Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A development project to help mendong crafters in Indonesia

Indonesia has this type of grass called mendong, that grows in swamps and is great for making hand woven mats. Some people have been pulled out of poverty thanks to the craft. First, they sold the mats to tourists, now thanks to the internet, the mats are sold worldwide.

The problem with mendong is that it created a lot of waste in the mat making process. About a quarter of the mendong plant becomes waste, so much of it began to me thrown out that it became an environmental issue. But, a group of students found something that could be done with the waste.

From this story in the Jakarta Post, Yuli Tri Suwarni explains how the students helped the crafters clean up.

After examining the piles of waste during a study tour of Manonjaya, Tasikmalaya, a group of students from the Langlabuana University in Bandung expressed concern over the issue. They estimated that each district produces 3 tons of mendong waste.

A lecturer from the University’s technical school, Rosad Ma’ali Hadi, noticed the students’ interest in researching ways to transform the waste into something useful.

Rosad, assisted by a number of students from the technical school, researched the possibilities of turning the waste into something useful.

After they found out that the fiber structure of mendong is similar to that of pineapple and banana stems, which are used to produce boutique paper, a product that is highly sought after thanks to the current “go green” movement, they gathered information from paper craftsmen and manufacturers.

Rosad received a grant of Rp 2 million (about US$180) from his university for initial research

“We used it for trials to turn mendong waste into fancy paper by using simple equipment,” Rosad said.

Realizing its great potential, the group wanted to equip the communities in Tasikmalaya with the technology. Funding however remained a big obstacle.

“We later joined a competition organized by the Senada-United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through a business innovation funds program, supported by the Economics and Research and Technology ministries,” Rosad said.

Senada-USAID grant technical adviser Herry Kameswara said the simple technology applied by the Langlabuana University students was one of 40 business innovations that received part of a total of $1 million in grants for the development of business innovations in Indonesia.

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