Muntigunung is an area of Bali that few tourists have seen or even heard of. Located on the eastern slopes of Batur, in a remote part of Northeastern Bali, Muntigunung has an arid climate and desert-like conditions. The quality of life is harsh here, with food and fresh water scarce, life expectancy low, infant mortality rates high, and villagers battling extreme poverty. That is, until a man called Daniel Elber came along and decided to help the people of Muntigunung work towards a better future.
After spending 33 years in Switzerland working in banking and finance, Daniel decided his life needed to change, and travel was high on his agenda. He arrived in Bali in 2003, shortly after the Bali Bombings, with the intention of traveling Bali, relaxing and exploring. Bali got under his skin, he loved the people, the climate, and lifestyle, but he was shocked at how many women he saw begging in the streets, particularly in Ubud. Given how strong the Balinese sense of community and family is, he wondered how it was possible that these women had slipped through the cracks.
Daniel asked around, and was told that these women had travelled to Ubud to beg, from a place called Muntigunung, a poverty stricken area, starkly different to the rest of Bali. Here, villagers walk miles every day to find food, and routinely walk five hours to get a mere 10 litres of clean water for their families to drink and cook with. Muntigunung is without rainfall for around eight months of the year, and the women he saw begging on the streets, were trying to find money to help buy food and water for their families.
Shocked at the poverty-stricken lives and tough conditions that these people were living in, Daniel vowed to work towards positive change, and knew he would need to enlist expert help to make it happen. He made many phone calls to anyone he could think of who might be able to help, including the Swiss Honorary Council. Eventually, he was directed towards Anton Soediarwo, of Yayasan Dian Desa, the most well reputed development specialist of Indonesia, a developer and engineering expert who had considerable experience in community development projects. Together they travelled to Bali to do a full assessment of the situation in Muntigunung, and 120 pages of reporting later, they started to formulate a plan.
Their findings included that the region is made up of about 36 small villages, with a population of approximately 6000 people. Villagers live in inhospitable terrain, with little or no source of income, no education, no health services, and very limited access to food and water. Many people weren’t registered for ID cards, or health cards with BPJS. They suffer from an incredibly high child mortality rate, with up to 9% of births resulting in infant mortality.
The report came up with four major objectives to address these issues:
Provision of adequate water supply of a minimum of 25 litres per person per day;
Creation of one job per family to provide a minimal income of $100 USD per month;
Reduction of child mortality rate by 50% to bring it into line with the wider Indonesian average; and,
Ensuring an adequate level of education for all children in Muntigunung.
Determined to get support for his community development initiative, Daniel presented the report to the Swiss Honorary Consul, Jon Zuercher as well as to members of the local Rotary Club. Happily, the project has now been running for 16 years, and in 2004 Daniel travelled back to Switzerland to raise funds for the initiative, with the majority of funding continuing to come from Switzerland. Daniel’s finance background as well as the support of Georges Capt, a retired former country director of the Swiss development agency, has helped to build the charity, as they are fully versed in correct financial accounting procedures, and every cent raised and spent is accounted for and noted.
The Muntigunung project has achieved, and continues to achieve, so much. Outcomes include:
Building communal water tanks with roofing in 28 villages that can collect rain to be used for washing, hygiene, drinking and crops;
Building a shop in Sanur where money is raised and income created through the sale of sustainably made and locally produced goods and produce, including cashew nuts, baskets, wigs, hammocks and bags. The shop creates income and employment for villagers through manufacturing, production and farming. It has also created a tourism industry, as a tour company now takes visitors on a trek through the striking landscape to show them how the goods are produced and the way of life in the villages;
Building 3 Social Enterprises (Trekking, Food products, Handycraft Products) which are employing presently around 220 people
Partnering with the Medical Faculty of the Udayana University as well as with Mitra Samya, a Lombok based non profit organisation, to tackle the most urgent health and hygiene issues. 96% of the villagers are now having access to toilets and the child mortality rate was successfully reduced. The Health Education Program is ongoing.
The trekking company has been awarded with a global eco-tourism award in 2011
Like all successful community development projects, by partnering with the villagers, they have empowered the population towards a much brighter future. By working together, they have been able to plant 561,000 cashew, palm and bamboo trees, which provide food, income and habitat. The people of Muntigunung now take great pride in their region, and enjoy welcoming tourist groups to see all that they have achieved in the villages. An additional major step in the right direction was the opening of a Muntigunung Shop at Danau Poso 57 in Sanur, which now makes all the Muntigunung Products (Food Products, Bags, Hammocks, Batik) easily available for everybody. Daniel concedes that there is still much work to do to build upon the success of the project, and ensure a prosperous future for the people of Muntigunung. You can help by visiting their shop in Sanur and to see the amazing range of high quality products. Through this shop, income is created through the sale of sustainably made and locally produced goods and products, including cashew nuts, baskets, hammocks, bags and batik scarves.
To find out more, or get in contact, click below:
Phone: 0361 255883