© Tay Juhana Foundation

Not Just a Village, Not Yet a Town: Growing Local Economy in Guntung

Sungai Guntung or Guntung is located in the coastal area of Riau Province, administratively belongs to Kateman District, Indragiri Hilir Regency, Riau Province. Based on the type of land, this region lies on what considered as suboptimal land (flat-low-wetland). Despite the condition, its socio-economic life has been flourishing due to the growth of the coconut industry there. Officially still categorized as a village, Guntung has started to urbanize due to its port town activities.

The days spent in Guntung were memorable and impressive. House-in-stilts rows along its riverside. As far as our seeing eyes, boats are passing each other in the river. There are small ones – usually rides by just one person – also large ones – big enough to carry up to eight adults. The latter is used for public transportation in crossing the river.

In the early 1980s, Sambu Group established a coconut processing factory in Guntung area. Years by years, the industry grows and attracts more people. The incoming population stays in the vicinity and makes livelihood. The industry growth also brings infrastructure advancement. At first, the built infrastructure was focused on the water management system, such as dikes that protect the area from high tide. Later, public facilities increases due to the local’s needs. There are health centers, schools, worship places, bus stops, and automatic teller machines (ATMs) – which represent the high money rotation in Guntung itself.

All these components spin the economic wheel for years, and consequently, the local welfare in the surrounding area prospers. This can be seen from Guntung’s daily activity. Every weekday morning, most of the locals go to the industry area to work. Slower-paced social activities can be observed in the evening, where locals often relish the sunset with their friends and family near the riverside. During the weekend, children play around public facilities in the area before they go back to school for the weekdays.

As a port town, Guntung’s market is thriving. A 10-minutes boat ride from small-local ports near the industry (each passenger pays Rp5.000,00 to the boat driver) will bring us to Guntung’s center activity. Here, people can observe many market stalls and local houses build side-by-side. Besides working in the coconut industry, the locals earn livelihoods from becoming farmers and traders. The traditional markets and shop-houses are very lively until night, mostly on Saturdays. Not only in the market stalls, but the locals also sell a variety of foods surrounding the industry area. There are public canteens/food hawkers and food carts near public facilities.

Far away from the urban hustle and bustle, the riverside of Guntung has become a unique story, where sustainable cultivation of suboptimal land results and interacts with the socio-economic activities. Eventually, it creates interdependence between each component of the existing ecosystem, which already occurs for more than half of a century.

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