During my final years at university, I was troubled by a very big question: "Where should I go and what should I do after I graduate?" Should I work as an in-house designer, for a design office, somewhere in the city or should I go back to my village Kandangan in Central Java And set up a business?
After I graduated, I did not straight go back to Kandangan to start a business, but eventually, I did. I returned and started a business without any precise financial calculations or preparations. The lack of planning was actually a blessing. If I had been prepared in detail, Magno would not have been born.
The community's concern about the slowing down and deterioration of Kandangan's village life has prompted me to use my knowledge, skills and experience to strengthen this village with the output of my business. I am thankful that my knowledge in 'product design' has proven to a successful 'weapon of survival' that enables me to endure and grow in Kandangan.
Due to the lack of money and the long distance between the university and Kandangan, I was only able to visit twice a year. The long periods of time between each visit enabled me to clearly observe the changes in my home village.
At first glance, these changes were seen as a 'progress'. But when I looked more closely I concluded that it was only the 'surface' which experienced change. The basic structure of the village did not undergo any changes; moreover, some was actually deteriorating.
In the agricultural sector for example, traditional farming has always been the economic backbone for the majority of villagers. It took the worst hit. Whatever the government did within this sector, it was never for the further development and enhancement of traditional farming. The government constantly came up with 'modern and instant' ways of agriculture and farming, which were unsuitable for the community. These included intensified farming, man made fertilizer promotions, GMO seeds that were imported and the government funded loan scheme for farmers. In the end, the government 'efforts' did not pay off. Furthermore, these efforts actually did severe damage to existing farming methods as well as village and community life.
Having lost their farms, many were forced to find jobs in the city or to stay in the village with only the bare minimum for survival or to find new sources of income around the village. The latter activities usually ended up exploiting the forest and nature.
Craft is an alternative economic activity that has the potential to be developed and to grow in villages. It has characteristics that are suitable for villages' living conditions and growth prospects. These characteristics are that it is labor intensive, requires low technology and investment and abundance of local material input.