the distribution of this aid. Again, the more successful programs have involved local organisations either local NGOs, village cooperatives or community enterprise institutions (lembaga ekonomi masyarakat or lembaga ekonomi gampong, or LEM/LEGA). 12 There was the time people were given ducks, but it turns out that all the ducks were the same sex. Well, they re not going to multiply, are they? Then we were given calves by the government. They were still young, still nursing, but already distributed to the community. I guess people thought that cattle are just like buffalo: you let them go and they take care of themselves. But cows are thin-skinned and need a pen to be safe. Because they were just allowed to roam free, they all died. Somebody should have taught the people how to care for the cattle. (Interview JS-11) Agriculture Agricultural recovery has been much slower. In the survey villages, a few communities have begun planting small plots of dry-land crops, including market gardens in some of the peri-urban villages. None of the villages has yet had a successful rice crop; most have not even planted rice. Rice paddy rehabilitation has featured prominently in the recovery programs in many of the villages in this survey. According to informants, the most common reason for the failure of these programs has been their timing: more often than not, land clearance work has been completed too late for the planting season, and the fields are left fallow. The following season, they are choked with alang-alang (Imperata cylindrica) grass, and the community is waiting for another clearance project before they will plant. Lack of irrigation is another reason commonly given why people have not yet returned to the paddy fields. Yes, there were some projects to clean up the rice paddies. I forget who it was. They gave us tractors and everything. I think the tractor got stolen. Then, when the land was cleared, it was too late to plant. If you miss the planting season, you aren t going to get a crop. We can plant in April, or in August if there s rain. If you plant too late, you get lots of pests too. So, the soil s all hard again now; not many people want to plant rice. (Interview BM-09) 12 Gampong is the Acehnese word for village.

11 94 Craig Thorburn There was a project they helped with land clearance, seeds and fencing material, but the irrigation wasn t fixed. BRR had a project to clear the canals but there was no water, so we couldn t plant. Now the soil is compacted, and it s getting overgrown with brush. (Interview UJ-07) There have been lots of projects, and our land is very fertile. The saying goes: we toss out some seeds, and they grow. We have plenty of good rice paddy land. But now, I m the only one who s working the land. If I plant but all my neighbours don t, it s hard to get very enthusiastic. All their fields are overgrown with brush and grass. My crop will be devoured by rats. (Interview UJ-08) There s no way that the rice paddy is going to return to the way it was before, because the soil is mixed with salt water, its fertility is gone. No way are we going to be able to plant rice again. There s no irrigation, no water supply. It s rain-fed paddy. What they should do, they should turn it into an industrial park. Then the people need to be trained to work in industry. (Interview JS-13) Thus there has been a significant decline in the proportion of food consumed that households produce themselves (table 1). Some 63% of the 533 households surveyed were producing nothing for their own consumption at the time of the survey, compared with 22% before the tsunami. The majority of the 21% of respondents who answered that most or all of their post-tsunami household consumption derives from their own production are from fishing villages. TABLE 1 Proportion of Household Consumption from Own Production (% of total households) Before After Change Most or all Some None Source: Thorburn (2007). Despite the significant fall in the number of households that produce most or all of their own food, there has not been a concomitant increase in household expenditures on food (table 2). In fact, the survey results indicate a slight decline. This can be explained by the fact that, at the time of this research, many families in the survey villages were still receiving food aid. Several informants from various villages quite frankly stated that they do not expect to take up farming again so long as construction jobs are still available. The question of whether food aid suppresses agricultural recovery in postdisaster contexts has been the subject of intense debate for decades. 13 It certainly presents as a likely contributing factor to the delays being experienced in the 13 See, for instance, Srinivasan (1989); Abdulai, Barrett and Hoddinott (2005).

12 Livelihood recovery in the wake of the tsunami in Aceh 95 TABLE 2 Monthly Household Expenditure on Food (% of total households) Before After Change Nothing Less than Rp 50, Rp 50, , Rp 100, , Rp 500,000 1,000, More than Rp 1,000, Source: As for table 1. revival of agriculture in post-tsunami Aceh. Although not specifically alluding to agricultural work, informants in two villages did admit that they intended to remain in barracks, rather than move into new permanent housing, until food supplies ran out. Aid from the NGOs, enough already! We have things now we never had before. Before the tsunami there were three tractors in this village, now there are six. But nobody wants to work the land. So long as there is aid, and proposals, people won t work the land, because they keep waiting for the next project. (Interview UJ-08) In villages that have pre-existing rubber groves not destroyed in the tsunami, rubber tapping is the agricultural activity that is showing the strongest recovery. The primary problem has been access. In a few villages, communities have used donor or government block grant funds to construct access roads to rubber groves, allowing production to resume. Several informants in rubber-producing villages told researchers they were happy to return to their previous occupation, as they can earn more in a day tapping rubber than they could as labourers on projects. By contrast, many villagers are choosing not to resume most types of agricultural work so long as more lucrative recovery-related construction work is available. The rubber-tapping example under-scores the importance of agroecological diversity, in particular the contribution of tree crops that have been brought back into production relatively quickly after the tsunami. Villages with durian or other high-value fruit crops have similarly benefited from the resilience of these cropping systems. Small-scale enterprise Cash grants and other support for small-scale enterprise development have been the most ubiquitous form of livelihood assistance in Aceh, often targeted at women. Nearly every household in each survey village has received at least one allotment of business money. There are few surprises. There s been lots of business money from NGOs. But do you see any businesses here? People don t look ahead. They re given money to start a business, but that s not what they use it for. They buy clothes, motorbikes, fancy hand phones, go sit at the coffee shop. (Interview BL-06)

13 96 Craig Thorburn We were given Rp 1,800,000. These days, what kind of business can you start? How is that money supposed to be used for business? (Interview CT-09) Not long ago, this NGO came and told us they were going to provide Rp 10 million for business money. But then they told us it wouldn t be 10 million, but only 7.5, because we d already received some money from Red Cross. But why is it only our village that gets penalised, when the others got Red Cross money too? We decided to turn down the money. So, they said they wouldn t give us the money, but now people have changed their mind, and say we ll take the Rp 7.5 million. (Interview UJ-07) A number of informants told of opening small kiosks or snack shops, but most of these did not last more than a few weeks or months. Most informants were aware of people who had sold livelihood equipment and supplies, and many also admitted that they had used cash grants or loans to purchase household goods and food. This is substantiated by changes in the composition of household possessions (table 3). It may appear that ownership of non-productive assets has taken precedence over that of productive ones. In many cases, however, newly acquired motor-cycles are being used for income-generating purposes such as trade, and even when this is not the case, increased mobility and connectivity (through the use of mobile telephones or radios) can significantly increase an individual s productivity. It was also quite apparent in the survey villages that the majority of successful small businesses presently operating were run by people who had had similar enterprises before the tsunami. Most of these businesses have received some assistance in the form of cash or equipment from government, donors or NGOs. The survey showed that the enterprise development programs that had been most successful in terms of the proportion of enterprises supported that survived more than a few weeks or months 14 were those that included appropriate skills training and support, and routine follow-up and monitoring. TABLE 3 Household Possessions Before and After the Tsunami (% of total households) Before After Change Motor-cycle Refrigerator Radio Automobile Television Sewing machine Fishing boat Bicycle Source: As for table This research did not collect sufficient data to compare the relative profitability of different types of businesses.

14 Livelihood recovery in the wake of the tsunami in Aceh 97 They check our ledgers and bank account. Also, we have meetings once a week, every Friday. Someone from the NGO comes when we re having our women s pengajian (religious teaching), and that s when we meet. (Interview PR-05) Examples of successful production enterprise development programs include a few sewing groups, salt fish production and some handicraft production enterprises. The latter have been helped along in some cases by marketing assistance from the sponsoring NGO. Narratives from most survey villages also suggest that women s enterprises particularly trade in small household items, prepared food and snacks, as well as some home industry and craft businesses have a greater success rate than those initiated by men. Anecdotal evidence also suggests that women s income is more often devoted to supporting children s education and other family needs than is the case with men s income. The sustainability of livelihood support programs is a concern shared by many donors, NGOs and communities. The most common strategy has been the establishment of revolving funds or other forms of micro-credit. Several of these have been set up in conjunction with the village LEM/LEGA or with the Family Welfare Association (PKK, Pembinaan Kesejahteraan Keluarga). We ve been one of the most successful villages [in] getting people to repay their loans. This is because people are well educated here: they understand about revolving fund credit schemes; [it is] also because of the diligence of the LEM staff. Even so, there are some people who are naughty, because word has [got] around that this money was a grant, so it doesn t have to be returned. (Interview JR-07) LEM/LEGA are intended as an integral element of village government reforms currently under way throughout Indonesia, and are strongly supported by national, provincial and district government policy. Under national decentralisation and village government legislation, and reiterated in Acehnese provincial and district qanun, 15 village communities are now authorised to establish profitmaking enterprises to support village government and social and economic development. These can include the commercial exploitation of village assets, such as quarrying of sand or gravel, productive enterprises such as manufacturing or post-harvest processing, managing a local tourist attraction, or micro-credit schemes for village residents. One of the most innovative examples from the survey villages is the village government of Darussalam s plan to purchase a purified water production and vending facility, which will provide a handy supply of drinking water for village residents (who cannot drink the water from household wells), while generating a healthy profit for the village. In several of the survey villages, re-establishment of local markets and resumption of regular market days have provided a significant boost to local economic vitality. 15 Qanun are Acehnese provincial and district regulations; of particular importance here is the qanun on gampong government, written after Law 11/2006 on Governing Aceh was implemented.

15 98 Craig Thorburn TABLE 4 Monthly Household Income Before and After the Tsunami: All Households (% of total households) Before After Change Less than Rp 500, Rp 500,000 1,000, Rp 1,000,000 3,000, More than Rp 3,000, Source: As for table 1. LIVELIHOODS AND HOUSEHOLD WELL-BEING In terms of household incomes, the survey results show that there has been a general shift of households into lower income brackets since the tsunami (table 4). Overall, incomes were still lower in 2007 than before the tsunami, with a large increase (8%) in the number of households falling into the lowest income bracket (less than Rp 500,000 per household per month, or an annual household income of less than $750). These shifts were not evenly distributed across the population. The highest income-earners in the survey villages are district government officials (who make up 92% of the top two income brackets). They are followed by teachers, then traders and business owners, village government officials, craftspersons, drivers, fishers, farmers and labourers. Occupational groups reporting an increase in income are district officials, teachers, fishers and labourers, with all other groups showing reduced average monthly incomes. In view of the tsunami s devastating death toll it is not surprising that households generally now have fewer income earners (table 5), with the average number of income-earning household members falling from 1.8 to 1.6 people per household. This is reflected in a general reduction in the proportions of households with multiple income earners, and a large increase in those with only a single bread-winner. In the post-disaster recovery context, most manual labour jobs go TABLE 5 Number of Income Earners per Household Before and After the Tsunami (% of total households) Before After Change or more Source: As for table 1.

16 Livelihood recovery in the wake of the tsunami in Aceh 99 TABLE 6 Monthly Household Income Before and After the Tsunami: Single-parent Households (% of total households) Before After Change Less than Rp 500, Rp 500,000 1,000, Rp 1,000,000 3,000, More than Rp 3,000, Source: As for table 1. to adult males, whereas in more normal circumstances, several family members can participate in one or more income-earning activities. The population group that stood out as the hardest hit was single-parent households. Of 533 questionnaire respondents, 55 were widows or female heads of household and a further 24 were widowers or single male heads of household. Their pre- and post-tsunami monthly income figures stand in sharp contrast to the figures presented in table 4 above for all households, with nearly half the single-parent household group falling into the lowest income bracket (table 6). The closing question of the household survey questionnaire asked villagers to compare their current economic situation with their lives before the tsunami struck. Table 7 presents a summary of responses to that question. This presents a very encouraging scenario. It remains to be seen whether this trajectory can be maintained, as the aid tsunami recedes. TABLE 7 Current Household Economic Situation, Compared with Before the Tsunami (% of total households) Worse than before 36 About the same 34 Better off now 30 Source: As for table 1. CONCLUSION The ACARP research found that, in general, household basic needs were being met in all the survey villages. Household incomes had dropped since the tsunami, as had the average number of income-earners per household. However, two and a half years into the recovery, many households incomes had recovered to pretsunami levels, while the remainder were at least meeting basic needs. Nearly one-third of households in the survey villages reported that their economic situation was better than it had been before the tsunami. This resulted from a combination of factors, many of them temporary in nature for example, remaining food aid and subsidies, casual work as labourers on construction projects or supplying construction materials, and the use or conversion of livelihood assistance

17 100 Craig Thorburn for consumption purposes. Productive and normal commercial activities were resuming, though still quite limited in scope and scale. A significant (though not quantifiable) proportion of livelihood assistance had been used for household consumption, including the purchase of luxury goods. Already, large numbers of motor-cycles had been repossessed by vendors when the purchasers could not meet payment schedules. There was a robust market in tools and equipment that had been provided to villagers for livelihood promotion. The most common criticisms and complaints about livelihood aid focused on quality or appropriateness: size or type of materials, equipment or stock provided (shoddy boats that were either too large or too small or under-powered; young, unhealthy animals; complicated and unwieldy appropriate technology stoves and dryers); the lack of follow-up extension and support; and issues of targeting and equity. Programs that endeavoured to engage local experts (the users themselves, community leaders and customary [adat] authorities) in the planning, distribution and subsequent management of inputs had proven far more successful. A significant factor differentiating successful and unsuccessful livelihood programs was the degree and type of follow-up guidance and support that program beneficiaries received. Livestock extension and veterinary services were singularly lacking. Business development guidance and support, along with monitoring and financial audits, proved to be extremely useful in the minority of cases where they had been provided. Marketing assistance was keeping some handicraft programs afloat, though much of this appeared to target an international sympathy market, and thus was probably not sustainable. There is, however, a good local market in Aceh for locally produced gold thread embroidery, and NGO marketing assistance, even if only temporary, probably helped a few producer groups get re-established. Small-scale fisheries were showing good recovery, despite copious examples of inappropriate, poor quality or misdirected aid. Again, the communities where this had been most successful were those where local fisher groups and customary organisations (Panglima Laot) had been engaged in administering the aid and managing its use. Supporting amenities such as fish landing and processing facilities, facilities and equipment for local organisations and, most importantly, tools and facilities to allow the resumption of local boat building and maintenance industries greatly contributed to the success of a few of these ventures. At the time the survey was undertaken, agricultural recovery was barely getting under way in most survey communities. Numerous factors contributed to this. Most commonly cited were tsunami sediment and debris that still covered fields; lack of irrigation and drainage; an increase in pest (rat and wild boar) populations since the tsunami; and the fact that nobody else was returning to the fields This picture of slow agricultural recovery was accurate at the time of the survey. However, as this article goes to press (over one and a half years since the field research was completed, and just over four years into the recovery process), a majority of the farmland damaged in the tsunami has been replanted, and some 15,000 hectares of fishponds have been restored. Agricultural production in Aceh surpassed pre-tsunami levels by 5% in 2007 (World Bank 2008a). Tsunami recovery assistance (and the cleansing of saline soils through three rainy seasons) constituted only part of the reason for this recovery: the end of the 30-year armed struggle between GAM and Indonesian security forces in August 2005 also allowed Aceh s large estate crop sector to resume production.

18 Livelihood recovery in the wake of the tsunami in Aceh 101 Evidence from interviews supported the hypothesis that most people were not returning to the fields simply because there were still easier ways of putting food on the table. Residents of communities where access to agricultural land was an issue such as relocation villages or villages that lost a large proportion of land to submersion or salt-water intrusion expressed concern over what would happen to them after the post-tsunami construction boom ended. The agricultural activity that was showing the best signs of recovery was rubber tapping. It could be resumed as soon as people gained access to existing groves, and they could earn more from this activity than from a similar expenditure of labour in construction work. Rubber s rapid recovery under-scores the importance of agro-ecological diversity, and the critical role of tree crops in household production strategies. The primary form of outside assistance that supported the resumption of rubber production was village road construction. By contrast, most other types of agricultural assistance provided in post-tsunami areas seeds, fertiliser, equipment and credit were premature. Small-scale enterprise development also showed quite uneven results. Most often, the successful examples were grants and loans that allowed individuals to re-establish enterprises they had owned or managed before the tsunami, such as fishing, fish processing and marketing, petty trade, food services, vehicle and equipment repair, construction and contracting. There were smaller numbers of successful start-up businesses as well often conducted by widows who received assistance to develop small marketing or productive enterprises. In general, women s micro-business endeavours were proving more successful (in terms of their survival rate) than those started by men. Anecdotal evidence suggested that women s income was more often devoted to supporting family needs than was that of their husbands and sons. Cooperatives and other forms of group ventures had begun to succeed in a few cases, though not in others. Again, women s groups (in handicrafts, fish processing and marketing) generally worked together better than those of their male counterparts (farmer groups, ownership collectives for tractors or construction equipment) with the sole exception of fishermen s groups. The success of the latter is explained by the fact that co-operative ownership of fishing boats and equipment was commonly practiced in some parts of Aceh before the tsunami. Many informants were critical of the insistence by some donors and NGOs that eligibility for livelihood assistance be dependent on the establishment of groups, suggesting that these artificial assemblages had little chance of surviving beyond the initial distribution of aid since many members would have signed on only to be eligible for the aid. Where there are efficiencies or economies of scale to be gained by producing or marketing collectively, they suggested, this tends to occur spontaneously. LEM/LEGA groups represent a potentially important form of collectively owned enterprise established in a few of the survey villages (and they are to become a feature of all villages according to national, provincial and district policy and regulations). Under post-reformasi village government reforms, duplicated in the 2006 Law on Governing Aceh and in numerous provincial and district qanun, village communities are encouraged to establish profit-making enterprises to support village government and social and economic development. Village-owned enterprises, cooperatives and micro-credit programs all have a very uneven track

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