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 women and young people on the remote, arid island of Rote in Eastern Indonesia.

Lua Lemba is our oldest community partner.  Our first initiative together was to advocate for 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 also supported Lua Lemba to develop programs in women’s empowerment, health, food security and cultural strengthening, through an annual cultural festival.

Over 17 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 funded early childhood educators.

Food security has long been a concern for the people living on this arid island. During the annual musim lapar or ‘hungry season’ high seas isolate Rote and food supplies run short. Women often go without food to feed their families and keep their children in school and they walk long distances every day to collect water.

indigo foundation and Lua Lemba have supported the establishment of pig banks in the island’s villages, as well as the establishment of cooperative food gardens, the first of which was a market garden in the village of M’bore. Run as a collective these gardens are now sustainable and have had wide reaching impact. The produce provides both nutrition and a cash crop for farmers – mostly women – and their families.

In 2014 the M’bore Farmers Group exported 30 tonnes of onions. Income from the garden has been used to build toilets and establish a community bank, which distributes profits to families on a two-year rotation. Women who had spent hours every day drawing water from distant wells now have confidence, funds and time for small business enterprise initiatives and to support their children to stay in school and study.

Our health programs with Lua Lemba 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 seventh year, it is both a hugely popular event and an important vehicle to value and teach Rotinese culture.


Lua Lemba is a volunteer-based local organisation that works to improve the education, health and welfare of people living in villages in Delha, a western region of the island of Rote. The committee of Lua Lemba consists of key local figures who use both formal and informal processes to consult with and identify the needs of their community.


Scholarships and Bursaries

In 2016, the number of scholarships offered by Lua Lemba was increased to 100, with 40 offered at university level, 45 for Junior and High school students and 15 primary school assistant packages. The primary school assistance packages include a uniform, shoes and books and the senior bursaries are enough to cover basic boarding house accommodation in the nearest university town – all of which makes a significant difference to families from poor rural areas who want to support their children in education. 

Delha Cultural Festival 2016

The cultural festival in Delha for 2016 took place on 28 July and was very successful and well attended. Events included the canoe tug of war, traditional horsemanship, women’s tug of war, slippery pole climb, traditional music and dance, a fashion parade of traditional costumes by kindergarten students, a singing and weaving competition for school children, stand-up comedy and plays written by senior high school students. Participants came from all over Delha and neighbouring states.

Community gardens

After securing funding from an Australian Ethical Grant, Lua Lemba established five cooperative food gardens and initiated the process of building three more. One such garden in Oebela, with its water services fully installed, has been so successful that the families involved can now use surplus produce as a supplementary income.

Produce being grown in the community gardens includes onions, papaya, tourist beans, sayur putih (local spinach), watermelon, tomatoes, corn, cassava and other various vegetables.

The gardens are primarily run by women and include a ‘widow’s cooperative garden’. As a cooperative member from Oelolot garden said in 2016 “Women run the gardens. We only bring the men here to do the heavy work when we need them and we tell them what to do”

Before the introduction of the gardens to these communities, rice with salt was the families’ main staple food. Now there is an expectation that produce from the gardens will be consumed daily. Hibri Jamaludin, Lua Lemba’s liaison officer, commented that particularly the children of these communities seem to have transformed, “like they are children from another place… now they want to add vegetables to their rice. The garden is becoming a second home for the kids, playing and helping their parents every afternoon”