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Australia Awards alumna Dr Sri Susanty believes that education alone is insufficient to solve a serious waste management problem – a holistic approach involving both community and authorities is needed.
Known as Santy, the lecturer in tourism agreed to assist Batu Kumbung village in West Nusa Tenggara with its acute waste disposal issues in preparation to become a sustainable tourism destination. She proposed a system of integrated community-based waste management.
Funded by the Australian Government through the Australia Awards in Indonesia-administered Alumni Grant Scheme (AGS), the project brought together the village government, local businesses, and the affected communities to establish and operate an independent waste management system.
“When people throw their waste outside their house, they think the waste becomes the responsibility of the Environmental Agency,” said Santy, a lecturer at Mataram Tourism Institute (Sekolah Tinggi Pariwisata Mataram, or STP Mataram).
“It is a very wrong perception. Waste is our personal responsibility.”
Independent waste management
Despite being designated for tourism development, Batu Kumbung had a severe waste management problem. Garbage was strewn across village streets, irrigation ditches, vacant lots and other locations.
Part of the issue stemmed from the villagers' belief that rubbish was the Environment Agency's responsibility, not theirs. They criticised the village administration when waste piled up and littered the streets. Furthermore, there was no legislation to penalise people who dispose of trash in public.
The village head, tourism managers and worried citizens were determined to find a solution.
Santy and her team at tourism consulting firm THINQ Konsultan Indonesia began the project with a focus group discussion to investigate a sustainable waste recycling business. They decided to train villagers to make liquid fertiliser from their household waste, a project with multiple advantages for the villagers, who were primarily farmers and freshwater fish farmers.
“Farmers use the liquid fertiliser to grow their vegetables and fruits, while freshwater fish farmers use maggots, which are the by-product of making fertiliser using the waste, to feed their fish. As a result, they became more enthusiastic about waste processing because they could cut their fertiliser and animal feed costs,” explained Santy.
To raise awareness among villagers, Santy approached local religious leaders and asked them to include environmental issues in their sermons.
“The villagers listen to religious leaders, or in the local term, tuan guru. When they gave a sermon, they would mention something like ‘hygiene is part of faith, Prophet Mohammad liked cleanliness’, or ‘Muslims care about hygiene,’” she said.
The project received more than 100 composter bags from the local Environmental Agency’s office and as part of the AGS program, received dozens of composter barrels, which were decorated with painted fish. To encourage villagers to recycle household waste, stickers and banners were printed with a campaign tagline, “My garbage does not leave my yard. My garbage is my business.”
“They were distributed across the village to ensure the message spread across the wider public. The toughest job was raising awareness about waste management and the potential of waste management,” Santy said.
During the project period from June to October 2021, as many as 523 villagers (335 men and 188 women) independently managed their waste. The participants included food and drink stall owners, village tourism managers (Pokdarwis), village-owned enterprises (BUM Desa), and the community. Their waste management activities were integrated with tourism businesses.
The activity produced 306 litres of liquid fertilizer and 30 kilograms of maggots for animal feed. Furthermore, the project produced 18,150 organic herbs and horticulture seeds and trained 15 facilitators in community-based waste management.
Tourism and waste management
Santy’s interest in waste management started when she worked as a tourist guide in her hometown, Bima. Back in the mid-1990s, Bima was a sleepy fishing town on the eastern coast of Sumbawa island, the transit city for tourists going to the famous Komodo Island.
“When I took the tourists to the local market, I was embarrassed because people just threw away snack wrappers when they finished eating. When the tourists gave their reviews, they always wrote ‘excellent service, but beware of plastic waste,’” said Santy, who earned her Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctorate in tourism from Udayana University Bali.
When she started teaching at STP Mataram in 2000, she invited student volunteers to pick up garbage in several main tourist destinations in the city. When joining the activity, she asked the students to dress up.
"I wanted to demonstrate that waste management is not just for garbage collectors. People who put on nice clothes and smell nice can handle trash. We have to be concerned about trash because it is trash that gives us a bad image, not the way we look," she explained.
In 2016, Santy had the opportunity to learn more about sustainable waste management when she participated in a two-week short course program at Griffith University in Queensland. The short course was also funded by the Australian Government through Australia Awards.
“Australia’s tourism is managed systematically and integrated. Those who work in Australia’s tourism are the right people. For example, waste problems are handled by experts in waste management. Tourism that has the right people will result in the right policy,” she said.
Santy's participation in the short course also expanded her networking with tourism experts in Australia, who later advised her when he drafted the waste management project for Batu Kumbung village.
"I still have frequent conversations about tourism issues with Noel Scott (former lecturer at Griffith University, now an Adjunct Professor at the University of the Sunshine Coast). This makes me very happy," she said.
Expanding the Batu Kumbung project
Although the project has finished, the villagers and authorities in Batu Kumbung village still keep the waste management program running. The village waste management facilitators are often invited to teach the system to other villages.
One of the most important contributions of the project is the village’s first regulation on waste management. The village’s stakeholders are drafting the rule, which will have to be approved by the community before it is enforced. The rule will include penalties for littering in public and ensure that environmental protection is being upheld.
Santy plans to expand the liquid fertiliser and animal feed production to a commercial scale. She aims to apply for the second round of the Australian Alumni Grant Scheme to fund the project.
“Raising public awareness about waste and the potential of waste management is the toughest job. But the project proved that the community is more creative than we are,” Santy said. “So the most important thing is to motivate them, and they will be able to run it on their own.”
Photo courtesy of Dr Sri Susanty.
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