A Closer Look at KBA Merbabu Asih, A Successful Proklim Village in Implementing Climate Change Mitigation Anchored in Interfaith Harmony

Many people can easily complain and protest, but very few are encouraged to act. This applies to almost every aspect of our life, including environmental issues. That is why what Chaidir has done is worthy of respect as well as tremendous appreciation. Instead of complaining a lot about the terrible stench of waste in the temporary dump near his house, Chaidir had decided to do something about it. He took Agus to help him find a solution so that their neighborhood would become clean and beautiful. 

It is even more relevant as Jakarta has been spotted as experiencing horrible air pollution that endangers the population. The debate has been about who to blame that soon morphs into futility. Without addressing the core cause, local people have been recommended to use electric cars to reduce pollution.

Women behind the successful KB Merbabu Asih (Personal doc.)

From zero to 150 million rupiahs 

"Bumi semakin panas, jangan cuma kipas2!" is engraved as a mural on a wall that grabbed my attention. A short sentence indeed but contains a powerful message. In fact, there's a bitter truth about it. On one hand, climate change has become a serious matter to humankind. On the other hand, people have tended to ignore the issue as seen in careless actions including public littering and excessive use of plastic.

So Chaidir, assisted by Agus the head of the neighborhood, started a journey to turn their village into a true beauty. They no longer want to be inflicted by recurring disasters annually due to climate change in the premises such as floods, long droughts, water shortages, and sanitation-based illnesses.

Agus (in batik) and Chaidir (in black) never cease to perform. (personal doc)

Agus and Chaidir started a campaign in the neighborhood, i.e. RW 08 Kelurahan Larangan, Kecamatan Harjamukti, Cirebon. In the 5,8 hectares area, local people are encouraged to develop a collective awareness about environmental preservation. I had been fortunate to join Chaidir and Agus on a short tour around the housing complex. I couldn't help myself being drawn into the beautiful yard full of green vegetation, including a mini yard across the baperkam (village meeting hall).

When Agus told me that their local organization had generated 150 million rupiahs from scratch, I would like to say it was a matter of impossibility. However, it is purely fact, that they produce hundreds of millions from zero. They have implemented waste management with the establishment of BSSP (Bank Sampah Secerah PagiWaste Bank as Bright as Morning). Secerah Pagi itself is an acronym of Semoga Cepat Rapih Pekarangan Asri Gemerlap Indah (may the yards speedily be beautiful, clean, and sparkling). 

“This is not just a name, but a prayer!” said Dedeh, a woman in charge of the waste bank.

As soon as the waste is sorted, villagers may send the approved items to the bank. Alternatively, they can wait for a pickup every Saturday morning or based on an agreed schedule. The bank officer will then collect the goods door to door accompanied by children and teenagers alike to help them understand the importance of waste management as part of environmental mitigation.

Dedeh who is in charge of BSSP and Secerah Pagi Cooperative. (Personal doc)

The majority of the nonorganic waste is sold and some is made into various crafts that offer economic value. Each and every resident in the neighborhood is granted an account book to record the nonorganic waste submitted. The money from the waste sale is then distributed to the owner. However, most villagers would allow the waste bank to keep the money so that it grows bigger.

“That is but a huge benefit!” said Agus in his thick voice.

By 2018, 69 of 111 customers had joined the cooperative and finally amassed 150 million rupiahs. Dedeh further explained that the cooperative offers its members 4-10 million rupiahs without any collateral or complicated process of approval. It is entirely based on family spirit that the member of Secerah Pagi Cooperative who borrows money is charged with a small percentage of interest.

How subliminal message and water is contained 

The secret to villagers' voluntary participation in the program, according to Agus, is due to the subliminal message he had made to contain in many ways. The messages are routinely contained in clear-cut language in monthly meetings. Quite uniquely, a Friday sermon in the mosque is also used to send moral messages about environmental care that residents should take part.

The significant role of biopore holes and infiltration wells (personal doc)

That way flood never takes place and water scarcity is never found in the area. The rainwater which previously caused flood is now harvested for later use. There are 17 infiltration wells to contain. In addition, as many as 118 biopore holes all over the place have functioned to absorb the water. The biopore holes are also used for composting. As for the infiltration wells, they cast an even more productive role: planted with catfish for protein consumption supply.

What's more striking is that the trees and a variety of greeneries they plant have turned out to be blessings for people outside the Merbabu Asih village. This is owing to the tree roots that sustain the water supply. “We don't have any wells here. It's likely that our neighbors in another complex that enjoys the water,” Chaidir proclaimed.

The miracle of Kampung Berseri Astra (KBA) Merbabu Asih 

On that account, Merbabu Asih where Agus leads the community is granted the first Best Winner of Kampung Berseri Astra (KBA) across the nation back in 2017. It is a high appreciation from PT Astra International as Merbabu Asih is considered to be able to conform to the government program, namely Proklim (Program Kampung Iklim) that takes a long process and hard work.

Their hard work is worthy of appreciation from PT Astra International (personal doc)

Agus Supriono never claims the success of KBA (Kampung Berseri Astra) Merbabu Asih as his sole effort and merit. As a moslem, when elected by consensus as the leader by residents of different faiths, Agus has never had any obsession to score success. He clearly said that their MoU is with God so that all achievements, including that from Astra, are actually blessings for everyone. It is never a target.

Agus believes that living in harmony with nature is a divine command that everyone should comply with regardless of his faith. That being said, the key to a harmonious life among different faiths in the neighborhood is being proportional. He aims to be fair with all adherents of religion. It is also agreed that those in charge of Merbabu Asih Proklim are not allowed to be involved in politics. This is to avoid potential friction between citizens of different choices or preferences.

Agus further presented an interesting elaboration as regards the connection of radicalism and environmental preservation.

“There are three components that wise men see being able to penetrate the boundaries of space and time: humanities or human values, education, and environment.” 

It is obvious that such spirit is prevalent in KBA Merbabu Asih. On the right side of the main road (just across the Astra Park), there is a path leading to the Bodhi Jati Temple. Leaving the monastery, we would turn right and spot a gigantic temple on Bali Street. The temple is across from a nursing home managed by the Christian Foundation. What is even more surprising is that the wall of the huge temple is exactly next to each other with the mosque wallwith no other partition.

“This is what we call smart NKRI and smart environment as well!” exclaimed Agus that highlights the harmonious living of his residents on the basis of a shared awareness to manage the environment together.

Agus has been trying to make every endeavor that all residents in the neighborhood are involved in various social activities. No wonder that the baperkam is often reserved as a public space where villagers of different faiths gather to hang out socially. It is a common sight that everyone is sitting on the floor while cooking together and dining out. They would collect the fish and vegetables in the vicinity, especially that of Kawasan Rumah Pangan Lestari (sustainable food area) across the meeting hall. 

The food is served on banana leaves and everyone on the premises would enjoy the meal ravenously while ignoring to what religion they belong. During the social occasion, they believe that faith tells them to rejoice in diversity and devour everything on the plate.

Tourism destination for environmental education 

As a successful Proklim village, KBA Merbabu Asih is committed to generating creative solutions to demonstrate environmental care and protection. In order to contribute to the ecological balance, the local authority has come up with the idea of a tourism destination for environmental education. Its uniqueness lies in one of the signboards in the middle of a park as it appears in the local language.

An evocative signboard presented in the local language (personal doc)

The initiative will be able to bring at least two benefits. While the local economy thrives owing to visits from domestic and foreign tourists, the destination will serve as a new way to preserve local wisdom to identify themselvesespecially the younger generationin continual campaigning for environmental care.

This will also reflect the diversity in unity since various people come to the destination to learn and mingle on the basis of the national energy of multi-ethnic, multi-faith, and multi-cultures that defines Indonesia's treasures in the face of highly-paced modern life.

What KBA Merbabu Asih has carried out is nothing but a legacy that all cities or areas in the archipelago should emulate to gain power and valuable resources to see what surprises await Indonesia in the future without the tendency to blame or shame. From Agus and Chaidir we learn that every act of random kindness matters.   


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