Taming the Rain, Reviving the Land

Geo-membrane Retention Basin for Sustainable Irrigation and Economic Development in Rural Areas

Photo of Pratomo Saja
11 14

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I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria, and based on its description, I am eligible to apply to the CSV Prize 2017.

  • Yes, I'm eligible

Preferred language

  • English

Organization name

Obor Tani Foundation

Year founded


Initiative stage

  • Established (the solution has passed the previous stages and demonstrated success)

Annual budget in 2017 (USD)

  • $500k - $1m

Number of beneficiaries impacted so far

  • 10,000 - 50,000

Organization type

  • Nonprofit, NGO, or citizen sector

Secondary Focus Area

  • Rural development

Headquarters location: Country

  • Indonesia

Headquarters location: City


Location(s) of impact

Indonesia: Semarang (Central Java), Garut (West Java), Malinau (North Kalimantan), and more than 15 other cities



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Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?

In highland villages with high precipitation rate, soil erosion and landslides often happen during rainy season due to rainwater runoff. On the contrary, drought happens during dry season, as conventional agriculture activities had reduced the infiltration rate. Irrigation becomes more difficult as sometimes water has to be pumped from source location that is lower than the field. In the long term, decrease of land productivity and increase of disaster risk can be easily projected.

Solution Summary: What is the proposed solution? What do you see as its most promising aspects for creating shared value?

We propose hill-top geo-membrane retention basin (typically 10,000 m3 capacity) to hold rainwater. With precipitation rate between 2000-5000 mm/year, the water level reached 2-5 m. This is enough supply to water 20 Ha of land during the dry season, using gravity flow system. To further decrease run-off, we also develop orchard on the surrounding area (within the radius of 1 km), planting 3000-5000 premium tropical fruit that can absorb water (every tree of 3 years old can hold 200 L water per day). To maintain both, we build capacity of local farmers in horticulture as well as cooperative system to market the product. Farmers are organized into a group of hundred, to each farmer was allocated 2000 m2 of land. We also build field training center, where 2 field assistants live in for 3.5 years to work with farmers from planting to harvesting and marketing.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Specify both the social and the environmental impact of your work

Environmental: We have up to now built 62 hill-top geo-membrane retention basins in pair with tropical fruit orchards to harvest rain water. In most locations, villagers saw an increase of their water well production and a change of micro climate (2-4 celcius lower). Social: Farmers were trained to implement Good Agriculture Practice and Good Management Practice, which increase their land productivity. As they were organized, they can control price against middlemen. Thus overall farmers' income is increasing. In addition, most of the villages are transforming into agro-tourism, where the villagers independently develop simple accommodations, food kiosk, and event organizing. One of our site in Gunung Kidul managed to generate annual village income of 2.5 billion from homestay, culinary, and events. As the villages got media highlight, more support from government and others come to improve local infrastructure, thus increasing rural job opportunity.

Financial sustainability plan: How is this initiative financially supported? How will you ensure its financial sustainability long-term?

Percentage of budget source: 1. individual donations/ gifts: 10% Mostly come from board members. 2. grants: 25% Apply to various call for proposals, and had accessed Cocacola Foundation, Millenium Challenge Account Indonesia, Yayasan KEHATI, Inprosula, and German Embassy. 3. corporate contributions: 55%. We have a proven concept, thus our program attracted many company to channel CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) fund. We had regular partnership with national corporation (PT. Pertamina, Semen Indonesia, Bank Jateng) and private company (Nutrifood, Marimas, Aqua, Saniharto, NRC, PT. Cengkeh Zanzibar, Tirto Utomo Foundation). 4. earned income: 10% sale of farming production equipment, seeds, training, etc.

Unique value proposition: What makes your initiative innovative? How does your project differ from other organizations working in the same field?

We integrate water conservation, agrobusiness, and community development. We also reach economy of scale by engaging a minimum of 100 farmers for 20 Ha orchard in an integrated program consisting of water infrastructure, agriculture production facility, and technical assistance for 3.5 year.

Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that sparked the beginning of this initiative.

From the failure of mega dams and irrigation projects, we learned that they often taken away farmers' access of water, and need high maintenance. We come to a hypothesis, that if we downsize the scale and introduce more appropriate technology, we might get better irrigation solution. The choice fell to geo-membrane technology, commonly used in golf lakes. Our calculation, with 8000 m2 mini dam area, we can water 20 Ha of fruit orchard. We learn that this model seems to work best on critical land, barren hills with high risk of landslides, where farmers can plant only cassava and banana. Seeing how the fruit market is dominated by imported goods, we introduced horticulture, and give technical assistance for farmers to convert to premium tropical fruit. Seeing agro tourism grow afterward and local economy flourishing, we believe this is an answer for integrated village revitalization.

Where did you hear about the Nestlé Creating Shared Value Prize?

  • Ashoka page or contact

Program Design Clarity: We are hungry to know more about what exactly your model consists of. Succinctly list a) what main activities are you doing with your beneficiaries, b) where you carry out the activities? c) how often? d) for how many hours? e) who delivers the services? and f) any other brief details

The step by step of our initiative is as follow: 1. We either: a) received a proposal from a village, or b) found a potential location 2. Area manager and R&D conduct survey and data collection. Alongside they conduct socialization and training for ca. 100 local farmers about good farming practice. 3. The executive team and executive board conduct plenary meeting to decide which location should be prioritized. 4. Detail engineering design (by construction unit). 5. Budgeting (if we have already funding) and/or proposal writing 6. Construction of geo-membrane basin (by construction unit) and development of fruit orchard (by design & development unit together with local farmers), and on site training center, typically last for 3 months. 7. Technical assistance for 3.5 years. One location is typically handled by 2 staff (chief and vice of farmer empowerment center) who'll live on site. They select 10-20 local farmers as on-site staff to manage the orchard. They work daily with farmers starting from fruit tree seedlings planting (dragon fruit, durian, etc.). With good practice, typically in 3.5 years they would harvest. 8. Post handover supervision, including establishing cooperative, harvest and post-harvest, and marketing. Chief and vice of farmer empowerment encourage farmers to establish cooperative to manage harvest to marketing.

Focus area

  • Water

We are interested in learning more about your initiative's broad impact on sustainable development. Please reply ONLY to the question(s) related to your above focus area.

Our hill-top geo-membrane retention basin is a solution for water sustainability, as it provides water from previously "wasted" rainwater. The basin: 1) hold rainwater and prevent runoff that erodes the soil; 2) provide access to water for irrigation and sanitation through gravity fed piping system; 3) improve soil condition to optimize farming. The initiative was implemented mainly on dry/ barren land, where farmers have only limited crop alternatives. The basin allow better irrigation and soil condition, thus allow more variety of crops. Through farmers' capacity building, we change the crop into premium tropical fruit to increase water catchment as well as income.

Creating shared value: How does your initiative create value for different stakeholders?

Water becomes an entry point for farming and further rural development. Starting with water reserve in barren land, we can change farmers life through better irrigation and sanitation. Our non-profit has several business units to cater geo-membrane basin construction, orchard design and development, and farming supplies plus agro-horticulture consultancy. The economic value for us lies on the services provided by the business units (the profit 100% channeled to our foundation). The social value for local farmers lies on access to water for irrigation and sanitation, and then on capacity building on agriculture, which improves their farming practices, the yield, and finally their income.

How is your initiative funded, now and over the next 5 years?

Our business model currently rely 80% on grants. 20% comes from profit of the business units (construction and agriculture related services) and investment of founders. We aim to shift the dependency to at least 60% income vs. 40% grant, among which through economy of scale (as we're currently on scaling process).

How do you plan to influence your field of work if you are a winner of this edition of the CSV Prize?

We'd use the exposure to promote this integrated solution for rural development: water conservation to cure barren land, open water and sanitation access, and improve farmers' capacity and life. We'd use the networking opportunity to offer collaboration to expand regionally.

How will you leverage an investment from Nestle to expand the impact of your work?

We'd use the investment to: 1) create training center cum branch office in other areas in Indonesia. 2) invest in building more geo-membrane basin

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact? What’s the projected impact for the coming years? Are you planning to expand your programme into new locations? On what assumptions do you build your scale-up plans?

Our strategy is geographic spread through training and advocacy. Based on previous awards and exposure, we are currently expanding in a number of locations. We plan to build training center in this new areas, which also serve as branch office.

Team: What is the current composition of your team (types of roles, number of full-time vs. part-time staff, board members, etc.)? How will this team evolve as your initiative grows?

Our organization is structured as follows: - Governing board - Supervisory board - Executive board These board members consists of 17 community figures from various sectors (business, academic) who dedicated their time voluntarily. - Executive team, a total of 18 people, paid full time. Consists of: Executive Director Executive Secretary Area Coordinator Business Unit Manager Chief of Farmer Empowerment Center Vice of Farmer Empowerment Center Finance and Accounting Research and Development Administration Logistic Driver In the near future we would need to grow the executive team to ca. 50 fulltimer, as we've expanded geographically from Central Java to more than 15 other cities.

Awards: What awards or honors has the initiative received?

Platinum Award on Eradicating Extreme Poverty & Hunger - GKPM Award 2012, organized by Corporate Forum for Community Development for best corporate social responsibility project. (with Pertamina) Universitas Sebelas Maret Small Medium Entreprise's Awards 2017, for best CSR (with Bank Jateng) National Book of Record for largest melon (4.26 kg)

Organizational leadership: How are you influencing your field of work in the present?

This integrated solution has been proven as best practice for CSR project, which led many corporate to be involved in sustainable water resource management. Recently we were invited by presidential staff office to share our concept to the central government, which end up in socialization of geo-membrane basin (embung) as priority program for villages across Indonesia (http://ekonomi.kompas.com/read/2017/01/05/151500426/jokowi.target.tiga.kementerian.bangun.30.000.embung.di.2017).

Should you be successful, please confirm your availability to attend the Ashoka Impact Boot camp and Creating Shared Value Prize Live Pitch Event at the World Water Forum 13-16 March 2018

  • Yes, I am available to attend the events on 13-16 March 2018

Attachments (1)

5 unsur SPT.pdf

5 elements of farming empowerment center


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Thank's You. KIta Lolos 14 besar Bu Debora dan Mbak Renata.

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