High poverty rate and unemployment rate remain major issues in Indonesia. According to the Statistics Indonesia, the number of poor people in Indonesia in 2007 was 37.17 million people, or around 17% of the total population in Indonesia. To tackle the issue of poverty and unemployment, the Government of Indonesia introduced the National Program for Community Empowerment, or also known as PNPM Mandiri (Program Nasional Pemberdayaan Masyarakat Mandiri), in 2007. PNPM Mandiri is meant to eradicate poverty and increase employment opportunities through community empowerment. At the core of community empowerment is the participation of the community members themselves in bettering their own lives and taking charge of the poverty alleviation and employment programs provided through the PNPM Mandiri.
PNPM-Rural is one of the programs under PNPM Mandiri introduced in 2007. The program aims to improve people’s welfare of the rural communities. Community empowerment is considered to be the key to implementing PNPM Mandiri programs, including PNPM-Rural, because this can ensure sustainability of the program and the resulting effects. As such, all projects under the PNPM-Rural program has elements of community empowerment, which are essentially engaging the communities in the planning, implementing, monitoring, and maintaining of PNPM-Rural programs through village representatives and meetings, which are described below.
Deliberation Meetings and Representatives
The most crucial element of community empowerment in PNPM-Rural is the deliberation meetings. Deliberation meetings are held at both the village level and the district level. These deliberation meetings are the venues whereby the rural communities can participate in the programs. However, these meetings are not attended by any member of the community, but represented by community leaders.
The PNPM-Rural is implemented by local actors, but still facilitated by external consultants or facilitators. The facilitators are external people hired by the national consultant firm that is assigned by the Ministry of Home Affairs to assist the locals in the implementation of PNPM-Rural programs. In the first implementation of PNPM-Rural program, the Head of District (camat) appointed temporary members to the district management team. The district management team and a facilitator communicate about PNPM-Rural programs to the local villagers. Then, a village deliberation meeting is held to elect the village management team and village cadres. A village deliberation meeting can be attended by a minimum of twenty-five people. It is usually attended by head of village, head of community unit (RW), head of neighborhood unit (RT), local public figures such as clergymen, members of youth organization, and members of women’s organization.
A representative selected in the village deliberation meeting is sent to the inter-village deliberation meeting to be elected as the permanent member of the district management team. The meeting also elects representatives for other district-level teams such as verification team. The inter-village deliberation meeting is usually attended by a minimum of sixty people from all villages in the district.
During these deliberation meetings, village and district representatives for the PNPM-Rural also discuss the programs to be selected and funded by the PNPM-Rural fund. Later, in such meetings, the progress of the projects is discussed and monitored by the representatives. At the end of the project, such as infrastructure project, the finished infrastructure is handed over to the village community in this deliberation meeting.
Monitoring and Maintenance
The participation of the community in monitoring the implementation of PNPM-Rural in the village, as well as maintaining the infrastructure built, is essential to community empowerment. In PNPM-Rural, the monitoring are done by several representatives, such as village cadres who are tasked to monitor the repayment of microcredit groups and supervising agency for district management team that acts as the internal auditor for PNPM-Rural program in the district. The maintenance team also consists of local people elected in village deliberation meeting to maintain the infrastructures built using the PNPM-Rural fund.
For the community members to be able to participate and engage effectively in implementing, monitoring, and maintaining PNPM-Rural programs, they need to be properly equipped. Hence, in PNPM-Rural programs, trainings are provided to the local actors by the external facilitators. For example, the maintenance team is trained by the facilitator in materials relating to maintenance of the related infrastructures, the women’s microcredit groups are trained in basic accounting, the village management team is trained on the technicalities of building infrastructure. The training covers various aspects, such as technical issues, finance, reporting, administration, and public relations.
All in all, PNPM-Rural program aims to improve people’s welfare through community empowerment. Community empowerment means engaging the local communities to participate in electing their representatives; implementing, monitoring, and maintaining the PNPM-Rural projects; and building the capacity of the local communities to be able to perform the necessary tasks of implementing, monitoring, and maintaining.
This essay is taken from the graduate thesis of Melani, a graduate of School of Government and Public Policy – Indonesia. Melani. (2014). National Program for Community Empowerment in Rural Areas in Bekasi. Jakarta: Unpublished.