Deudap: A boat to connect the community

Published: 2 February 2009 0:00 CET

Megan Rowling, British Red Cross in Indonesia This is the seventh in a series of nine profiles/case studies, looking at how Red Cross Red Crescent has helped people to rebuild their own lives after the tsunami in Indonesia.

The blue-and-white wooden boat chugs away from the peaceful jetty at Deudap beach on the tiny island of Pulo Nasi, and heads towards the bustling city of Banda Aceh. The sea is calm, and the journey takes around 45 minutes.

The Deudap community boat, purchased with a British Red Cross grant of 13,620 Swiss francs, takes passengers to and from the main island of Sumatra three times a week, with additional trips to transport goods for market or construction materials.

The boat began operating at the end of January 2008, providing a transport lifeline to the idyllic but isolated village that was severely affected by the 2004 tsunami. Besides the cost to human life, the disaster ruined Deudap port, destroying fishing boats and leaving the water too shallow. That meant villagers had to travel to another port 10km away to get a boat to Banda – making it too expensive for some.


During a consultation with the community in mid-2006, a village boat was identified as priority – both to provide public transport and income. The proposal for the community grant was developed by a committee called the Village Development Forum with assistance from the Red Cross Red Crescent team.

As the boat pulls into Banda port, chairman Muzhar, aged 32, explains why the project has been a success: “We are happy because the boat has brought economic benefits. We have increased income and this is good for the community.”

Around half of the income is allocated to village development projects. Another 30 per cent goes to support vulnerable groups in the community, including orphans and the poorest households, and the rest pays the five boat crew.


The project has also been beneficial in giving younger men a leadership role in the community. This was partly thanks to one of the village leaders, also an experienced seaman, who declined to be elected onto the committee so as to make way for the younger generation and give them responsibility for managing the service.

Several months after the boat was launched, it seems to be proving a wise decision. Asked if the recent jump in fuel prices is hurting profits, Muzhar gives the kind of response you would expect from the director of a professionally managed transport business.

“We haven’t had a problem because we are passing the cost on to our customers,” he says. “We have put the one-way fare up from 1.1 Swiss Franc to 1.7 Swiss francs, and so far passengers have not stopped using the service.”