Hanno Schindele

All of us still vividly remember the appalling images of the tsunami disaster. The IIZ/DVV and its partners decided spontaneously at the time to appeal for donations and to help in rebuilding the regions destroyed. Dr. Hanno Schindele, IIZ/DVV Programme Coordinator for the Africa and Asia-Pacific Regions, provides an overview of the activities of the IIZ/DVV and its partners in the regions affected.

Action by the IIZ/DVV and its Partners after the Tsunami Disaster in Asia

The disastrous flooding unleashed around the Indian Ocean at Christmas 2004 by a seabed earthquake caused immeasurable damage. It was one of the worst natural disasters in recent human history. The epicentre of the quake lay close to the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The worst damage was registered therefore in the northwest of that island, although far-removed coastal areas of Thailand, India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives were also affected. It is estimated that the total number of deaths was a staggering 300,000, and many more people were injured. Countless houses, businesses, roads, bridges, harbours and other infrastructure facilities were destroyed, and with them the means of livelihood of the people concerned. In particular, fishing families on the coasts lost their boats and other equipment, while the land used for agricultural purposes near to the coasts was submerged by the waves, leaving them salty and unproductive for a long time to come.

As if that were not enough, an extremely severe earthquake at Easter 2005 (8.7 on the Richter scale) shook Nias and some other islands off the northwest of Sumatra particularly badly. Around 70% of the buildings on Nias were destroyed, hundreds of people died, and more than ten thousand were made homeless.

At the end of 2004, the IIZ/DVV’s main partner in Asia, the Asian South Pacific Bureau of Adult Education (ASPBAE), reacted with a call for donations from the members of its large network, gave out information about aid organizations and their donation accounts, and coordinated aid activities via its website. Many ASPBAE members – especially in India, Sri Lanka and Indonesia – also took action immediately after the disaster, providing rapid emergency assistance and then making a commitment to longer-term socio-economic reconstruction, using methods including adult education.


All four Indian project partners of the IIZ/DVV took steps right after the disaster to alleviate immediate needs and to help the people affected to return to sustainable livelihoods. The partner SAHAYI Centre for Collective Learning and Action, for example, was offering practical assistance in the most damaged district of the South Indian state of Kerala just two days after the tidal wave struck. Although government agencies played the lead role and showed little eagerness to bring in civil society groups, SAHAYI was able to play a complementary role and to work to involve local self-government institutions and particularly the families affected. The partner organization worked initially in the area of supplying food and drinking water and clearing rubble, and later took part in longer-term programmes to provide food, shelter, accommodation, ecological rehabilitation and research and data collection. The Director of another IIZ/DVV partner, the UNNATI Organisation for Development Education, based in Gujarat, supported local SAHAYI activities and helped to prepare applications for assistance from a variety of donors.

The two partners located in New Delhi also became involved immediately in providing assistance. The 100 or so staff of the Society for Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA) declared that they were will- ing to donate one day’s wages to the victims of the disaster. They gave this support to an NGO called Rural Organisation for Awareness and Development (ROAD), which is providing relief and rehabilita- tion – particularly medical and food supplies – in the badly affected Kanyakumari District on the southern tip of India (Tamil Nadu). The PRIA team in Andhra Pradesh is also involved directly in providing assistance in this state.

NIRANTAR – A Centre for Women and Education is a co-founder of the Delhi Tsunami Relief Committee and is raising funds to help the fishing families in Tamil Nadu and on the Andaman and Nico- bar islands to get back to earning a living. This means above all replacing the boats, nets and other items of fishing equipment that were destroyed. NIRANTAR – like the other Indian partner organizations – places great value on involving the population groups affected in planning and implementation, and in the long-term rehabilitation of their means of livelihood. In doing so, it has used methods of participatory analysis, community organizing and development-oriented adult education.

Sri Lanka

Through ASPBAE, the IIZ/DVV supported the efforts of ASPBAE members, the Sarvodaya Women’s Association (SWA) and the People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) in assisting women victims of the tsunami disaster with alternative livelihood opportunities. ASPBAE worked with PAFFREL in customizing its ongoing radio programme for tsunami rehabilitation work targeted at women. The interactive radio programme – broadcast in both Sinhala and Tamil – is directed at disseminating information on possible schemes, programmes women may avail of for livelihood opportunities; legal aid to women victims of the disaster; and other related topics.

ASPBAE worked with the women’s groups affiliated with SWA in Galle (an area very badly affected by the tsunami) in their livelihood development efforts. ASPBAE’s participation in the Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP)’s white arm band campaign provided an innovative income-generating opportunity for these women: Funds secured by ASPBAE from donors to disseminate white arm bands for the campaign were channelled to enable women’s groups to manufacture these with the slogan, ‘Educate to End Poverty’. These arm bands are being used by the education coalitions in different parts of Asia-Pacific in their education campaigns as part of the worldwide movement committed to making a breakthrough by 2015 in ending poverty. As part of the campaign, several White Arm Band Days are observed in various countries, where people wear white bands on their wrists to symbolically be part of the campaign to end poverty.


In Indonesia, a number of NGOs with which the IIZ/DVV works closely immediately sent teams to the most northerly province of Aceh and to the island of Nias, to assess the situation after the tsunami and to start aid work. The IIZ/DVV programme coordinator visited them and their project areas in March 2005, and subsequently drew up two project proposals together with them.

One partner organization with which a proposal was drafted is the Indonesian Society for Social Transformation (INSIST), a non- profit NGO founded in 1997 and based in Yogyakarta in Java, which consists of a network of 14 member organizations. It is itself part of a coalition of 21 NGOs from Sumatra and the rest of Indonesia set up immediately after the disaster to provide emergency aid and reconstruction in Aceh.

Another proposal was prepared together with the NGO Women Headed Household Empowerment Programme (PEKKA), which is based in Jakarta and has been helping single mothers with children to organize and improve their earning potential for four years through a network of women’s groups in eight provinces of Indonesia. This organization has already collaborated successfully with the IIZ/DVV for two years in a project to combat poverty.

Both project proposals relate to the province of Aceh, which was worst affected by the tsunami disaster. (The number of deaths is put here at 250,000.) While INSIST proposes to focus on eight areas throughout Aceh, PEKKA intends to concentrate on 17 communes within a single district (Bireuen). INSIST plans to work through the six district offices of a local partner and through three community centres, and to set up a fisheries workshop. The PEKKA proposal allows for the establishment of a secretariat in the district capital Bireuen, and of four community centres in villages.

The target groups are disadvantaged, underprivileged farming and fishing families particularly badly affected by the flooding, PEKKA laying the emphasis on single mothers with children. The aim is to enable the target groups to rebuild their physical, social and economic infrastructure and to earn a living for themselves. One major tool for this will be “commu- nity organizing”, using counselling, consciousness-raising and adult education.

Accordingly, the following core activities are proposed for both projects:

  • Training to strengthen local self-help organizations (e.g. in the areas of management, finance and institutional development)
  • Vocational and income-oriented training courses (e.g. in crafts, home economics, agriculture, stock-raising, fishing, etc.)
  • Provision of start-up capital and material input for small businesses (e.g. craft tools, equipment, fishing boats, work materials, etc.)
  • Establishment of savings and credit unions (to make micro loans)
  • Physical and mental health care (e.g. trauma healing)

Horror at the natural disaster was followed by a spontaneous wave of offers of help from around the world. The German Federal Government pledged state development assistance amounting to € 500 million for the next five years. Private donations from German citizens totalled more than another € 500 million. Nonetheless – even though the project proposals referred to above satisfy the development policy criteria of poverty reduction, participation, self-help, gender justice, etc. – no public or private source of funds has yet been forthcoming. Given the specialist knowledge and experience which the IIZ/DVV and its Indonesian partners are able to contribute, and in view of the need to pool and make use of all available forces to rebuild the disaster area, a positive offer of funding in the near future is more than desirable.

Regardless of public sources of funds, the IIZ/DVV decided in January 2005, in solidarity with its Asian partners and the people affected, to make an appeal for funds from among the professional and private contacts of its staff, in order to contribute to the rehabilitation activities outside its “normal” project work. The monies raised in this way are being complemented by donations from the German town of Aschersleben. This community and the IIZ/DVV have agreed to pool their resources in order to tackle a larger project.

While international assistance within Indonesia has concentrated on the province of Aceh in the most northerly part of Sumatra, the islands off the north-west coast of Sumatra were at first largely neglected. These include Nias, whose population was already extremely poor and isolated and was doubly afflicted by the tsunami and the subsequent severe earthquake. For these reasons, the IIZ/ DVV and the town of Aschersleben have decided to use their donations of funds for rehabilitation work on Nias.

The IIZ/DVV has cooperated for many years with Indonesian partners in the field of development-oriented adult education. One of these partners is the nongovernmental organization PESADA, which is based in the Batak highlands of northern Sumatra and works with disadvantaged population groups, especially women and children. PESADA has shown itself to be a particularly reliable and effective partner, conducting numerous activities to strengthen women’s self- help groups and their leaders.

A team from PESADA made several visits to Nias immediately after the disaster in order to investigate the situation of the population groups affected and to establish their needs. A clear wish was expressed for the construction and operation of village community centres. These centres are intended to serve a number of purposes simultaneously, providing such things as relief supplies, counselling and training for those in need. The IIZ/DVV and the town of Aschersleben came to the conclusion that this was a worthwhile project on which to spend their donated funds.

In the short term, two centres are being built in the west and south of the island. One centre is already complete, and a start is being made on the second in autumn 2005.

In the medium term, activities are planned to improve the standard of living and potential earnings, firstly through mental and physical health counselling, and secondly through adult education and advice on the promotion of organic farming, small businesses, savings and credit unions, self-help groups, etc.

In the long term, educational activities are planned to consolidate sustainable economic, social and political improvements for women and other disadvantaged population groups. Ultimately, self-help institutions will be created, thus strengthening the civil society as a whole.

The project is planned over a long period and relies on the use of a number of PESADA staff and around 30 local voluntary support workers. A PESADA project office has already been set up in Gunung Sitoli, the main town of Nias. The funds donated are adequate initially until mid-2006. After that, the intention is to continue the project as part of regular project cooperation with PESADA.

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