Country water actions are stories that showcase water reforms undertaken by individuals,communities, organizations, and governments in Asia-Pacific countries and elsewhere.
Country Water ActionsIndonesia: Farmers Rebuild Aceh’s Irrigation
Four years since a tsunami engulfed Aceh, Indonesia,farmers have finished rebuilding irrigation systems and areready to begin life anew.
THE LAND RECLAIMED
New housing, newroads, and newinfrastructure all overAceh stand asevidence of aremarkable recoveryfrom the earthquakeand tsunami whichdevastated thisregion of Indonesia inDecember 2004.They are the results of a massive reconstruction effortfollowing the disasters that transformed Aceh forever, butnot only in destructive ways.In the rural areas along the west coast where the tsunamiwiped out entire communities, the lush landscape hasrevived, new villages have been built, and farmers are backon the land, planting their crops again in rehabilitated fields.Reconstruction created opportunities to do thingsdifferently. The government recognized that revivingagriculture, which absorbs over half of Aceh’s workforce, iscrucial to improving lives in one of the poorest regions of Indonesia. With support and encouragement from theinternational donor community, the government adoptedinnovative approaches, giving farmers and villagers agreater role in rebuilding their communities.The Government of Indonesia established in April 2005 theBadan Rehabilitasi dan Rekonstruksi (the Board forRehabilitation and Reconstruction for Aceh and Nias or BRR)to lead and coordinate the US$6.8 billion reconstructionprogram. One of BRR’s major tasks was the restoration of rural communities’ livelihoods. Emergency rehabilitation andreconstruction of irrigation infrastructure for some 100,000hectares of agriculture land was one of the critical tasks.ADB, through the $29 million irrigation component of the$294.5 million multi-sectorEarthquake & TsunamiEmergency Support Project(ETESP) supported therebuilding of damaged infrastructure for irrigation schemes.Farmers, in coordination with BRR, led the irrigationrehabilitation covering over 59,000 hectares, the first large-scale community-centered irrigation project in Aceh.
One of the small ruraltowns that felt thetsunami’s full fury isthe coastal subdistrictof Leupung. Fifteenmeter waves sweptaway everything intheir path, buryingthe land in debris andtaking a huge toll onlives. Out of Leupung’s population of 15,000 people, only about 1,000survived.Well on its way to recovery, Leupung now has a populationof 3,500 living in new villages. Many relatives who had leftAceh returned to help rebuild. Community leader Pak Adnanlost his wife and children in the tsunami. Now like manyother survivors, he has remarried and started a new family. “When the tsunami came, it carried us against the rocks onthe hillsides. In our village, all women and children died, notone of them survived,” Adnan said. “The good news is thatthirty babies have been born in our village. They are ourhope for the future,” he added.After the disaster, the first priorities were shelter and basicservices. Then efforts turned to getting farmers back on theland to provide food and earn a living. But recovering theland has not been easy. Clearing debris and restoring thefields has been an arduous, traumatic process.Leupung farmer Muhammad Bahron said, “First we clearedand removed the debris of houses, wood, and trees. Then,we made field dikes to identify the boundaries of our land.We found human bones, the remains of tsunami victims. Iheld some of them in my hands. We have buried a lot of bones that we found.”
In leading the recovery program, BRR adopted participatoryirrigation management approaches that ensured thatbenefits flow directly to the local communities and helpedbuild capacity and ownership at the local level. Theparticipatory approach was an integral feature of the designof ETESP’s irrigation component with reconstruction worksfor the smaller canal systems assigned to be primarilyundertaken by Water Users Associations (WUAs) throughcommunity contracts and for the larger main canals throughcontractors.