• Jogjakarta, Indonesia

Helping Displaced Farmers of Balerante to Maintain Their Livelihoods

QuakeFund with its local parter DeJarup has worked to provide assistance to communities affected by the eruption of Mt Merapi. In this project QuakeFund helped displaced farmers in the village of Balerante save their remaining livestock so that they could continue to have a source of income for the future.

A devastating eruption

On the 26th of October 2010, Mt Merapi began erupting destroying a large number of houses in surrounding villages. More than 300,000 people were displaced, 353 lost their lives, and many more were injured. This was the largest eruption of Merapi since 1930.

Mount Merapi’s danger zone was initially increased from 10 to 15 kilometers from the crater.  After a big explosion occured on Friday the 5th of November 2010 it was widened to 20 kilometers from the crater.

Despite the risks, dozens of villagers displaced by the disaster took advantage of a brief lull in activity and headed back up to their villages to check on their livestock. Concern for the safety of livestock has been a very common and critical issue among Merapi evacuees. Many villagers have been working much of their lives to obtain and care for livestock.

Livestock in critical condition

The livestock situation has been critical for residents of Balerante village.

Balerante is one of the closest villages to Merapi’s crater― approximately 3-5 km away.  It is situated next to Gendol River, which at times has become a channel for volcanic mudflow. The 67 families (676 individuals) evacuated from Balerante have taken refuge at a school in Klaten (SMAN 3). The headmaster of the school and staff from the surrounding village managed the needs of the evacuees.

Before the volcano erupted, Balerante villagers had 1300 cows. Villagers bought the cows by obtaining loans from village micro-finance initiatives with the hope that the cows would grow and become a source of income. Loans of 12,600,000 Rupiah per cow were obtained, which had to be paid back in monthly installments.

Since Merapi erupted and the villagers were evacuated, villagers have felt increasingly worried and confused about their future. They have lost all that they have invested on the cows because ash clouds from the volcano killed most of their cows. Today only 15% of the cows remain alive. While evacuated the villagers frequently risked their lives by heading back to their village every day to check on their livestock.

Quake Fund assisted livestock rescue

The morning of November 10 2010, several villagers of Balerante were assisted by our local partners (DeJarup) to begin an evacuation of remaining livestock.

Aside from rescuing the resident’s remaining assets, this project also has several other benefits, which included:

  • Providing a positive activity  for camp residents which would help to reduce stress levels
  • Preventing further risk taking by camp residents as they no longer needed to return to their village just to check on and feed their livestock.
  • Rescuing livestock has helped to reinstate villagers’ hopes to rebuild their livelihoods and continue their lives.

Through Quake Fund’s assistance, DeJarup was able to provide two trucks to carry out the evacuation over a period of seven days.  We provided funds for petrol and communication expenses during the evacuation. The residents also hired an additional truck which came through their own funding efforts, including contributions from families in the refugee camps and surrounding village.

The three trucks come back and forth twice or three times per day until all the cows evacuated. But the volcano was very unpredictable and often the trucks could only travel up and back once or twice a day. The road was in a poor condition—covered by very thick ash and mud from Merapi. So for safety reasons, the volunteers and villagers could only load 5 cows in each truck.

Quake Fund also provided assistance so that Balerante residents could prepare nutritious food for their surviving livestock. At that time ashes covered most of the plants and it was difficult to find fresh grass as a food supply. Such difficulties were widespread, so the demand for fresh grass was high and the cost of purchasing such feed had increased significantly. To overcome this challenge, QuakeFund together with our local partner assisted the residents in buying some fresh grass which was then mixed with bran and beans. To gather further food supply for their livestock, the evacuees collect wild grass in the fields and vacant lots during the day.

Successfully evacuted livestock were kept in a temporary shelter set up by the local people and our partner in a field in Kebondalem.  This project made a big contribution to the lives of Balerante villagers.  We believe that it also provided a good example for other communities whose livestock were also in a critical condition. On the 6th of November the government accounced it would provide livestock assistance and on the 22nd of December  all livestock destroyed in the eruption were replaced.

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