Indonesia: Rebuilding Yogyakarta - One rice cone at a time

A year ago today, the historic heartland of Java--Yogyakarta--was struck by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake. More than 6,000 people lost their lives and another 30,000 were injured in this densely populated part of Indonesia. The whole nation, just recovering from the onslaught of the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004, was again in tears. The international community responded with their generosity.

The Bank, through its community-driven Urban Poverty Project (UPP), swiftly rose to the occasion and helped rebuild houses and key infrastructure in the affected areas. Through this project alone, within just seven months after the earthquake, more than 6,400 structures were completely rebuilt. Most importantly, the communities themselves took part in every phase of the process.

Rice Cones Symbolize Structures

To acknowledge this feat, a community gathering was held with 6,400 nasi tumpengs or rice cones representing the houses that have been built. In traditional Indonesia, rice cones are savored only on special occasions--normally to celebrate success or key milestones.

The people of Yogyakarta decided to take a day off, make their rice cones, and reflect on what they have achieved.

"After such a massive disaster, the people were driven by the desire to rebuild their lives. The community-driven approach proved its efficacy because they're involved in the process every step of the way. We're able to reach the poorest and most vulnerable affected by the earthquake," said George Soraya, Project Task Manager."Reflecting on what had been accomplished, the pace of rebuilding is just unbelievable. As an Indonesian, I'm extremely proud of the spirit of our people. We hope to savor even more rice cones by the year end," Soraya added.

Community-Based Housing Sets a Record

More than 150,000 more houses are under construction through the same Governments' community-based housing program, Rekompak, which adopted the UPP model. By the end of this year, all houses will be completed. This amazing rate of over 9,000 houses per month is a record on its own.

"The Indonesia Country Program oversees two of the world's largest reconstruction effort in the world - Aceh and Yogyakarta. The housing story in Yogyakarta is something we're extremely proud of," said Joel Hellman, Acting Country Director for Indonesia.

Hellman added, "Although the scale of the devastation in Yogyakarta does not match that of Aceh, the story Yogyakarta should be in the record books for what it has managed to accomplished within such a short period. One year on, people were not asking 'Where's my house?', but 'How could we do more?'"

"Dimana ada kemauan, di situ ada jalan" as they say in Bahasa Indonesia. Where there is a will, there will always be a way.

** Contributed by Mohamad Al-Arief, EAP communications officer