Muntigunung Community Social Enterprise (MSE) is an organisation that was created to provide a market and income for local families in the remote area of Muntigunung, on the dry, arid, slopes of Mt Batur in Northeast Bali. In 2004, the Future for Children, a Swiss NGO, working together with Yayasan Dian Desa, set up the program. The project first built 20 small buildings and rainwater storage tanks for a year-round supply of water. The progam not only provides the villagers with income, but also helps support access to healthcare and education.
I spoke with the Founder of the Swiss NGO Future for Children, Daniel Elber, who raises funds for the program in Switzerland and helped set up the project.
BA: How did the project get started?
DE: I found out that the women begging around Ubud all come from a very dry part of North Bali, called Muntigunung. The inhabitants were forced to walk up to 5 hours daily to bring enough water to their houses to survive the day.
I (contacted) Yayasan Dian Desa in Yogjakarta (which oversees the program). The head of the NGO, Anton Soediarwo, visited Muntigunung. He realised it would be possible to find long term sustainable solutions to the poverty problem of the local population, after a thorough assessment of the situation. The problems that the population (36 small villages with more than 1000 families and around 6000 people) were facing included no access to water, no access to health services, malnourishment, high child mortality, high illiteracy, no jobs and no income. That’s why the women were begging.
Yayasan Dian Desa decided to follow four clear strategic objectives: assure a sustainable water supply, create one job per family, reduce child mortality rate by 50% and assure an education for all children, to eradicate poverty in Muntigunung sustainably.
BA: What are the MSE projects?
DE: The food enterprise project produces a number of high quality healthy food products (cashewnuts, rosella tea, rosella sweets, rosella salt, dried mangos, brown lontar palm sugar, moringa powder, moringa salt).
The handicraft enterprise produces lontar and baskets, bags and hammocks. The program continuously trains employees with new skills, to make additional products. Over the past few months, around 30 women of one hamlet were trained to produce bags and accessories in crochet and macrame technique, products which are already selling at the Sanur Shop. There are now projects running in 36 villages in Muntigunung.
The trekking enterprise (which uses locals as guides) takes vistors on a trekking adventure, walking from Lake Batur over the mountains to Muntigunung, visiting some of the production sites in the small villages.
BA: What has the impact of the project been?
DE: MSE formed three social enterprises (food products, handicraft products, trekking), employing around 200 people. Today, nearly 15 years after its start, 28 out of 36 villages (80%) now have a sustainable water supply of at least 25 litres per head per day. 96% of the families have access to toilets, the child mortality rate has dropped to nearly zero, 80% of the adults are now registered and in possession of an ID card, allowing them access to health services. The program has planted over 561 000 trees, which should create additional financial benefit in the years to come.
BA: How has the project been received by the local community? By the local and regional government?
DE: It has taken a (while for the) approach of “the Munti team” to be accepted by the Muntigunung population.. It is not a simple undertaking to bring a process to life which is very complex and contains so many different aspects like water supply, water purification, capacity building, hygienic improvement, health, reforestation etc. By involving the local communities into the planning and decision process and by delivering on our promises, acceptance has grown over the years.
I believe that today, MSE is a respected partner by the population and the government on all levels. In 2011, one of MSE’s activities was awarded a global eco tourist award by the Skal Organisation, and in 2014, Muntigunung Poverty Eradication Program was elected by international journalists as one of 100 sustainable projects worldwide with an innovative, replicable and measurable approach (with articles in 50 newspapers worldwide). In 2016, the Singapore Management University wrote a case study about the MSE appoach and in 2018 the Indonesian Government declared Muntigunung as a strategic future tourism area (Desa Wisata) based on the success of the trekking activity.
BA: I know that Bali Buda sells MSE’s products. Are there other outlets where someone can find the products?
DE: There is a Muntigunung Shop at Jl. Danau Poso 57 in Sanur and “Above the Clouds” in Nyuh Kuning, Mother’s/WAMM restaurants in Nyuh Kuning, Bintang Supermaket Ubud, some hotel boutiques and others sell the products.
BA: Going forward, what are the plans or planned products for the social enterprise? Any new projects planned?
DE: MSE is always looking for new ways to combine natural looking products with technology (computerized embroidery, laser printing) in order to develop customized products for customers. Plans for new trekking routes are in the making. In addition, MSE is still in the (planning stages) with batik and wig production, which could turn into another social enterprise with the time. And….then there are still many families without employment in Muntigunung…..so new ideas will have to come sooner or later.
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