Semanga Village is located in Sejangkung District, Sambas Regency. Located ± 65 km from the capital of Sambas Regency, there are two accesses which can be used to reach the village which is located on the banks of the Sambas River, they are: land and water routes. If using the land route, vehicles which can be used are only motorbikes with a travel time of 60 minutes. Meanwhile, if using the water route, then we will be invited to cross the Sambas River for 45 minutes. Semanga Village has geographical uniqueness, split by the Sambas River and side by side with Senujuh Mountain, that is how the local people named the hill which is a water source for some Semanga residents.
The majority of Semanga society work on oil palm plantations, only a few of them are still cultivating rubber and agricultural land. Just like communities living on riverbanks, Semanga people also depend on rivers, besides as the main transportation access to reach between hamlets, rivers are also used for bathing and fishing. Unfortunately, the river water can no longer be used as a source of drinking water for the community. The number of fish that people gain from the river has also highly decreased, as stated by the local residents. Based on Ecoton’s research at this location, there are a number of pollutants which affect the decline in river water quality.
To meet the needs of their drinking water, the villagers buy bottled water. Meanwhile, the spring on Senujuh Mountain can only meet the water needs of one hamlet, which is exactly located at the foot of Senujuh
Umme, Women, and Industrialization
Long before the entry of oil palm plantations, the majority of the people there used to do umme (local language for farming), as well as plant vegetables on their managed land. However, currently there are many lands which are not managed. This is due to flood disaster and pests which ate away their managed areas, so that it caused crop failure. Therefore, the people who were getting frustrated due to continuous crop failure decided to switch work on the plantations.
Doing umme cannot be separated from the communal identity of Semanga community. In umme, there are many varieties which can be developed, so that society does not depend only on one commodity. In umme, people become masters of their own land. Umme inherits appreciation to differences. It can be seen from the miscellaneous plant varieties. Therefore, even though industrialization occurs, restoring living space and livelihood sources for the community is an absolute thing to do. This is important to prevent community’s dependence on one commodity and prevent them from being labors in their own villages. In order that nature does not get worse, the inherited traditions from the past must be restored, even though it will not be exactly the same as before.
In its advocacy, Gemawan makes an approach through a scheme of women’s group formation. This is not without reasons. Women are the figures closest to nature. In Sambas, it is women who have access to production factors. They are the farmers, they are also the umme owners. Therefore, the perspective of sustainability is very attached to women. Ibu Mardiyah, for example, is a member of the Umak-Umak Peduli Aik Group (KUMPAI) who still manages her land by planting rice. “We were born from rice, our ancestors, our parents supported us by doing umme. If we are not doing umme now, who else will preserve the culture of our parents?” she said to Gemawan team who visited Semanga.
For Mardiyah, doing umme is part of the story of life’s journey. Hence, when she no longer does umme, no one will remember the struggles of her parents and ancestors. She does not want this culture of doing umme to disappear, because doing umme is not merely limited to planting rice and earning money, but also an identity for the subjects who do activities in it. Doing umme becomes a space for social interaction through the traditions or local wisdom they live. Umme is a social and economic media, a meeting and collaboration space to discuss many things. In other words, umme talks about livelihoods. Besides in umme, KUMPAI members have also started to plant vegetables making use of space in their yard.
Organizing Women, Organizing Society
KUMPAI was initiated by Semanga women in 2019 with the spirit to defend their local wisdom, umme. When the majority of the people of Semanga Village decided to become labors, this group kept on trying to revive the activity of doing umme. In addition to keeping the culture of farming, KUMPAI members are also active in campaigns to protect the nature sustainability. An example is initiating a river care movement by not throwing garbage in the river. Once a week, they go around the village picking up trashes from each community house to be collected at one point and then burned. “The river has been quite polluted, don’t make it worse by throwing our trashes into the river,” they said.
The Umak-umak Peduli Aik group shows that women are able to become the change actors. Through collective movements, they are able to influence other communities who have started to be aware of being involved in maintaining local wisdom and environmental sustainability. There have been many mothers and students who are willing to be involved in this movement, although it indeed requires patience to see its progress.
Initially released on the page of Suara Pemred Kalbar on March 12, 2021 with the same title. Republished with several adjustment and diction improvement.