Understanding the Local Context of Indigenous Peoples (Part 2)

Kambu, last day of Self Quarantine of Covid19


To capitalize on the human and cultural capitals in developing the indigenous peoples requires a good understanding of the local context of the community that we would like to work in. As an example, the community in this article refers to the indigenous peoples in Nanga Village, East Sumba Island, Indonesia. These people, known friendly to the outsiders, live in two remote hamlets in an isolated village, with the total area is 4.72 km2, without electricity. In 2016, they were distributed in 181 households with 408 males and the rest 366 as females (BPS Sumba Timur, 2016). Although Christianity becomes the dominant religion among the residents, the other 185 dwellers still adhere to the traditional belief called Marapu. There is only one elementary school with limited official teachers, no public health centre, and the majority of the people did not attend formal school, resulting in, for instance, a literacy problem.

Livestock raising and dryland farming have become the main occupation as the residents have occupied the flat area and hilly region dominated by savannah, farming land, and secondary forest consecutively. Each household in the area has livestock, either horse, buffalos, or both. In particular, the horse has high cultural values and cannot be traded and can only be sacrificed during special rituals. The more horse a family, have, the higher the social status it holds in the community.

What makes these peoples, mainly the adherent of Marapu, unique is that they still practice the old tradition in land use and resource management called Rotu. As a form of cultural capital, the old tradition in land management has been widely practised amongst agricultural society. The tradition not only has conserved the soil, as an instance but has provided the inhabitants with mutual benefits such as local food security during prolonged weather. Agatha (2016) argued that indigenous knowledge and wisdom, handed down over many generations through words and local practices, could be used to address developmental issues and problems.

Rotu is an old tradition of land management practises involving beliefs, processes, hierarchical structures, and religion established and valued by the residents on the island. The old tradition, believed to have been in existence for hundreds of years, has governed the use of the resource by, for instance, prohibiting earlier harvesting of agricultural and forest products or temporarily closing the communal grazing lands. In practice, there are Rotu Pingi Ai for agricultural products, Rotu Banda for livestock and grazing lands, and Rotu Omang that regulates the products and services in sacred forests. The practices of Rotu have so far provided the dwellers with social and environmental benefits, but not economically sound as the agricultural products produced are mainly as a staple food with low market prices.

Corn Farmers in Nanga Village

The Photo is retrieved from florespos.co.id

The old tradition cannot, however, completely meets the increasing needs of the indigenous peoples and protects them from the imminent challenges to the changing environment and climate (Ma’ruf & Albasri, 2015). Moreover, the practices of Rotu are currently often violated as the residents dominated by the young family have converted from the traditional belief to Christian. The Christian followers argue that Rotu is not in line with what Jesus has taught because it involves paganism in its practices. As a result, they no longer fear to violate the status of Rotu in particular resources simply because they are now Christian.

By contrast, the adherents of Rotu have believed that any violation of Rotu, should be customarily and socially sanctioned as adverse impacts will occur to the community if the sanction is not being enforced. In fact, bad impacts truly happen several times. While the Christian followers argued that the impacts were not related to the violation of Rotu’s status, the adherent of Marapu thought contrarily. According to the latter, due to the violation of Rotu Pingi Ai, for instance, the production yield decreased substantially because tai kabala, a kind of crop pest in the local language, stroke the immature crops as the spirit’s sanction. That occurred because the Christian adherent entered the area of Rotu and collected whatever plants they wanted. Hypothetically, from a scientific point of view, part of the plants gathered by the Christian dwellers could naturally control tai kabala’s spread. Such a situation calls for community practitioners’ help.

Assuming that I am a community developer who works at one of NGOs and serves the indigenous peoples on the island, I will facilitate the development of their existing human and cultural capitals by applying various community development approaches. As understood, stocks of resources might decrease or increase through the times. Investing in the elements of capitals that the dwellers need to respond to the community’s changes will be the central work. From the context of the human capital of the indigenous people, it is clear that their knowledge, skills, and working ability are limited to their daily life as farmers, ranchers, and farmer-foresters. Creativity or ability to innovate is just something beyond their mind as they live life as it is.

Additionally, the potential conflict between the Christian and Marapu does exist, resulting in the ineffectiveness of the Rotu’s practices as embodied cultural capital on the local land use and resource management. Nevertheless, other cultural capital elements such as local language, norms and regulation, except the ones related to Rotu, are still generally practiced and respected by the dwellers. Some steps to capitalize on the indigenous peoples’ existing human and cultural capitals will be described in the last part of this writing Insya Allah.

Ways to Capitalize Human and Cultural Capitals (Part 1)

Kambu, 8 days of Self Quarantine of Covid19

There are various definitions of human capital proposed by institutions and scholars with different emphasis characteristics. For example, OECD (2001) stressed that knowledge, skill, competencies, and embodied attributes in people as human capital significantly facilitate the creation of individual and socio-economic wellbeing. While an individual cannot be separated from his values, skill, and health, he could be separated from any properties or assets. Therefore, human capital is different from physical or financial capital because it is more sustainable (Becker, 2002). Pasban & Nojedah (2016) also argued that human capital is something that workers can invest in the workplace, such as knowledge, expertise, creativity, and innovation. Although human capital is most commonly used in a limited sense, it is sometimes expanded to cover the entire spectrum of mental, physical, and psychological abilities of individuals (Slaus & Jacobs, 2011). In short, human capital could be defined as anything embodied in humans except physical assets (such as equipment, properties, financial and natural assets), such as knowledge, skill, health, creativity, and working ability that can be used to empower individuals, community and society.

On the other hand, cultural capital can be generically defined as the set of knowledge, behaviours, and skills that a person can show his cultural competence and social status (Bourdieu, 1986). Reich (2018) explained that, according to Bourdieu, this capital could be expressed in three forms. First, objectified cultural capital as reflected in cultural goods in a tangible way and as a symbol of social status such as collections of antiques, paintings, old scripts, books, instruments, or luxury things, which is generally handed down. Second, embodied cultural capital represents schemes of thinking, acting, and behaving as well as value orientations, expressed in the form of conduct, courtesy, table manners, or decent behaviour in particular circumstances. Last, institutionalized cultural capital can be seen in academic titles, university diplomas, and scholarships greatly valued in this context. Despite no consensus yet about cultural capital’s definition recently, Bourdieu’s work on this capital has influenced a wide range of analytical research in the last few decades using various concepts and methods (Davies & Rizk, 2017). Thus, it can be said that this capital generally refers to the symbolic things related to one’s social status, based on cultural traits, either intangible or intangible forms.

By referring to the above generic definition of human and social capitals, although very frequently human capital is differentiated from cultural capital (Putnam, 2000), one can see that the two capitals tend to be inseparable and unified. Farr (2004) stressed that cultural factors had influenced individual values and abilities. A person who comes from an affluent family, for instance, will have access to a better education than the others from the deprived group. In other words, an individual with sufficient cultural capital will usually have a higher ability in terms of human capital than those who lack it. Flora (2013) emphasized that cultural capital determines what constitutes knowledge, how to get it, and how to validate it through the community’s power structure. One of the main challenges of a community developer is how to optimize the vital roles of both capitals by facilitating the community members to fill the existing gaps in their resources, as mentioned earlier.

Cultural Capital

A picture is taken from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-cultural-capital-do-i-have-it-3026374

The critical roles of human and cultural capitals in community development practices have been widely recognized, especially in responding to multiple stressors such as globalization, urbanization and environmental disruption. Such stressors have created complex and profound issues and challenges, particularly to the people in need. Therefore, investments in human capital have been long opted by various stakeholders because as the level of human capital increases, productivity, income, and other elements required to respond, the era of disruption would also rise. Pasban & Nojedah (2016) accentuated that Human capital plays a significant role in human development, enhances life and employment, develops knowledge, skills, and potential production increases economic growth and reduces poverty. If human capital provides a strong base in development, then cultural capital provides the spirit to the development if properly managed.

Cultural capital, like the other capitals, to those who possess it, is considered an investment as well. Ritzer & Godman (2004) pointed out that due to their social status history and educational background, people use cultural resources for their benefit. In our society, the ruling class usually invests in this capital by reproducing a collection of symbols and meanings, perpetuating its dominance (Lin, 2001). As Bourdieu believes, the upper class often uses this capital to maintain its social role (symbolic violence). Thus, as a community developer, we should carefully capitalize this capital to avoid its misuse by a particular group in the community we work, but to maximize its role for many.

To capitalize on the two resources in developing the community requires a good understanding of the local context of the community that we would like to work in. Assuming that we are a community developer who works at one of NGOs and serves the indigenous peoples on an island, we will facilitate the development of their existing human and cultural capitals by applying various community development approaches. As understood, stocks of resources might decrease or increase through the times. Investing in the elements of capitals that the dwellers need to respond to the community’s changes will be the central work. From the context of the human capital of the indigenous people, it is clear that their knowledge, skills, and working ability are limited to their daily life, for instance, as farmers, ranchers, and farmer-foresters. Creativity or ability to innovate is just something beyond their mind as they live life as it is. Some steps to capitalize on the indigenous peoples’ existing human and cultural capitals will be described in the third part of this writing. Before that, an understanding of the local context of the indigenous peoples will come first.

Keep Learning amid Covid19

Seri Kembangan, Selangor

As known, Covid19 has switched the way we learn and interact particularly in academic settings. Before the pandemic creates global insecurity, we had presented a topic of research or attended in seminars and workshops. now we experience the way in an online mode. Here are some proofs of my participation in academic events.

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The Role of Sasi Kapitcol from Raja Ampat, Indonesia in Developing Local Community

Seri Kembangan, Selangor. 

As an archipelagic country, Indonesia consists of thousands of islands stretching from Aceh in the west to Papua in the east. The geographical situation depicts the diversity in natural, social, economic and cultural assets among the Indonesian. Cultural capital, in particular, varies among the places, people and types. One of the capitals is called Sasi – an endangered resources management tradition which has been practised and handed down over generations among the local tribes and dwellers. Through Sasi, the utilization of specific resources, both land and marine, is regulated customarily for communal survival purpose. In Kapatcol village, Raja Ampat for instance, Sasi Laut or Sasi for marine resources, has been practised by the women and strengthened by the church and customary law.

In practice, women, customary leader and the church officials have designed and determined the area for Sasi, the time to close and open the area for utilizing resources within it. After the meeting, then the church officials will organize rituals to set a unique sign in the area that is said to be closed. Usually, the closing status will last for about a year and it will be opened publicly for about a few days. Within the time of closure, no harvest of fish is allowed. The social sanction is usually applied for those who violate the status of Sasi.

The benefits of the Sasi vary from individuals to community level. Economically, the locals enjoy the abundant species with a high price such as lobsters and sea cucumbers. The revenue they get is enough to send the children to school and to encounter crisis at future. Socially, Sasi’s practices have strengthened the social ties among the dwellers, have improved the trust, cohesion and have balanced the roles of men and women. Lastly, from the environmental’s viewpoint, Sasi has adequately protected the spawning areas for high economic price species and the coral reefs as their home, ensuring the sustainability of production and uses.

To see the story of Sasi Kapitcol, explore the link: Sasi Kapitcol, Raja Ampat Indonesia

Who are the Stakeholders in A Community Development Program?

Taman Orkid, Seri Kembangan

Community development projects have a long history in the efforts of raising awareness and lifting the living standards of local people worldwide. As a developmental approach, the projects have been used as means of diverse groups of governmental, non-governmental organizations, and private sectors to channel a range of assistance to the needy local people. Over the times, the forms of community projects have varied in terms of sectors and activities. They have been designed and locally implemented in the realm of physical infrastructures, socio-economic, environmental, technological, and legal aspects. Moreover, the projects’ activities vary from the simplest ones, such as cleaning communal drainage to the most challenging concerted efforts in rural and urban’s poverty alleviation.

The varieties of projects have indicated the scope and complexity of the addressed local issues, the different types and categories of involved stakeholders, and targeted community groups as beneficiaries of development. The more complicated a project, the more resources, commitment, and parties are expected. A proper project planning, therefore, should recognize the diversities among the involved stakeholders, and at the same time, manage the various resources and potential of conflict interests. Tufte and Mefalopulos (2009 p.24) argued that the early identification of the parties involved in the proposed action plan is made to clarify each expectation and view.

Stakeholders can be defined as those who affect or can be affected by a decision (Freeman, 1984), or anyone that gain advantage and disadvantage from a project’s process and outcomes. They can be in the form of individuals, organizations, or institutions, coming from inside and outside of the project site. In this article, the stakeholders and recipients in community project planning refer to who will be affected either positively or negatively by the proposed project and who might participate in the planning process. In Brazil’s Costa Dourada Tourism Project, for example, only the public sector and the local public sector employees attended the planning meetings and workshops. The project planning excluded the private sectors, the residents, and environmental non-governmental organizations (Araujo & Bramwel, 1999).

Moreover, a study conducted by Chesikaw (2016) revealed that various target groups attended the consultation meetings organized by religious-based and non-governmental organizations. During the meetings, the beneficiaries were informed about the project and what would happen. Unfortunately, especially the women were not given chances to raise their voices and thought about the project.

The study of Schulz et al. (2011), by contrast, showed a different situation. The scholars highlighted the successful efforts organized by Healthy Environments Partnership (HEP) in bringing a wide range of stakeholders in designing an action plan to managing the problems related to the risk of Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) in Detroit neighborhoods, USA. Before the development of the working plan, the HEP personnel encouraged and accommodated representatives of various groups of people to conduct a community assessment about the neighborhood and personal factors related to the risk of CVD. The community analysis made it possible to identify who, when, and how the participants would be involved and other significant findings. The selected neighborhood members, civic and religious organizations, policymakers in urban development, and public health sectors, as well as formal and informal leaders, then discussed the findings in four successive stages of the action plan.

Satu Nama

A Picture of Yayasan Satu Nama Yogyakarta

Evidence from past researches suggested that the types of involved stakeholders, including beneficiaries and dis-beneficiaries in the community project planning, are more and less similar in many places. Community members, potentially vulnerable people such as women, governmental workers, community-based organizations, academicians, community leaders, and the like, are some of the examples. They voluntarily joined or were invited to the planning process as individuals or representatives of particular groups of people because of their interests and potentials to influence the process. However, differences in terms of representation, categorization, and participation level among the stakeholders in the project planning do exist.

It is evident that in the case of a fight for CVD in Detroit, the stakeholders involved were diverse in types compared to the other two community projects. The diversity in representatives involved is related to the consciousness level, other capabilities that the stakeholders have, and the HEP’s way of building the relationship model among the actors through consecutive meetings. The model has facilitated and maintained the trust between the various stakeholders involved. Also, varied stakeholders in the CVD project implicitly revealed the different categories of engagement, which was based on the parties’ interests and influence. Either as primary, secondary, and even tertiary, each stakeholder remains in the project’s process and outcomes. All the situation suggested that the participation level of the various involved stakeholders in the project planning, no wonder was high. By identifying and analyzing the types and categories of stakeholders since the beginning of a project will not only ensure broader participation in the whole project cycle but also allow the participants to recognize and respect the roles and responsibilities held by respective parties.



Araujo, L. M. de  & Bramwell, B. (1999). Stakeholder Assessment and Collaborative Tourism Planning: The Case of Brazil’s Costa Dourada Project, Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 7:3-4, 356-378, DOI: 10.1080/09669589908667344

Chesikaw, L. R. (2016). Participation of Project Beneficiaries in Planning and Implementation of Poverty Reduction Policies and Projects in Baringo North Sub-County: Gendered Perspective. Advances in Sciences and Humanities, 2:48-55. DOI: 10.11648/j.ash.20160205.12

Freeman, R. E. (1984). Strategic management: A stakeholder approach. Boston, MA: Pitman.

Schulz, A. J., Israel, B. A., Coombe, C. M., Gaines, C., Reyes, A. G., Rowe, Z., … Weir, S. (2011). A Community-Based Participatory Planning Process and Multilevel Intervention Design: Toward Eliminating Cardiovascular Health Inequities. Health Promotion Practice12(6): 900–911. DOI: 10.1177/1524839909359156

Tufte, T., & Mefalopulos, P. (2009). Participatory communication: A practical guide. Washington, DC: World Bank.


The differences between “Development in Community” and “Development of Community”*

Negeri Selangor, Malaysia.

Development in Community focuses on local economic advancement and specific social institutions such as markets, schools, physical infrastructure (drainage, public road, and the like), income-generating activities within the community. This concept simply wants the economies and social institutions are well established within the community without a need to consider, for instance, the establishment and advancement of social connection among the residents.

In its practice, some local elites can, for instance, negotiate with the owners of franchise businesses to open their branches inside the community. Another one is that the local community government serves as an extension of district or city government’s hands in channeling any defined projects aimed to foster the local economic growth by building physical infrastructures or increasing children’s literacy by building schools as examples. The process in development in the community begins with the plan already made, including sets of indicators of progress and outcomes. To determine the success or failure of the projects depends on whether the defined results are achieved or not. In other words, the achievement of set outcomes is the end of the development process.Community in and of

Overall, the phrase “Development in Community” means that particular actors or elites mainly compile the development plan, sometimes from outside of the community, implemented with the fixed timeline (in many cases, shorter period), and the outcomes have been determined in advance. Moreover, the concept wants to achieve a rapid and tangible or real impact such as the number of built classrooms, the percentage of generated income per household, the number of couples that subscribe to the family planning, and other quantitative measures.

On the other hand, “Development of Community” puts the sense of ownership, connectivity, and togetherness of diverse groups of people as the main course. While the contribution of development in specific sectors or areas is widely acknowledged, we need something more to make a great sense of community, which too often money cannot buy: the opportunities to communicate and socio-culturally connect. Therefore, the phrase of Development of Community serves more as a process for the foundation of the succeeding community social and economic development within the community.

As a basis for the ongoing development activities, the concept treats all residents or at least the representatives based on an equal basis, as we can see from either formal or informal local organization. Via the organization, the residents can exchange the ideas and supports, learn to negotiate, accept the differences, and from there, they have space to determine the outcomes and to propose activities accordingly. So, under the phrase, the preliminary stage of development, engagement, and planning, are created based on co-purpose, with the main aim is to optimize the interaction and extend the networks among the dwellers as social capital that would be beneficial for the next development stages. The success of the phrase, therefore, is more determined by the extent of residents’ involvement and the level of connection, and not merely by statistical records. Do they feel like a connected member of the community? The opportunities to connect, again, is the critical element for a great community.

In conclusion, the two concepts known in community development are different in practice but are inseparable. Both want to create changes in a community. While Community in Development stemmed from the idea to foster economic development in a very narrow sense, rapid and based on defined indicators and specified outcomes, the Development of Community firstly starts to engage the residents and create the plan together. The concept is not a one-off event, as often shown by the first phrase. Still, it is a process to set connectivity among the residents to get their commitment and participation before stepping into the next development stages of social and economic spheres. The outcomes mainly characterize the development in the community while the development of the community places the process as its main menu. One can also argue that development in the community builds the ‘machine,’ whereas the development of the community constructs humans.

*) The writing is summarized from the work of Mark A. Brennan (2007), “Toward a Consistent Definition of Community Development.”

The picture used is taken from https://communitydevelopmenttoolbox.weebly.com/strategies-of-fostering-collaborative-relationships-social-capital-at-work.html

Understanding Self-Help Approach in Community Development Practices*

Seri Kembangan, Selangor – Malaysia.

Community Development is a process in which all concerned actors and sectors work together to establish better conditions. There are many approaches commonly recognized and practiced in developing communities, namely, self-help, technical assistance, conflict-oriented development, community empowerment, and community capital-based development. Nevertheless, the use of these approaches depends heavily on the local context, on the types of target groups of individuals, and the abilities or knowledge of community developers. While virtually no single approach can provide all innovative solutBristolABCDions to growing developmental issues of the society nowadays, I believe that self-help has provided the foundation for other strategies previously described.

Self-help stems from the belief that both rural and urban people have the potential to enhance the quality of life if equitable opportunities are given and adequately facilitated. For example, the people are experts in leveraging scarce resources under challenging circumstances and have often used community support mechanisms and risk-sharing to do this. People will devote more time, effort, and ongoing focus on development activities, which can contribute to project success. If you see the process or stages of development as yours, you must undertake to introduce and track the measures implemented. Self-help is also crucially taken as the initiatives begin by recognizing the strengths, the challenges, and the concerns of local citizens. Asking about these attributes helps neighborhood members identify vital tools to be utilized and used in the planning process.

There are usually two methods of applying the self-help approach: asset-based community development and social capital theory. The development of community-based assets focuses on the use of internal resources within the community. It has a positive mindset, as community members begin with the question of what individual, organizational, and institutional resources do they have to achieve their communities’ collective objectives during the mapping process. Individually residents can use their support in the form of schooling, training, experiences, and skills. Through asset-based community growth, individual potentials are considered to have several contributions that contribute to the well-being of the group. Young people, senior citizens, or disabled individuals are viewed equally as potential participants as those of active ages and common people. Moreover, formal and informal community organizations help the residents to meet face-to-face, discuss common concerns, and learn to engage in the democratic process. Organizations must be active in the asset mapping process due to their social resources that can be used in citizens’ initiatives. Lastly, local libraries, community colleges, and commercial centers are examples of community institutions that can help local efforts in seeking solutions by leveraging their services, resources, and purchasing power. While the technical or need assistance approach also creates a connection between communities and aid providers, the Self-Help strategy through asset-based development encourages capacity building through co-efforts and processes, on the other hand. The asset-based framework helps people with mutual interest, faith, and philosophy to come together and define the best ways to accomplish the collective and individual goals of their societies for both the short and long term. In short, asset-based development facilitates conflict solving, self-control for the growth process / continuous focus, and internally generated solutions.

To optimize the use of the asset-based community, however, the relationship between asset building, external capital, and technical or needs assistance needs to be recognized. This attention is significant because there are critiques of the method. Also, it is said that the approach relies primarily on consensTanam Bakauus, ignoring internal tensions and issues of power in communities, as well as on more significant economic and social forces. Will local people face the problems of the day and the future without external assistance and experts? The introduction of the asset-based community does not necessarily mean removing external services and technical support from the local planning process at all. For example, financial assistance from outside the community may be appropriate, but the help should be allocated to improve domestic capacity rather than administer the support to the citizens. In other words, the use of consensus or conflict in the creation of local assets depends on the current situation or context. Also, at the beginning of the cycle, external experts are required when dealing with technical know-how that may not exist within the community, but should then turn the remainder over to local dwellers. The asset-based community will start by encouraging the residents to use the available resources and potential external support and technical assistance, as required. After that, it can then be prompted to tackle broader issues as soon as they have demonstrated increased capability. In this situation, the facilitators’ roles are needed. To keep in mind that community members, not the providers, should monitor the operation.

On the other hand, the theory of social capital provides the community development practitioners with a conceptual foundation or guidance, particularly on the importance of social relationships and networks in making collective action in communities. The fundamental concept of the theory is that the nature of social networks has affected societies’ capacity to manage their internal resources collectively. The system also provides residents with the knowledge and social support and has built trust, expectations, and reciprocity among the members of the group.  

Social capital can be created by voluntary organizations, informal organizations, workplaces, mosques, churches, temples, schools, community gatherings, and so on. Across these various forums, people can learn how to be good citizens, trust each other, organize themselves, criticize each other, and share ideas. Simply put, the organizations offer a space for social contact and trust. There are two main techniques for creating social capital, literature-based: bonding and bridging. Social capital is focused on the secure connections between citizens in the poor communities where they know each other, while bridging capital also finds itself in more prosperous groups of people with typically low interactions, but with more extensive contacts. Both of them can contribute to the process of community development as bonding capital establishes trust and promotes collaboration while bridging capital offers information and different resources. Nevertheless, social capital may also, for many reasons, restrict collective action at the local level.

Communities are divided by ethnicity, faith, sex, caste, or social status over the ages. Generally, issues in villages or suburban have been dealt with by one community group only, ignoring the other existing groups. Even if social capital exists within the dominant group, the sustainability of the project will be undermined without the involvement of all sectors of the population. Secondly, social capital cannot be alone without financial and political supports, mainly to deal with issues that require significant investment, involvement, and facilitation, such as housing or new enterprises. Lastly, it is true that, in particular, poor people have close social links, co-emotions, or connections. Still, they cannot influence local economic and political structures in marginalizAmar Munseed ways. Therefore, to counter current social capital critics, community development practitioners should individually be able to recognize the local context. Communities do not have all the resources available to meet each challenge but have proven modalities as an essential element in gaining leverage of joint structures and resources. As a result, the residents ultimately can have the power to challenge the broader systems such as economics and politics.

*) Extracted from The Self-Help Approach to Community Development by Gary Paul Green. 2011. SAGE Publication. The USA.