Women's Extension Workers in Indonesia take a New Approach (1997)

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This document has been made available in electronic
Format by the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA)
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Dec., 1997
(Source: Co-op Dialogue, Vol.7, No.3, Sept-Dec.1997,
pp.21-23)

Women's extension workers in Indonesia take a new approach
by Shannon Dumba*
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It's been said that coming to understand the Indonesian way of life is
Like peeling layers off of an onion. You get one layer peeled off and
begin to gain an appreciation for the way things work only to discover
there is another layer underneath. Peel that layer off and you find
another and so on and so on. 

For co-operative development workers, peeling back these layers and
coming to understand what lies under the surface is an integral and
challenging part of the job. This is the work Tracey Innes, Canadian Co
operative Association (CCA) consultant for the Indonesian Co-operative
Development Assistance Pro-gram (INCODAP), and a local team of
women extension workers from Village Co-operative Units (KUDs)
under-take as they visit a group of women dairy farmers in Kunningan,
a small Indonesian village set high on the side of a mountain.

A strong wind kicks at the glass door and enters making the Kunningan
KUD meeting room almost cold. Inside, a group of about 20 farm women
gather. Seated in a semi-circle, the women, all friends and family, huddle
close together like birds in a nest. They lean forward attentively and make
suggestions as one of their group writes on a large piece of paper taped to
the wall.

"Sedikit, sedikit!" their voices offer. The question is: how many cows did
people in the area own between 1965 and 1970? Their answer, very few. 

Ms. Innes and the five extension workers watch and listen as the women
continue revealing information about their work and their lives. Through
INCODAP, CCA and its partner Gabungan Koperasi Susu Indonesia
(GKSI), the Indonesian dairy co-operative, have developed a program to
offer dairy farmers extension services and training. The goal of this
program is to increase the incomes of dairy farmers and to help them
improve the quality of their lives by improving production and milk
quality. Part of the program involves special training for women dairy
farmers. 

At this August meeting, the extension workers are using a technique called
Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) to discover what types of services
and training the women most need. Through this technique, the farm
women participate in the creation of extension training and services by
having their needs and concerns heard.

"We are meeting here to improve your extension program," says
Ms. Innes addressing the participants. "To work with you effectively,
extension workers have to your problems. This is what we want to get at
with these meetings. Once we understand your problems, we can provide
training that you will find useful."

Over the course of the weekend the extension workers guide the women
through a number of activities. These activities range from creating charts
and graphs outlining the division of labour between the women and their
husbands, to guiding the extension workers through the village while
sketching a map. All of the activities are facilitated by the extension
workers, but carried out by the women themselves. Rather than entering
into a village with all of the answers, these extension workers are looking
to the people to discover the problems.

"PRA isn't the answer to every problem, but it can help," explains
Ms. Innes. "we've got to find out what it is these women feel are their
problems. We can tell them over and over again about the proper way
to milk a cow, but if they don't perceive it as a problem they aren't going
to change. We can't tell them what their problems are."

Ibu Ecoh is one of the dairy farm women participating in these meetings.
A strong, confident women, she seems to be a natural leader. The lines
across her forehead and around her eyes give her a determined look. She
and her husband have eight cows, a large herd in comparison with most of
the farmers in their village. Speaking with Ibu Ecoh, it becomes quite clear
that PRA does have a place in creating extension programs for these
women. "Through extension, I can learn from other people's experience,"
she explains. "If I find the experience useful, I will apply it."

Ibu Ecoh's description of extension illustrates the reasoning behind PRA.
If the women only apply what they find useful, the extension program
must be build around what they perceive to be their problems, not what
an outsider perceives to be their problems. The women will only find the
information useful and applicable if it is responsive to what they feel their
needs are. As an outsider, however, it is often difficult to pinpoint a
community's problems and needs, to peel back the layers. PRA is one tool
that can assist in this process.

It was through INCODAP's Women in Co-operatives Program, that three
of GKSI's women's extension workers attended training on PRA. It is,
perhaps, the training and practical experience the extension workers are
receiving that is most valuable. This type of training assists the extension
workers in discovering new ways to develop the programs offered by their
KUDs now and in the future. Tati is the women's extension worker for the
Kunningan KUD. She is a young woman, but what she lacks in
experience, she makes up for in enthusiasm. From Kunningan herself, Tati
still finds it a challenge to discover the needs of the women dairy farmers.

"PRA is one way we can get information on the resources, potential, and
needs of a community by involving the community itself," she explains.
"This was the first appraisal, but we did make some accomplishments. We
got the women speaking and participating, found some of their problems
and now can work on finding solutions."

The problems pinpointed included a lack of grass in the dry season, a lack
of mix concentrate, poor animal health and KUD membership that is only
open to husbands. Tati will use this information when planning her
extension program. But, perhaps just as important as the information
itself are the connections made during the sessions.

According to Tati, it is very important that the extension workers gain the
women's trust. "Before they were only being taught by extension, but now
the extension workers are learning from them," she explains.

Tati believes that this weekend's activities built trust and respect and
strengthened the relationship between the extension workers and the farm
women. This enables the women to open up to extension workers and
encourages them to apply the knowledge they gain through extension.

This PRA is only a very small part of INCODAP's program to help GKSI
help its members. But, it is representative of much of the work that goes
into this type of co-op development project. 

As one advisor put it: "The work CCA and GKSI are under-taking through
INCODAP is not simply a matter of riding in on a Holstein, solving all of
the problems and riding off into the sunset. To succeed, this co-operative
development project must involve much more. Peeling back the layers and
coming to understand the people and their way of life is the first step.
Building relationships and gaining trust, whether it be with dairy farm
women and men orBoards of Directors, are the second step. These are
tth on-going challenges that form the foundation of the program, a
foundation essential to itssuccess."

*	Shannon Dumba is a participant in CCA's Youth Experience
	International, an internship program funded by Human
	Resources Development, Canada