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I. Introduction

Indonesia is a highly diverse country stretching across an archipelago consisting of 13,667 islands spread between 6 08' North latitude and 11 15' South latitude, and between 94 45' East longitude and 141 05' West longitude. The waters of the archipelago belong to the Exclusive Economic Zone, covering approximately 7.9 million square kilometers. On the other hand, total land area stretches to around two million square kilometers. The country is administratively divided into 27 provinces (each headed by a Governor) and subdivided into regencies (241), medium-sized cities (55), subdistricts (3,625) and villages (67,033).

The population of Indonesia stands at 192 million with a population growth rate of 2.1%. However, the populace is concentrated mainly on six main islands: Java, Sumatra, Bali, Kalimantan, Sulawesi and Irian Jaya.

More than half on the country's land is forested and a significant portion is mountainous and volcanic. Volcanic activity through the ages has given the soil in Java and Bali a much higher degree of fertility than is found in most other parts of Indonesia.

A. Dominant Bio-Physical Characteristics and Climate

1. Most of Indonesia lies directly along or just South of the equator. The country has a tropical, monsoon-like climate and is characterized by slight changes of season and temperature, low winds, high humidity and periodically heavy rainfall. Except at higher elevations, temperature generally ranges between 20 0C and 33 0C; humidity ranges from 75 to 95 percent.

2. Rainfall Distribution

Rainfall varies throughout Indonesia, averaging 706 millimeters every year.

Annual rainfall is heaviest (more than 2000 millimeters) along the Western part of the country for six months.

3. Soil Condition and Type

Soil conditions have various fertility and physical characteristics. Except in Java, the Western part of Indonesia tends to be acidic and infertile.

There are 11 basic types of soil in the country:

a. Andosol (Java, Sumatra, NTT and NTB)

b. Latosol (in all islands, except Maluku)

c. Podsolic (in Kalimantan)

d. Red-Yellow Podsolic (Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Irian Jaya and Halmahera)

e. Brown-Gray Podsolic (Irian Jaya, Halmahera, Maluku, Sumatra and Sulawesi)

f. Grumusol (Central-Java and East Java)

g. Regosol (Java, Sumatra, Halmahera, NTT and NTB)

h. Organic soil (Kalimantan, Sumatra and Irian)

i. Alluvial (in all islands)

j. Mediteran (Java, Sulawesi, NTT and NTB)

k. Rendzina (Maluku)

Of these types, five (5) are suitable for agricultural activity, i.e., Grumusol, Andosol, Mediteran, Alluvial and Atosol.

B. Agricultural Sector

1. Indonesia has a total land area of 202 million hectares. Of these, the country's forest area covers roughly 60% (120 million hectares) and agriculture land reaches 20 million hectares.

2. Rice, being the country's staple food, is planted most in the agricultural land (approximately 7.5 million hectares of agricultural land). Annual production is 45,178 million tons, given that only 56% of the rice lands is irrigated.

3. Estimates reveal that there are 115 million workers in agriculture (60% of the total population).

C. Indonesian NGOs

In Indonesia, the terms "LSM" and "LPSM" refer to NGOs. The former means "Lembaga Swadaya Masyarakat" (Self-Help Group) and the latter stands for "Lembaga Pengembang Swadaya Masyarakat (Self-Help Group Promoting Institute). At present, there are some 10,000 of LSMs in the country. Self-help organizations are usually formed to answer immediate problems. Once they are solved, many of the LSMs are dissolved. A few, however, are able to crystallize their activities, define clear goals and strengthen their management. Henceforth, they are able to increase their level of funding and develop the organization and its personnel towards a more professional level. NGOs that reach this certain level are called LPSM. To date, there are approximately three hundred (300) LPSM in the country.

In general, an NGO in Indonesia is defined as an organization established by the community members themselves to respond to various socio-economic problems such as poverty, underdevelopment and ignorance. Most of them work for "development" but differ in approaches (charity vis-a-vis self reliance), attitudes (individualistic vis-a-vis independence) and behaviour (imitative vis-a-vis pioneering). Their range of activities varies from promoting social welfare among the poor to promoting rural and agriculture development in the country. They operate in the fields of health care, family planning, education, small-scale industries, capital formation, farming, research and development among others. The geographic coverage of operation also varies, i.e., from village to international level.

In addition, the following characteristics can best describe Indonesian NGOs:

1. The non-government organizations were founded on the community's own initiatives, as an expression of participation in the decision-making process. It is in this light that NGOs do not owe their existence to the government.

2. NGOs are independent in their staffing and in determining their basic priorities.

3. By nature, the organization is not profit-oriented.

4. NGO funds have varied origins/sources, to wit: donations from regional governments, foreign and domestic funding agencies or from foreign embassies.

5. NGO usually takes the form of a foundation with voluntary board members and salaried program officers.

6. Most of these NGOs are independent of any political parties, although some openly express their sympathies with certain political movements.

The significant status of the NGO dates back to the 1970s, when some developed into political movements, while others focused in the fields of social welfare and education. But the last two decades saw the birth of another species of organization oriented towards development. Many of these development-oriented organizations have worked out well because of the various experimentations in approaches, either initiated earlier or reinforced later by the NGOs.

As mentioned in the previous paragraphs, the permanency of NGOs varies. Some are formed to overcome immediate problems and will dissolve when the problems have been addressed. Other NGOs, on the other hand, are well-established and have long-term plans. The long term sustainability of NGOs becomes an issue in this aspect as it affects the government in terms of collaborating with them. The government has to choose and/or be selective in working with NGOs that are well-established and have proven track records in development undertakings.

D. Cooperation Among NGOs

A lot of efforts intended to enhance cooperation between Indonesian NGOs has been exerted. In the earlier regime, networking was not considered a priority since NGOs were more politically oriented. But under the new regime, the focus has shifted to national development and more attention has been given to economic issues. This situation encouraged more fruitful dialogues between and among NGOs with different ideologies and religions. The issues that brought them together for dialogue and cooperation were poverty, economic development and employment.

As a consequence, there was a felt need to establish a communication network or forum where various community development organizations are able to share and learn from each other. Unlike most associations, however, a forum is very informal - any NGO can become a member, as there are no rules that need to be fulfilled towards the network.

Most Indonesian NGOs believe that such situation is workable for varied reasons, to wit:

1. The local NGOs are afraid that they will be dominated by the big Jakarta-based NGOs

2. They don't want to repeat their former experience, when a number of associations became mass organizations involved in political activities

3. They are afraid that they might lose their independence once they are tied in a network

4. It is easier for the government to take over the entire network.

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