Dahlia is a name of flower that most women around the world familiarly know and even adore. In an upstream village in Sumatra Island, Indonesia, women make use of “Dahlia” to name a micro credit institution that they manage collectively to support their own daily needs.
Like a flower, the Dahlia micro credit institution— the Independent Community Organization (KSM) Dahlia to be precise— also grew out of a tiny seed. It began when the Indonesia Conservancy Community (KKI) Warsi, a non-government organization (NGO) working on environment conservancy, was implementing its program among the villagers of Lubuk Beringin Village, Jambi Province. From Jakarta, the Capital City of Indonesia, it takes an hour of trip by airplane and about some more five hours of land cruise on rugged country roads through a chain of dense forest of rubber plants.
KKI Warsi itself is the board of Sumatra Sustainable Support (SSS), a community foundation (CF) that later on advocates the forest farmers of Lubuk Beringin, taking over KKI Warsi’s role in the past. Through an Integrated Conservancy Development Project of Kerinci Seblat National Park (ICDP TNKS) from 1990 to 2002, KKI Warsi advocated the forest villagers— females and males— to empower and develop the village institution to improve the villagers’ economy and to manage the natural sources in sustainable way.
KKI Warsi facilitated the women, all of them are Muslims, to have a meeting on Fridays. They began with religious learning, and then went on with a lottery with equal share from every member who took turn to become the winner of the lottery. “The activity in August 2000,” recalled Rudy Syaf, KKI Warsi’s advisor.
At every meeting, each Dahlia woman is obliged to submit IDR 2,000— IDR 1,000 for lottery share and the other IDR 1,000 to be collected for the needs to support the religious learning. In the long run the women eventually managed to develop a credit union that they had been longing for. They began with collecting private funds of IDR 6,000 a person— IDR 5,000 as main share and IDR 1,000 as monthly saving.
“By mid 2001 the members of the group could demand a credit at most IDR 100,000 that they should pay off within 10 months,” said Nur Asiah, chairwoman of Dahlia.
Nur Asiah and her fellow women of Dahlia can wear a broader smile now. Since they have a credit union to support their own need, they can find a new source of finance which is quite easily for them to access, especially when they are faced with unexpected expenses.
Things had been quite different from the time when Dahlia was not yet established. In the past the forest farmers depended on traders of rubber, some still do, for money for the traders’ advantages. “But now we can find alternative financial resource, thanks to the credit union. Sure, we’re glad to see the credit union develops well, considering the fact that the idea sprung casually among us the women when we were doing the laundry at the stream,” said Nur Asiah.
Dahlia is now improving every aspects of its capacity to become a cooperative with a more powerful legal status. While the process is on its way, the village farmers develop a credit union where the members can have some loans, run a rental of items that people need when they have party, home industry of handy crafts, and productive gardens. Each year Dahlia holds an annual meeting of members, the highest council and a forum where the members distribute the net profit among them.
“We distribute some portions of the net profit among our members, spend some others for new investment, and save the rests for the village for conservancy operation cost. We always persuade our fellow villagers to give more care for the environment,” said Muhammad Jufrie, a facilitator for Dahlia and an agent of the village administration.
Lubuk Beringin is an independent village and the villagers find supplies of their livelihood from the surrounding natural resources. They mostly make th eir livings from the rubber plants which grow lavishly at the vast forestland around them. They also have a power plant of micro hydro that they build at a river nearby. “If the environment is destroyed, the forest degraded, we won’t be able to see the turbine going round anymore, and what we’ll find is that we’ll live in the dark,” said Jufrie.
Dahlia now owns total asset of IDR 200 millions. What is more, it has also developed to become a backbone of the village’s economy. But the villagers do not want to stop and get satisfied with what the have achieved. “We’re still keep trying to find ways to sell the raw rubber directly to the factories so as that we can have better values and cut short the complicated distribution chain,” said Nur Asiah.
Like a flower, Dahlia from the dense forest of rubber plant at Lubuk Beringin has now been growing full bloom.***