The magnitude 9.2Mw earthquake and tsunami that struck the Indian Ocean on December 26, 2004 was one of the largest disasters experienced in human history. In Indonesia—the worst affected country—the disaster claimed more than 170,000 lives, mostly in Aceh. To help people in Aceh and Nias rebuild their lives, the project helped 15,000 families completely rebuild or repair their homes, through grants and technical assistance. In addition, 176 of the most devastated villages were given grants to rebuild basic infrastructure. In the reconstruction effort, the communities were placed in the driver’s seat, which was uncommon at that time.
In the coastal districts and the capital city of Aceh, Banda Aceh, about two-thirds of entire settlement areas were destroyed, taking the lives of over 170,000 people, about 60 percent of which were women. Government staff experienced the same fate; local governments were immobilized due to loss of staff, space and equipment. Communication was totally disrupted. Resources for livelihood were severely damaged. At that time, Aceh was in a situation of civil tension, leaving communities isolated from one another. The disaster and disharmony called for reorganization and empowerment of communities. Their future was in their hands.
The community-driven approach adopted in the Community-based Settlement Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Project (CSRRP)—better known as “Rekompak”—put responsibilities into the hands of the communities. Groups of 10-15 families were formed to rebuild their own houses. Village teams were also formed to rebuild priority infrastructure. Each village was also required to come up with a settlement development plan. Facilitators trained by the Ministry of Public Works were assigned to help communities prepare and implement their projects. By using this community-driven approach, grant money was spent more wisely and more effectively. Grants from the Multi-Donor Trust Funds for Aceh and Nias/North-Sumatra (MDF) were deposited straight into community accounts in installments. The grants required that at least 30 percent of the members of various project teams were women. Enforcing a woman’s touch ultimately led to better project selection and greater transparency.
The project helped communities rebuild or rehabilitate 15,000 housing units, representing about 35,000 people (post-tsunami families) and basic community infrastructure in 176 villages.
- Towards the end of the activities, 97.3 percent of the houses were occupied. Satisfaction levels on various aspects of the project were in the range of 80.4 to 90.6 percent, much higher than the targeted 65 percent.
- At the request of local governments, 50 additional villages were added to the initial 130 villages that chose to apply the community-based approach for reconstruction.
- There was 27.6 percent of women involvement; 24.1 percent of treasurers in housing groups were women. Although it was slightly lower than the expected 30 percent, this was already considered significant for a traditionally male-dominated society like Aceh.
- Inspection of the houses showed not all were satisfactorily meeting seismic standards. A program to improve the structural quality of houses (retrofitting) was implemented to strengthen concrete frames of 1,430 housing units on owners’ request.
The village of Lambung in Banda Aceh was totally destroyed by the 2004 tsunami; of the 1,241 inhabitants, 885 persons died. Through CSRRP/Rekompak, 309 houses were rebuilt for the survivors or their inheritors. The villagers decided on a new village plan with better positioning of housing plots, open space and infrastructure which was more resilient toward possible future disasters.