Two days ago, I was back in Kuningan to continue my gladikarya program after Idul Fitri holiday. This is a program in IPB where students were sent to villages in order to identify a problem and make a solution of it. As agribusiness student, of course we are told to focus on agribusiness related problem so we can apply what we learnt in classes. Ultimately, the goal of this program is to make betterment in a village we are residing in by the application of knowledge we got from agribusiness.
The first time I heard it, I was highly skeptic. As I observe myself and my classmates, I know that we are too inexperienced for something like that. What we learnt was to count numbers presented in exams or memorizing slides so we can answer questions. I doubt that we, if presented with real world which is inherently more abstract than questions on paper, could do something that can make difference. I even said that we would just bother residents by having to stay there, making another obligation for them to prepare a place for us to live and our needs there.
To think about it, I was just afraid. I’m afraid that the years I spent will not be worth it. I’m afraid what I learn would be useless if it needs to be presented to the real world. I’m afraid that I’m not capable in contributing to end our agricultural problems. Gladikarya will be a venue that will make me face the answer to my insecurities and I’m afraid of the answer.
The village I’m residing in is Jagara. This village is placed in Kuningan, West Java and has a lovely dam where the majority of villagers work. The first day in Kuningan had us meet the village chief and we are greeted with such hospitality from locals. The place we are staying in was really comfortable and we have to continuously assure the locals that it is more than adequate. The weather was always cool, which is a welcomed change from the hot and humid Bogor. And we can have 3g phone signal here! The first impression I have for Kuningan is really, really good.
The highlight of my stay here was when I realized there are a lot of things I can do here. As I spend more and more time to talk to locals and observing the current economic situation, there are so many things I want to do that I think 7 weeks we have here is not enough. Micro scale financing system, crowd-funded fish farms, better advertising for tourism object, better nugget factor made by local fishes, there are many things we can do here! I was excited when I saw all of those ideas waiting to be implemented. I thought this would be a really great chance for me to do something that’s beneficial and meaningful to this village.
But alas, the limited time and limited resource we have here made it impossible to try all of those idea. We only got 7 weeks to identify a problem, finding the solution, and implement it to make betterment here. Not achieving a signifficant result after time’s up would be considered a failure. We also have to realize that we are just university student who are even yet to graduate, we need to think how to achieve optimal result with whatever resource we have at hand not what our idealism want to pursue. Not only that, we should also be careful to not make a solution that will only benefit a certain actor only or something that can be politicized. After all, we are here to make betterment, not to promote inequality or to jump into a power-play.
In the end we settle with a program we think would bring biggest benefit to the people in Jagara and its agribusiness system. We decided to direct the women in Jagara to make a product from fishes in Waduk Darma. We see the development of down-stream subsystem to be lacking in Jagara as the farmers usually just sell their fish to retail agent. In Jagara, I had to admit that selling fishes was really easy here, for every fish caught or harvested, you can be guaranteed to sell every single one of them and have a pretty good price on them because this village is so close to a quite big market and they can sell them for locals. While this is of course a good thing, improvement could be added. Rather than just selling the fishes, processing them first before selling it will increase the price of the product and will increase the income for villagers of Jagara. Furthermore, we think we have targeted the right demographic to empower, which is woman. In Jagara, women usually have a lot of spare time after they have dealt with house chores, which unfortunately they spend for unproductive activity like chatting, gossiping, etc. We think this is such a waste for creative potential they have, thus we see them as perfect candidates to carry on this program to develop down-stream subsystem of Jagara commodities.
The progress of our program has gone pretty smoothly and we are in implementation stage now. We have gathered women around Jagara and they have agreed to join this program. We also have got support from village chief to do this program and he even offered to help anyway he can, like supplying fishes for our early production or making proposal for funding to Kuningan mayor. We are now going to do experiment on some smoked fish recipe and abon recipe to find the best marketable product we can offer to the consumer. Next, we need to organize the division of labor and find the most suitable institution we are going to be so we can distribute our village in a scalable volume. So far I find what we are doing to be promising and has big long term potential for this village.
I’m really grateful to undergo this gladikarya. The experience I’ve got is nothing I’ve experienced before and for that, I’m glad. We still have long way to go until we can see the fruition of our program, so until that comes, wish us luck guys!
Do you have any memorable experience doing program in rural area as a part of your graduate/undergraduate study or some voluntary works? Do share it in comments section!