Indonesia: Setting sail for hope

7 May 2024

A rural community on the Mentawai Islands can improve its economic prospects and access facilities with a new boat.

Indonesia - Sua shipbuilding

A new boat will help the Sua community on Siberut Island, Indonesia, to sell their produce. Photo: KNLWF 

A new boat improves the Sua community’s access to markets  

(LWI) – In recent years, the indigenous Sua community on Siberut Island has strived to make a living through organic produce farming. A new boat will enable them to reach markets and improve their economic prospects. 

“The initiative, titled ‘Setting Sail for Hope: Sua Hamlet Receives Boats and Engines’, is a significant milestone in our mission and diaconia program,” said Rev. Dedi Pardosi, Director of The National Committee Lutheran World Federation in Indonesia (KNLWF), during the launch ceremony on 25 March. “The procurement of boats and boat engines is an important step on the journey towards community empowerment and economic development in the Mentawai Islands.”

Siberut is part of the Mentawai Island group off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. The Sua community, with its 58 households and 234 people, has long been isolated from mainstream development. It cannot be reached by road and has no electricity. Growing and selling agricultural produce, mainly cloves, areca nut, durian, and bananas, is their primary source of income.

Indonesia - Sua ship

Members of the community constructed the dugout canoe, which is equipped with an engine. Photo: KNLWF

However, people need 2 to 3 hours of sea transportation to bring their produce to the market. Unpredictable weather and high fuel costs make that difficult. The new boat, equipped with a robust and efficient engine, can more effectively deal with these conditions.

Mae Jasman, a leader of the Sua community, spearheaded the project. He collaborated closely with the KNLWF and coordinated the villagers' joint efforts. As is customary, the community members worked together to construct the boat, a dugout canoe with the engine installed behind the boat body. 

In addition to transporting produce to the market, the vessel can also be used in emergencies to provide faster and safer transportation to the nearest medical facility, which is only accessible by sea. 

“Grassroots leadership drives positive change and inspires others to take an active role in shaping the future of their communities,” Pardosi noted.

Rev. Binsar Sababalat, Ephorus of the Protestant Christian Church in Mentawai (GKPM), encouraged the community to follow through with the initative. “His unwavering commitment to uplifting the marginalized echoes throughout the Mentawai Islands, inspiring hope and resilience among the people,” said Pardosi. 

The project was made possible with the support of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

LWF/A. Weyermüller