Yusuf Hadik is a risk taker. But even he couldn’t have imagined the solution to his fellow villager’s employment problems would be roses.
He left his job as a public servant to build a learning centre and help fellow villagers, many of whom were poor and illiterate, in Suntenjaya, a rural community on the slopes of Mt. Tangkuban Perahu in Bandung, Indonesia.
The Geger Sunten Centre, one of 47 centres supported by the Jayagiri Centre, winner of the 2015 UNESCO-Japan Prize on Education for Sustainable Development, was opened to young people and adults free of charge.
Most of the learners came from families who traditionally lived off planting vegetables on land owned by a state company near the village. When the government imposed a ban on horticultural farming in the foothills to prevent recurring landslides, they suddenly lost their livelihood.
With the support of Jayagiri Centre, Yusuf collected funds and rented four hectares of land for farmers to cultivate a new crop: roses.
"We tried to plant strawberry and cactus but roses were the best option. The farmers only need a one-time investment, the plant can last up to six years, and roses can be harvested every three days. Besides, the village already had its own market, as the district of Lembang where it is situated is widely known as a flower centre," Yusuf says.
Women and youth offered skills to find new work
Yusuf and four local farmers became further involved in developing a sustainable way forward, which involved skills training for women and youth so they could start other businesses. To support the education of the neighbourhood children, Yusuf also started a play group and kindergarten for them while their mothers learned at the training centre.
His learning centre currently works with 60 rose growers and each family can now earn approximately 2 to 3 million Indonesian rupiah (140 to 210 euros) per month, or about twice the minimum wage for workers in Bandung. As the rose garden does not need daily care, most of the farmers also have side jobs, such as construction work.
Meanwhile, their wives run home-based businesses, such as bridal makeup or making traditional handicrafts from recycled materials. Dropout youths in the family can take a course to earn an equivalency high school diploma and join an art group or an entrepreneurship class, like rabbit husbandry or organic vegetable gardening.
According to Yusuf, the centre currently supervises activities in seven villages in Lembang District, including Suntenjaya. While in 2005 the total number of dropouts and illiterate people in these areas was 3,000, it has declined in the last decade to about 1,700 people. Up until now, his centre has trained or educated more than 6,900 villagers.
The Jayagiri Centre, an institution for early childhood, non-formal and informal education under the Ministry of National Education and Culture of Indonesia, currently has about 120 tutors and its 47 learning centres are located in five provinces: Bengkulu, Bangka Belitung, Banten, Special Capital Region of Jakarta and West Java.