Farmers Get Cash for Snake Fruit

Jakarta. Following the launch of its “cash for cows” program to compensate farmers who lost their livestock in the Mount Merapi eruptions, the government is now rolling out a similar scheme for snake fruit farmers.

Fatchul Hadi, secretary of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), said on Monday that the agency had allocated Rp 8 billion to buy from farmers the damaged trees found on the fertile slopes of the mountain.

“We decided to buy all the snake fruit trees that have been damaged to some extent, from light to heavy,” he said.

An estimated 4.9 million snake fruit trees in Sleman have been destroyed after being blanketed in deep layers of volcanic ash that Merapi spewed since it began erupting on Oct. 26.

The damage has been estimated at Rp 201 billion, said the Yogyakarta Agricultural Agency.

The agency also puts the loss from other fruit and vegetable crops in Sleman at Rp 31.7 billion.

Also on Monday, Indroyono Soesilo, secretary to the coordinating minister for people’s welfare, said the various compensation schemes aimed to help those affected by recent natural disasters rebound financially.

He said that with the exclusion zone around Merapi now scaled back, the government is focusing on post-disaster economic recovery in Yogyakarta and Central Java.

The exclusion zone covered a 20-kilometer radius from the crater during the peak of the eruptions, but has been drawn back to 15 kms in Sleman and 10 kms in the Central Java districts of Magelang, Klaten and Boyolali.

Around half of those forced to flee their homes have since been allowed to return, leaving the number of evacuees in government-run shelters at 203,000.

Indroyono said the government would prioritize recovery efforts from the Merapi eruptions because the disaster had caused far more damage than the flash floods in Wasior, West Papua, or the tsunami in the Mentawai Islands off West Sumatra.

He said the government would collect some Rp400 billion worth of unused funds from all ministries for the 2010 fiscal yearm and devote them to recovery efforts around Merapi.

“We’ll see whether we can use all of it, but that depends on whether we have enough time to revise the budget before the end of the fiscal year on Dec. 15.”

He added part of the Rp 400 billion would be spent on rehabilitating schools, providing scholarships and purchasing textbooks and other school supplies.

Part of it will also be used to pay for the cleanup of ancient Buddhist and Hindu monuments in the area, including Borobudur and Prambanan.

Fatchul said temporary homes would also be built for families.

“Initially, we’ll launch 300 units, and then work our way up to 5,000 units,” he said.

He added Rp 141 billion would be used to rehabilitate Wasior, where losses totaled Rp 280 billion.

Another Rp 368 billion would go to the Mentawais, where losses reached Rp 315 billion.

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