Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Finally, the proposals are in!

It’s been an extremely busy month for BBF and Aceh-based Jembatan Masa Depan (JMD). All the staff, as well as my associates, colleagues, cohnsultants, friends, and a few experts we buttonholed in different parts of the world and asked for technical advice—worked like mad to finish two large proposals to the Aceh Economic Development Financing Facility (EDFF), the grant making arm of the Multi-Donor Fund—the group of countries that provided relief after the 2004 tsunami. This grant round, administered by World Bank, represents the last of the funds available for rebuilding Aceh, which in this phase nearly 5 years later is focusing not so much on rebuilding as in assuring the province’s economic stability and continued growth. The focus of the funds this time was not only on those areas that had suffered destruction as a result of the tsunami; it recognized the large toll the internal conflict has taken on the quality of life of many people, especially in remote areas. So JMD put together two complementary project proposals in our areas of expertise (that also happen to be the priority areas of this funding): reclamation of destroyed Robusta coffee plantations for about 400 traditional coffee farmers, and the augmentation of the goat dairy industry via the establishment of a milk processing plant. Both these projects are in the Jaya subdistrict of Aceh Jaya, where we first started nearly 5 years ago, rebuilding houses and helping people get back on their feet (literally) after the tsunami.

These projects have actually been in the process of development for years, but we’ve never been given the opportunity to access the necessary funding that would make these dreams a reality. The dairy production/milk processing center project builds on a successful but small dairy initiative in the village of Lamtui and proposes to increase the herd, beneficiaries, and production capacity over the life of the project to the point where an independent dairy association is formed and the processing center is producing a market-driven 500 litres of milk and milk products daily. Pre-tsunami Lamno coffee production catered to the substantially underserved internal Achenese market; JMD’s assistance would directly impact the ability of the 400 farming families in that community to participate in the national marketplace and substantially improve the district’s economy, increasing coffee production from 50 to 500 tons yearly.

As with all our projects, we’re including small business education courses for not only our beneficiaries but all community members. We’re also certified by the Indonesian government to administer a high-school equivalency program called “Paket ABC” that provides alternate degree certification to people whose education was interrupted by the tsunami, the conflict, or other reasons. Another staple component of these two JMD projects is the attention paid to gender roles and the involvement of women as leaders in livelihoods projects, especially in conflict-affected areas where women comprise a great majority of heads of households.
This is an especially exciting project because we have so many wonderful partners helping us, including Syakuala University, the World Wildlife Fund, coffee production expert Tony Marsh, the Vermont Quality of Life Consulting Group, and several local organic farming and sustainable livelihoods NGO’s with a broad range of experience working with at-risk populations in hard to access areas of the province.

The grant funds are for three years. We’re asking for about $3 million, to improve the quality of life of about 2,000 people and stabilize the economy of a subdistrict at the same time.

We should know in about 8 weeks or so if we’ve passed the initial round. This is our biggest effort yet. Wish us luck!