Hot water – a tale of two villages

Lapoa village: some Balinese houses retain their unique, temple-like front.
The cool of collaboration or the heat of conflict – what determines the outcome in commons sharing? Rahma Ma’mun takes the temperature in rural Indonesia.
Visiting rural areas, talking to local people and learning from their experiences was probably the most enjoyable part of my post graduate research. My fieldwork visit to two villages in the South Konawe regency in Southeast Sulawesi Province in Indonesia during 2017 was fascinating and fun. It was a long way from where I live in Adelaide, Australia but it was actually a return to the place where I had lived most of my life.
It took almost the whole day and night to arrive in Jakarta with a stopover for several hours in Perth. After another flight the next morning and a stopover in Makassar, South Sulawesi, I reached Kendari. Kendari city is a regional capital in the south east of Sulawesi – the third largest island of the Indonesian archipelago situated north of Java where most Indonesians live.
I drove from Kendari city for two and a half hours. I remember the first time I made this same journey in a shared taxi about eighteen years ago. There were ten passengers in the car with bags and things from the market. Movement was almost impossible. There was no air conditioner. The choice was either to open the window and endure the dust from the unfinished road or stifle and tolerate the smells. Driving past the Wolasi Mountains was scary. The road has many bends and curves with ravines on either side and it is slippery in the rainy season. After heavy rain, landslides can happen at anytime.

“There is a strong community commitment to ensuring equity and fairness in times of shortage.”

On my drive to my fieldwork villages I passed a mixture of rice fields, dense forest, scrub and grassland. In the settlements I passed housing that ranged from huts to modern concrete houses. In some areas, the ethnicity of the house owner was clear. Stilt houses, for example, belong to the Bugis – the culturally dominant people of Sulawesi. Meanwhile, some Balinese houses retain their unique temple-like front. Houses with windows covered by one or more planks tend to belong to Tolaki people – only a few of these houses remain nowadays. I take this as a sign that their livelihoods have improved over the past eighteen years ago and they have moved away from their tradition of living extremely simply.

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