Indonesia: Rote

Lua Lemba Education and Community Development Foundation, Rote

Project established: 2000

Since 2000 indigo foundation has worked with the grassroots Lua Lemba Education and Community Development Foundation to increase opportunities for young people on the remote, arid island of Rote in eastern Indonesia.

Lua Lemba is our oldest partner.  Our first initiative together was to establish a senior high school in West Rote Island. Now, many graduates from this school go on to university returning to Rote as administrators, teachers, primary health workers and business people. Many of these students were recipients of grants from the Lua Lemba bursary program.

While education remains at the core of Lua Lemba’s focus, with programs supporting early childhood education through to university level, indigo foundation has supported Lua Lemba to develop programs in women’s empowerment, health, food security and cultural strengthening, through an annual cultural festival.

Over 16 successful years we have contributed to the establishment of two senior high schools, provided education bursaries for children from kindergarten through to senior high school, trained and funding early childhood educators.

Food security has long been a concern for the people living on this arid island.  In 2002 indigo foundation and Lua Lemba supported the establishment of market gardens in the village of M’bore.  Run as a collective these gardens have had wide reaching impact, the produce provides both nutrition and a cash crop for farmers – mostly women – and their families.

Further, the community has used money raised by the sale of vegetables to build toilets, and has established a community bank which distributes profits to families on a two-year rotational cycle.  This money is often enough to buy a motor bike, or even to build a permanent house.  M’bore is sharing their knowledge and expertise with other villages enabling them to establish garden enterprises of their own.

In 2016, we are extending this food security program to establish and support five new women run cooperative gardens.

Our health programs have included mother and child health workshops, the development of a healthy schools program and a highly successful festival which focussed on reproductive and sexual health issues.

In 2010, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of indigo foundation’s collaborations in Rote, Lua Lemba founded an annual Arts and Culture festival.  Now in its fifth year, it is both a hugely popular event and an important vehicle for perpetuating cultural transmission.

latest news

In 2014, the number of scholarships offered by Lua Lemba was increased to 75, with 40 offered at university level. The senior bursaries are enough to cover basic boarding house accommodation in the nearest university town. This year, for the first time, two bursaries were offered to students who had been offered Government scholarships in Java. Although only $150 per year the bursaries make a significant difference to families from poor rural areas who want to support their children in education.

The Oenale Pig Bank has grown from the initial five members with three members owning pigs, to sixteen members all of whom have several pigs and it is still growing. There are waiting lists for joining the co-operative. Western Plains Free Range Pork, from western Victoria, has provided technical and funding support to the bank, including a new water supply system. This will improve maternal and piglet survival rates and cut down the time spent carrying water to the stock. Production from the pig bank has improved the health and well being of the families involved and is providing an income that goes to better housing and improved access to education and basic health care.

A new pig bank was funded in Nemberala village this year, however it failed within the first few months. Tuaneo Village has applied for funding for a pig bank and their proposal is currently being assessed.

Two new vegetable gardens have been established this year – in Bunioen Village and in Oebela village. Bunioen is a dryland garden and the Women’s Cooperative that manage it were very pleased with their onion harvest, which provided them with a small income on top of the vegetables they had grown for their own consumption.

Oebela is a remote village with good soil and water. indigo foundation funded about $500 for basic equipment in May 2015 and just a few months later when our Project Coordinator Libby House visited, it was joyful to see the abundant production – tomatoes, onions, beans, eggplant, peanuts and bitter gourd. The corn had been destroyed by free range goats but laughing kids were playing in the water troughs and pulling onions. On that visit, Libby met with the first farmer from the project selling produce at the local market – just a few bags of tomatoes, some onions and some peanuts – but they were the best vegetables in the world on that day!

The Delha Cultural Festival was held in October 2014. The 2015 festival has been postponded due to changes in the Lua Lemba Committee but plans for a supersized 2016 Festival are underway.  

We also welcomed a new Liaison Officer, Hibri Jamaluddin, to the project.


The biggest challenge Lua Lemba faces is attracting and keeping a solid group of volunteers. This year Treasurer Pak Ande Abineno, who has been with the Foundation since it started, was transferred out of the area and Merci Killi who has been the Administrator for several years resigned. A new Treasurer, Vice -Chair and Administrator have been appointed.

One of the consequences of the change-over of volunteers was that record keeping deteriorated and programs and funding decisions were not monitored as well as they could have been. The assessment of the proposal for the pig bank in Nemberala was not thorough, with the result that it was funded but failed within a few months.

In contrast, activities that have been thoroughly assessed, such as the bursaries, the Oengaut Pig Bank and the community food gardens continue to thrive.

the future

Thanks to a much-appreciated grant from Australian Ethical, indigo foundation will be able to fund the establishment of five new cooperative food gardens this year. Since the beginning of our relationship, all Lua Lemba’s core activities have been conducted on a shoestring budget. It is an exciting prospect to see how these cooperatives will respond to having improved access to funding.

The Cultural Festival for 2016 looks to be taking on a new structure and is already generating interest across the island.

With new people, supported by some old hands in the Lua Lemba executive and a new Liaison Officer, the indigo foundation – Lua Lemba partnership is looking very positive going into 2016

Project Coordinator: Libby House

Board representative: Sally Stevenson