Indonesia: Cooperative enterprises build community livelihoods

Garut City, Indonesia, is particularly vulnerable to disasters because of its high-density informal settlements in the river valley. In this recipe, the Resilience Development Initiative (RDI), an Indonesian think-tank, fostered community cohesion and enabled the community to work together to strengthen employment and entrepreneurship skills, create new livelihood opportunities, and undertake advocacy initiatives.

  • Foster community cohesion among displaced people
  • Co-develop locally relevant income-generating activities 
  • Strengthen skills for employment and entrepreneurship
  • Support advocacy to access rights

In 2016, flash flooding in Garut destroyed over 2,500 houses in six sub-districts and caused significant economic loss. Community members described it as “the most massive and devastating flood”. The flooding was most damaging to communities living close to the riverbanks, particularly informal settlements. 787 families were forced to leave their homes. The local government relocated the affected persons to 10 locations in the periphery of Garut Kota sub-district.

The new locations were far from the city centre and those displaced did not have access to basic services, livelihood opportunities, financial resources, and information to help them reduce their disaster risk. Although they required assistance, there was not a clear authority or institution responsible for the relocated communities. Those living in the Huntap Babakan Carik community, for example, found it difficult to access the centre of the city and had limited support to start a small business.


“I want to live here the way I lived there [in the city centre before the flash flood]. Hopefully in the future, if I have some funds, I want to employ the unemployed here, just to share the fortune, even if it is only a little bit. We still hope that our life in displacement can be a new and better start for us.”

Ina and Yadi, community member, RDI, Huntap Babakan Carik, Indonesia

In response, RDI worked with displaced communities in Huntap Babakan Carik and Cigadog to create livelihood opportunities while utilising a community cooperative model. The government’s relocation scheme mixed households from various communities in one area rather than relocating whole communities. To strengthen community cohesion, RDI engaged individuals from various communities to work together toward common goals. They facilitated meetings in accessible settings to ensure that marginalised populations had an opportunity to participate in community decisions.

The project began by providing capacity strengthening opportunities including workshops on post-disaster psychological recovery, the establishment of cooperatives and their management, business planning and management, financial literacy, and waste management. Community members were able to build on these skills with cooperative business planning and implementation. In Huntap Babakan Carik, the community agreed to create a community cooperative that would provide better waste management in the area, while also supporting the community’s economic recovery by establishing a community-based cooperative that developed stalls, waste banks, and maggot cultivation.

“Through this activity, the community is helped in expressing their thoughts and opinions about their displacement location. Previously, the government merely conducted assessments without involvement of the communities.”

Mrs Wina, head of Citizen Associations/RW, RDI, Huntap Babakan Carik, Indonesia

The community in Cigadog agreed to combine the concept of community cooperative with the traditional flea market. The initiative focused on supporting community entrepreneurship while maximising the potential of Putri Mountain (a tourism attraction) to hold the flea market. Additionally, Cigadog worked on clean water management and aimed to create a savings and loan business.

In order to commit government authorities to sustained engagement with displaced communities, a task force for community members and local stakeholders to express their concerns was established. National and regional workshops to improve understanding of disaster displacement policy and to clarify the roles of different agencies. Relationships with national and local government, as well as regional bodies and international actors, were established. In order to implement projects in Garut Regency, buy-in was required from local government actors. RDI worked with the displaced people to improve their understanding of their rights and advocate for support from local authorities. At the national level, RDI held a national workshop to introduce topics on how to make displacement safer and discuss disaster displacement in Indonesia. Internationally, RDI presented at the 2022 Global Platform on DRR in Bali, Indonesia.

“Facilitation from RDI has increased my confidence and expanded the networking, which opened up opportunities to obtain technical assistance from Local Government Units.”

Ibu Wawat, living in Cigadog, Indonesia

The Resilience Development Initiative (RDI) is an Indonesian think tank that focuses on disaster and climate resilience, renewable energy systems, gender equality, child welfare, and sustainable development. RDI believes  interdisciplinary studies and evidence-based policymaking are crucial to furthering resilience in Indonesia.

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This case study was produced as part of our Making Displacement Safer Cookbook – a resource on addressing DRR challenges faced by displaced communities in urban areas.

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Project funded by

United States Agency for International Development

Our Making Displacement Safer project is made possible by the support of the American People through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) – Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance. Content related to this project on our website was made possible by the support of the USAID. All content is the sole responsibility of GNDR and does not necessarily reflect the views of the USAID.

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