Introducing “Jimpitan”, One of Indonesian Cultural Mosaic
By: Ahmad Cholis Hamzah - senior author in Goodnewsfromindonesia.id
In other parts of the world, we are witnessing the everyday occurrence of widespread poverty caused by a variety of factors ranging from climate change, natural disasters, and domestic conflicts to the ongoing war in Ukraine, which has resulted in a catastrophic famine state that leads to death.
Such difficulties arise in our Southeast Asian regions, including Indonesia; the number of poor citizens is increasing everywhere. Indonesia, with all of its pros and disadvantages, has many noble local customs that are passed down from generation to generation and have been shown to empower the society and aid each other.
Our forefathers had a visionary perspective on how to govern social and economic ties and aid one another using local wisdom, one of which is the "Jimpitan" method. This community structure has existed for a long time and is still practiced in many regions throughout the country.
In Javanese, "jimpit" means to take soft/small stuff with one's fingertips. Meanwhile, "Jimpitan" refers to an activity that takes basic food items—usually rice—collected by inhabitants for the benefit of the entire town. This jimpitan system has proven to be dependable over the centuries of assisting the underprivileged in difficult times. Typically, the practice is carried out at night by on-duty citizens patrolling the area - known as Ronda - who take the rice (in little quantities) that each household collects and place it in a small can in front of the house. In its development, locals agreed to replace rice with money to make it more efficient, and the results are still used for the benefit of the village, particularly to assist those in need.
When I was a child in the 1960s, I saw housewives with strong social consciousness collecting rice to be collected by ronda men, and the money was stored at the neighborhood hall to be donated to disadvantaged neighbors. When Indonesia's inflation rate hit 650 percent in the 1960s, all people's needs were rationed or supplied by the government. I frequently joined the huge lines in kampong to get government food distribution. However, because there was still a jimpitan system in our neighborhood, the people did not feel too bad at the time.
This local wisdom is frequently viewed as a backwardness system from a modern perspective; yet, it is obvious that the national resilience of the Indonesian people occurs as a result of local wisdom such as this jimpitan system. A country's economic development is always contested in terms of whether it is focused on growth or equity. Soaring economic expansion frequently results in "collateral damage," such as a wider divide between rich and poor. In a modern environment, we frequently see an increase in individualism that ignores the concerns of disadvantaged persons. High consumerism always ignores the poor's sense of social justice.
The system of local wisdom, such as jimpitan above, has been refined over time by our forefathers and has shown to foster a strong feeling of community in our society. Despite shifting economic trends and modern lifestyles, this system is not obsolete; and as a great nation, we must not discard local wisdom in favor of a narrow modern outlook. Indonesia has a diverse range of magnificent cultures, and the Jimpitan system that we briefly examined is merely one piece of the country's cultural mosaic. And this local knowledge is a form of national food resiliency.