Community-Driven Rehabilitation After the Merapi Volcanic Eruption

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Mount Merapi erupted again on 26 October 2010 causing 275 deaths, 453 injured, 3,299 households lost, 6510 cows killed, 52 hectares of rice fields failed to harvest, 123 hectares of agricultural land in a heavy damage situation, and 1,591 hectares in a light damage situation. The disaster displaced almost 65,000 people of the slope of Mount Merapi.
For the victims, the government extended emergency response for one month, and contracted the construction of temporary shelters for two years. Following the eruption, many people tried to come back to their villages, but the government established Merapi slopes as disaster-prone area, restricting residential use. The new policy has been used to carry out forced evictions for people who try to resettle and return to their initial livelihoods. Most villages eventually relocated, except for the people of Lor Kalitengah, Kalitengah Kidul, and Srunen, who refuse to relocate. For they believe they are not victims of a natural disaster, but part of a natural cycle of the Merapi mountain. Generally, every five years the Merapi mountain erupts, bringing more fertility to the soil. Their local wisdom tells the signs that Merapi wants to eruption, the right time to leave and return to the village to harvest, and reconstruct.

In the emergency phase following the eruption, Arkomjogja worked with 9 villages, to facilitate the construction of 21 temporary latrines, supply basic logistics and provide alternative health treatment for 1114 survivors across 27 refugee camps. We built momentum to encourage people to return home to their home village by building 34 self-help temporary shelters using bamboo, wood, roof tiles and various reused materials from their old houses.

In 2011 community mapping was made of the village area and plot of houses, to try reconstructing every element of living spaces they previously had: houses, roads, fields, gardens, stables, courts, and mosques. With the ACCA Small Project fund, communities started to build 91 temporary houses reusing debris materials and later a committee for infrastructure projects (road and drainage, water supply, dyke and small bridges) was formed.

Kalitengah Lor, Kalitengah Kidul and Srunen with Arkomjogja met with the local government to negotiate re-adjusting the government policy. To approve returning back to the original villages where the land is more fertile following an eruption, building back the people's original plots with new houses, restore their farming livelihoods, clearing the land from volcanic materials, and being prepared for if another eruption comes.

In 2012, the community started to rebuild their permanent houses. The main criteria for beneficiaries of the ACCA fund was poor families who have not yet received any funding support at all and have a strong comitment to build their houses using local materials with the collective spirit of gotong royong (an Indonesian phrase for mutual work). 72 self-help houses, re-using post-eruption debris were built using SELAVIP funds. SELAVIP funds were able to increase inkind and incash amount to almost 2,000 USD per unit in the home, not a lot, but stimulated producing new quality homes. The community formed a Disaster Response and Mitigation Team as a system to reduce the impact of Merapi if another eruption occurs.

In September 2012, the local government recognized how the communities coexist with Merapi, and the concept of living in harmony with disaster, and cancelled the relocation policy for the Kalitengah Lor, Kalitengah Kidul and Srunen communities. The building and renovation process has encouraged the survivors to return to their villages and restore their life spirit back as before: farming, animal husbandry and mining sand. The community management fund is an ongoing program saving mechanism, saving for livelihoods, disaster preparedness and long-term basics needs.

Relocating people away from disaster-prone locations is not always the best solution if there is not large scenario to support new lost livelihoods. Community preparedness increases if faced with disaster from time to time, preparing community with participatory disaster mitigation schemes maintains the community safely in their original location.

For some, the mountain is called the great grandfather for he will not bring harm to the grandsons, if the latter will not make the the grandfather angry. They care about each other; respect is passed between the two. Those living around the mountain never see its eruption as a disaster, but an expression of the great grandfather whose ends bring prosperity and grace to the grandsons.

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