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Gerakan Rejoso Kita: preserving Rejoso Watershed through ecosystem service scheme, sustainable agriculture, and water efficiency practices

Please briefly describe your Water ChangeMaker journey

The Rejoso Watershed, covering an area of 62,773 hectares in the western part of Pasuruan District of East Java Province, as many other watersheds in Indonesia, is facing serious threats: erosion, illegal logging, changing land use, unsustainable farming practices, and groundwater drilling. River flooding and pollution become common issues. Groundwater continues to deplete rapidly due to the inefficient use of water and improper construction of artesian wells downstream. We have observed 600 artesian wells constructed in the area. The number continues to grow. Wells are not sufficiently strengthened with protection casing. Most are not equipped with valves, wasting free-flowing water. Lack of environmental awareness and weak enforcement of water drilling regulations are among the causes. Belief among the people that the abundant water long enjoyed is a blessing from God has prevented them from seeing the distant future that they may one day run out of water. Many areas in the watershed have now experienced drought, especially during the dry season. Farmers downstream can no longer depend on the Rejoso River for irrigating their agriculture, forcing them to drill more and more artesian wells endangering the watershed aquifer.

Please describe the change that your initiative created and how was it achieved

Rejoso Kita initiative was started in 2016 by developing an integrated model of watershed management through public-private partnership. A multi-stakeholder consortium, Rejoso Watershed Forum, was established to implement a pilot of co-investment for  an ecosystem service scheme involving 174 smallholders covering a total of 106.6 ha of farming area in the upstream and midstream of the watershed. Supported by Danone Ecosystem Fund, the project was coordinated by Danone AQUA and Social Investment Indonesia Foundation (YSII) and a number of collaborating agencies such as the Government of Pasuruan District, World Agroforestry (ICRAF), Collaborative Knowledge Network (CK-Net), and the Nature Conservancy (TNC). The start of the initiative coincided with the national strategic project of the Government of Indonesia to expand the coverage of clean water supply from Umbulan Spring to Pasuruan District and its surrounding areas: Sidoarjo District, Gresik District, and Surabaya City in East Java – thus providing the momentum for an inevitable coordination among parties at all levels. During the second phase (2019 to 2022), World Agroforestry (ICRAF) worked together with Danone AQUA, Indonesian Agricultural Environment Research Institute (IAERI), and the Government of Pasuruan District, also under the support from Danone Ecosystem Fund, to continue the effort to contribute to the protection of the watershed. The objectives and activities aim at simultaneously enhancing local welfare and stimulating a change of behaviour to reduce the local water footprint by increasing the scale of successful initiatives under the first phase and developing more innovations in the downstream of the watershed with a focus on regenerative agriculture through climate-smart paddy agricultural practices, improving artesian well construction techniques, capacity building of Rejoso Watershed Forum, development of watershed forum business units, and developing sustainable financing opportunities for both ecosystem services and agriculture.

How did your initiative help build resilience to climate change?

During the first phase of implementation (2016-2018), Gerakan Rejoso Kita initiative provided a proof-of-concept that restoring and maintaining watershed functions could be successful through co-investment, performance-based incentive schemes targeting upstream and midstream smallholders practicing tree-based intercropping and agroforestry practices, and water and soil conservation agriculture. Indicators of success are enhanced participation and inclusiveness of smallholders (174 farmers in 7 villages); scientific approaches linked to on-the-ground actions; and the project is cost-efficient and effective while establishing the foundation for better environmental governance at the sub-national level. In the second phase (2019 to 2022), the initiative continues the effort to contribute to the protection of the watershed by reducing the water balance gap inclusively in the Rejoso groundwater basin with a target 160 lt/sec water efficiency by 2021. Water becomes an investment for catalyzing behavior-change towards water efficiency by preparing local business plans ready for investment opportunities and piloting ecologically, socially and financially healthy paddy cultivation in 30-hectare smallholder farms.

What water-related decisions did your initiative influence or improve?

Indonesian Law 32/2009 institutes that payment for ecosystem services, with the focus on integrated watershed management, is an alternative to manage and protect the environment nationally. The law also mandates that a national guideline on how to implement payment for ecosystem services on the ground has to be developed. Gerakan Rejoso Kita initiative has been selected as a national example on how an inclusive, integrated and science-based payment for ecosystem services is established. In many cases, a payment of ecosystem services initiative is facilitated only based on perceptions and assumptions, but it is scarce to design, implement, monitor and evaluate such a scheme through a full-package of science-based information and measurable socioecological impacts. At the sub-national level, Gerakan Rejoso Kita will recommend a guideline on how to design and manage community artesian wells. The initiative is to ensure that the best practice on water-use efficiency at the community level will be applied in other districts, beyond Pasuruan District where Gerakan Rejoso Kita was initiated.

What were some of the challenges faced and how were they overcome?

The main challenge in achieving the goals of the project has been accommodating all different ideas and interests of parties involved in the protection of the watershed. The introduction of Umbulan Spring national strategic project has enhanced the scope of attention and invited more parties involved both at provincial and national levels. Balancing all the interests (farmers and communities, local authorities, and provincial and national parties) proved to be challenging. The initiated multi-stakeholder consortium, Rejoso Watershed Forum, continues to find its best form in establishing public-private partnerships for the protection and preservation of Rejoso Watershed. Another challenge has been on convincing farmers to shift to more sustainable practices. The current widely accepted belief has been the conventional practices mean less cost and labour. Through intensive supervision and multi-stakeholder collaboration we have develop the demonstration plots and managed them with local farmers. This plot provides firsthand experience and evidence that the sustainable paddy cultivation technology can produce more yields compared to the conventional practices. To provide more evidence to farmers, a plan is currently underway to scale up planting using the new cultivation technology to at least 30 hectares of paddy fields in eleven villages in two sub-districts.

In your view: Will the change that was created by your initiative continue?

After establishing successful pilots and forming public-private partnership, the initiative is ready to embark on full-scale implementation. Rejoso Watershed Forum is evolving to be the institution to manage all initiatives to protect the watershed. The mission of Rejoso Kita project is in line with the current government mission to protect the environment. The only risk that needs to be considered is the dynamic political situation coming up with general election every five years. Change of government, at all levels, usually will induce changes in policies that will give impacts to any project implementation. However, by proactively positioning the integrated water resource management as one of the platforms to promote sustainable development and conservation in Indonesia that benefit people, businesses, and nature, Gerakan Rejoso Kita initiative will continue.

What did you learn during the initiative or after? And is it possible that others could learn from you?

What we have learnt from the initiative includes how a collaborative action can give powerful impacts to people and policy and how an initiative should be backed-up with scientific research and pilots to showcase changes. Gerakan Rejoso Kita initiative has benefited from the rich experience of previous research and projects on ecosystem services implemented by World Agroforestry (ICRAF) in many parts of Indonesia and other countries. Experiences of other collaborating business and non-government partners in related environmental programs throughout the country has been also crucial for the bright future of Gerakan Rejoso Kita initiative.