• Introduction
    Rural Development holds a crucial position in Indonesia’s national development agenda due to the significant proportion of its territory and population residing in rural areas. The aim of rural development is to enhance the well-being, autonomy, and democratic participation of rural communities while addressing prevalent challenges such as poverty, inequality, marginalization, exploitation, and conflicts.

Currently, rural development in Indonesia is governed by Law no. 6 of 2014, which outlines the rights, obligations, and authorities of villages in terms of governance, development, community affairs, and cultural matters. This law represents the culmination of the village community’s long struggle for legal recognition and protection. However, in practice, the law remains ambiguous, inconsistent, and disconnected from the realities faced by village communities. It is often exploited by vested interests to manipulate, intervene, or impede the rural development process.

Consequently, rural development continues to be dominated by top-down, centralized, paternalistic, and sectoral approaches that do not align with the needs, aspirations, and potential of village communities. It remains vulnerable to political, economic, social, and cultural interventions that disregard the rights and authorities of these communities. Moreover, rural development has not effectively addressed the underlying structural problems that perpetuate poverty and injustice in rural areas.

  • Identifying the Failures of Rural Development

An examination of facts and data related to the social and economic conditions of rural communities in Indonesia reveals the failures of rural development:

1. Population Decline: According to the 2020 population census, the rural population decreased by 9% from 2010 to 2020, indicating a trend of urbanization or migration driven by dissatisfaction or powerlessness in addressing social and economic challenges in rural areas.

2. Poverty and Inequality: The 2019 Susenas report indicates that the poverty rate in villages is 13%, higher than the 7% poverty rate in cities, revealing a significant social and economic inequality between rural and urban areas. Additionally, the 2018 IKM reveals that around 19% of villagers experience multidimensional poverty, encompassing not only income but also health, education, and environmental factors. This highlights limited access to quality public services for rural communities.

3. Human Development Disparities: The 2019 HDI shows that the HDI value in villages is 0.64, lower than the 0.72 HDI value in cities. This disparity reflects differences in the level of human development between rural and urban areas. It signals a lack of human potential and capacity within villages.

4. Democratic Deficiencies: The 2020 Democracy Index ranks Indonesia at 6.36, classifying it as a flawed democracy. This exposes weaknesses in the government system based on people’s sovereignty, human rights, rule of law, and political participation. Furthermore, violations of human rights, abuses of power, corruption, political polarization, and social conflicts persist in Indonesia, including rural areas.

5. Happiness Index: The 2020 World Happiness Report ranks Indonesia at −82 out of 153 countries, with a happiness value of 5.29. This reflects the discontent and unhappiness experienced by the Indonesian population regarding their social and economic conditions. It underscores the influence of factors such as mental health, social quality, and social trust on people’s happiness.

Based on the aforementioned facts and data, it is evident that rural development in Indonesia has fallen short of achieving the desired goals of creating independent, prosperous, democratic, and cultured villages. The current approach has not empowered, enriched, entitled, or fostered happiness among rural communities.

  • Kartjono and Paulo Freire: Two Advocates of Rural Development

Kartjono and Paulo Freire share similar visions and missions concerning rural development and education. Both emphasize the importance of community participation, holistic approaches, inclusivity, and creativity in empowering rural communities. They advocate innovative methods such as dialogue, deliberation, problem-posing, conscientization, and cultural action to drive education and rural development. Their ideologies aim to direct autonomy, independence, democracy, and freedom for rural communities.

  • Reflecting on Bina Desa’s Works

Over the past four decades, Bina Desa has contributed numerous ideas, work programs, and collaborative networks related to rural development in Indonesia. It has been instrumental in the agrarian reform movement, natural farming, female empowerment, rural Swabina initiatives, and rural schools. Bina Desa has been a supportive partner and advocate for village communities, addressing various challenges such as poverty, inequality, marginalization, exploitation, and conflicts.

The founder of the Bina Desa movement, Kartjono, particularly focused on organizing rural Swabina communities. These communities are independent groups working towards building their own villages. They serve as platforms for village community participation and cooperation based on shared interests and local values.

However, organizing rural Swabina communities may lose significance if it is based on incorrect assumptions about village communities, ineffective strategies, or excessive administrative focus. It is crucial to understand the dynamics, strengths, and potential of village communities while implementing strategies that enhance their capacity, creativity, participation, and independence. Bina Desa should continually adapt to the conditions and interests of village communities, ensuring its role as an organization that learns and grows alongside rural communities.

In conclusion, villages provide invaluable opportunities for learning not only about agriculture but also about life, humanity, society, culture, history, politics, and the future. Kartjono’s and Paulo Freire’s philosophies on rural development align with this sentiment, emphasizing the transformative power of education, participation, and cultural preservation in empowering rural communities.

* This paper was written by Lily Noviani Batara

** This paper was prepared in the context of a Public Discussion on the 48th Birthday Celebration of Village Development “The Role of Bina Desa in Rural Development” 08 July 2023.


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