Hello this is a blog post for the website.
The importance of pigs especially in the highlands is impossible to compare with anything in Western societies and cultures. The pig is a symbol of wealth, it is a saving mechanism, used for community celebrations, a way of paying debts, justice settlements and education, and used for securing relationships such as marriages, celebrating births and mourning deaths.
One large pig is worth about US$1000 to US$2000 when it is sold. They live in houses together with the women and children and are treated as members of the family. So you can imagine what happens when a sickness hits a village and they all die. This is what happening in several districts in Yahukimo.
The Devastation of Hog Cholera
One of the worst hit areas has been the Hupla tribe who number over 3000 people. For about 2 years now they have been hit by Hog Cholera which has wiped out their entire population of pigs. The people feel that they are very vulnerable as they have watched their entire livelihood disappear. The leaders recently approached Yasumat to see how they could help to turn the situation around. Yasumat did not have enough money to buy pigs for over 3000 people but felt that the best way forward would be for the Huplas to try to find a solution to their own problem and prevent it happening again.
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Joining together to find a solution
Through many hours of discussion leaders began to realise that they had the resources and capacity to solve the problem themselves with just a little help from Yasumat.
They discovered that if they put together small amounts of funds that existed in each village and joined them together, the churches could buy pigs which could be bred and later distributed to families.
The whole experience has been very exciting for both Yasumat and the communities as both have been able to see that real partnership can work and that development is not about providing and receiving handouts but about empowering people to find solutions and make decisions about their own lives.
Papua Partners spent a week in the district of Ninia in the mountains with our local partner Yasumat helping them evaluate with the local people what has been achieved in just over one year of working together.
After a 30 minute flight throught the steep mountains from the highland town of Wamena, Papua Partners and Yasuamat were able to meet with all the groups that we had worked with over the past year. It was especially important for the women to meet together and with other representatives of the community to tell each other what they had achieved.
There are 24 groups in all involving over 70 women and all are doing well. Half of them are breeding rabbits and half of them have cake making businesses or small shops which they operate out of their huts. It was hugely satisfying to hear them report back what a difference this small process has made in their lives. The ownership of rabbits, which we thought would bring income to women, has instead given them social position. By prioritising women and providing them with ownership of livestock their position in society has become stronger as they can help others, pay the local officials, and share out to other families.
It has been exciting to see that the majority of the women have shared out their rabbits to other families, given them to sick people or used them to pay a lawsuit for their family. Women who had direct income from selling bread have all doubled their money and then supported children who are at school.
Papua Partners together with Yasumat is currently supporting the establishment of 12 new groups and also trying to encourage new types of enterprise. An exciting new development is that we are working with ILO (International Labour Organisation) to provide training for all groups in Ninia including the 10 small shops that we helped village groups set up last year.
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This program is funded by UNDP.
Thanks to friends and supporters, who helped procure and install the equipment, Yasumat was able to set up access to the internet in the very remote highland region of Ninia. This is proving to be very exciting, as these highland people now have access to information and news from outside Papua for the very first time.
There is a school system in rural areas in Papua, but teachers are rarely present in the villages and many of these schools are too far and too dangerous to walk to from the remote villages.
In this difficult situation, the Yasumat education program is a shining light. The principle objective of the program is to strengthen the capacity of literacy and numeracy amongst children and adults.
Papua Partners supports the Yasumat education program in finding funds and in program management, strengtening the education teams’ capacity for delivering a more effective and far reaching service.
Yasumat establish “parallel schools” in remote communities which are proving successful amongst the local communities as they become responsible for running their own schools and there is a strong sense of ownership.
At present, Yasumat have 32 parallel schools running in the Yahukimo District, which have approximately 7,000 children. These schools are taught in Indonesian so that children will then be able to progress to the Government school without any trouble once they are old enough. Teachers are voluntary and only receive a salary if Yasumat has specific funds. Yasumat are currently lobbying at District and Provincial levels for school operational costs.
Literacy Groups: Literacy groups are established and run through local Church congregations, and generally use Church buildings or local huts (honai). They focus mainly on adults but sometimes children are included if there is no Government or parallel school nearby. They meet at night or early mornings before going to their gardens (not as we know the term, but mostly sweet potato plantings growing on extremely steep mountain slopes) to get food. Some teach in the local language but some other literacy groups choose to teach in Indonesian as mentioned earlier. This methodology has been successful because it is completely owned by the community and responsibility is with the local Church. There are continuing challenges, however, as teachers are voluntary and capacity is low.
Teacher Training: Yasumat provides training for teachers for both literacy and parallel schools. The training is normally carried out at the main post/headquarters of the Church area where there is an airstrip and facilities.
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Papua Partners faciliates Advocacy Workshop in Wamena
From 1-5 November 2010 Papua Partners faciliated a workshop on Adovcacy with 15 Yasumat staff. This was a great opportunity to look at root causes of poverty and injustice in Papua. There was lots of discussion on issues of how local leaders use and misuse power and information and how this affects the people of Yahukimo. Yasumat staff learned about the importance of advocacy to really change situations rather than just always be treating the effects of problems.
“It really impacted me how when we trace back to the roots of a problem such as high death rates in childbirth one of the main causes was poor governance at the local government level” said Yasumat health worker Nessie Pagabol.
“If we only look at issues of nutrition or training midwives but there are still no health workers or funds for mother and child clinics getting through to village level the changes we make will not last. Therefore we need to lobby the government to improve the systems and processes of the health system to ensure that it serves the people of Yahukimo and especially women and children.”
Many people in the workshop discovered that they had already being doing advocacy but didn’t realise it and that it is a natural extension of their work to empower the population of Yahukimo. ‘We also learnt the importance of being prepared when we go into a meeting to lobby or when we are interviewed for the newspaper of radio’ said Deny Siep who is the head of Yasumat’s health program.
“I am now going to start to use the laws and policies that lay out peoples rights in social areas. We can use these to back up what we are saying and push the government to ensure that they are doing their job properly’.”
By the end of the workshop each program team in Yasumat had developed their own advocacy strategy which they will continue to improve with coaching from Naomi Sosa, Papua Partners advisor working with Yasumat.