Indonesia and the Netherlands have a longstanding cooperation in the field of water

To define priority initiatives in the many aspects the cooperation involves, three Joint Working Groups (JWG) have been established since October 2024. To share and discuss the initial outcomes, and to gain input from the water sector active in Indonesia, Partners for Water is hosting an exchange session on 8 May.

Joint Working Groups

Three JWGs have been tasked with formulating a joint vision and ambition on which the Netherlands and Indonesia will collaborate in the coming years, and to make this ambition tangible in concrete initiatives. Started in October 2024, the JWGs consist of Dutch and Indonesian counterparts who each explored one of the three aspects of the cooperation:

  • JWG 1: Integrated Water Resilience, from North Java to enlighten other priority developments.
  • JWG 2: Lowland Development and Irrigation.
  • JWG 3: Capacity development, Knowledge exchange and Youth engagement.

You are invited!

The JWGs prove to be an effective instrument to exchange ideas with the Indonesian counterparts and to define priority initiatives for the coming years. To share and discuss the initial results and gain further insights from the water sector on these themes, we’d like to invite you to participate in our online exchange session.

Through this online exchange session, you will be informed on the progress and intermittent outcomes, and have the chance to share your knowlegde and inform us on relevant tools available within the sector that can contribute to the regarded themes. Additionally, you will be invited to join us on a regular basis in dedicated brainstorm sessions for each working group.

The online exchange session

The online session will be held on 8 May, 10.00 AM – 11.30 AM (CET). During the session, there will be a plenary introduction to the working group process, followed by breakout groups where you will take a deep dive into the specific outcomes of the working group of your choice.

Want to join? Apply for the event through this form and subscribe to a specific deep dive session. We are looking forward to meeting you on 8 May.

Apply for the online exchange session

Deep dive sessions

As JWG 3 primarily seeks to contribute in the field of Integrated Water Resilience (JWG 1) and Lowland Development and Irrigation (JWG 2), you are invited to participate in one of the following two deep dive sessions:

Integrated Water Resilience
Urban centers across North Java inhabit a complex interplay of economic development, population increase and resulting natural resource pressures, like high groundwater abstraction, high land subsidence rates, frequent floods and coastal erosion, among others. This deep dive explores the JWGs efforts to identify and further concretize the areas of mutual interest between the Netherlands and Indonesia, among which Nature-based Solutions, urban water resilience, water governance and social inclusion. The deep dive explores what a more holistic approach on regional water management could bring to this complex interplay, and how to build upon existing cooperation and knowledge in North Java.

Lowland development and Irrigation
Lowland areas play a central role in the efforts of Indonesia to reach food independence. Facing major production gaps in the near future, the demand for improving productivity of existing lowlands is high. In reaching these efforts, Indonesia aims for a food system transformation towards an ‘eco-region’ that is sustainable, healthy and resilient, and based on local resources. For years, the Dutch – Indonesian collaboration has provided strategic guidance on lowland areas through programmes like EMRP (2007-2008), WACLIMAD (2010-2012) and QANS (2012-2014). This deep dive will highlight potential areas to continue the collaboration on lowland areas and asks for your participation in defining the unique Dutch selling points in this field.

What’s happening now and what’s next for Dutch-Indonesian water cooperation? Hosted by Partners for Water, over fifty professionals came together on 26 October during the Dutch-Indonesian Platform Meeting in The Hague.

Attendees, consisting of individuals from knowledge institutions, private-, governmental- and non-governmental organisations, exchanged their ambitions, priorities and opportunities for water initiatives between the Netherlands and Indonesia. Discover their main take-aways.

“What are your aspirations for the Dutch water sector in Indonesia?” asks Lisa Hartog, Delta Coordinator for Indonesia at the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management while kicking off the Indonesian platform meeting. With enthusiasm she goes on saying, “Today’s focus is to connect, explore and strengthen the long-term collaboration between the two countries in the water sector.”

She invites the participants to brainstorm on their ambitions, lessons learned and opportunities during engaging breakout sessions. These brainstorm sessions are part of a broader study aimed at identifying the sector’s prospects in Indonesia and explore the best ways the Dutch government can assist in this. The room quickly divides into four groups, with participants actively joining in on lively discussions.

© Feike Faase Fotografie

“What I took away from today is that understanding the local culture might be more key to implementing water solutions than knowing the relevant technologies.” – participant brainstorm

Capacity is already high within the communities and local governments in Indonesia when it comes to water management. I think it’s important not to focus on building capacity, but rather on strengthening it.

Participant Brainstorm

Current projects in Indonesia

To explore the current role of the Dutch water sector in Indonesia, various ongoing projects are highlighted. Simon Van Meijeren, from Partners for Water, along with Trang Vu and Bas van Maren – both working for the Dutch consortium Ecoshape, discuss recent initiatives in Indonesia, funded by Partners for Water. “It is crucial to adopt an integrated view of the water problems in Indonesia,” van Meijeren states. “We try to do this through high-level strategic dialogues, co-creating solutions with local communities and improving inter-agency collaborations.” Vu and van Maren wholeheartedly concur. As the audience listens intently, they eagerly share their insights from a scoping mission in Sidoarjo, led by the Ecoshape consortium.

© Feike Faase Fotografie

The scoping mission’s objective was to assess the potential of implementing Nature-based Solutions (NBS) to enhance local aquaculture. Van Maren elaborates: “Initially, the focus was on milkfish- and shrimp yield and water quality, but it became clear that regional degradation of the physical system was a significant aspect of the problem.” Vu continues, “While various NBS appear feasible from a physical standpoint, their economic viability remains to be explored.” The Ecoshape consortium aims to integrate the lessons learned from this mission into future NBS project designs.

Curious to discover the results, lessons learned and recommended solutions? Find all the details in the scoping mission’s report provided below this article.

The polyculture of milkfish and shrimp is deeply ingrained in the culture of Sidarjo. It’s not merely a practice that can be replaced just for convenience.


Trang Vu

Young professionals

Delving further into Sidoarjo, two young professionals recount their former study experiences in this Indonesian coastal city. Joey de Hamer, currently with the Netherlands Red Cross, elaborates about his thesis study on the social impacts of the Sidoarjo mud volcano. This volcano has spewed hot mud continuously since 2006, displacing tens of thousands of residents and causing significant environmental and infrastructural damage. De Hamer comments, “While the ecological impacts of the mud volcano were broadly recognised, I found it enlightening to learn about the experiences and challenges faced by the nearby residents.”

© Feike Faase Fotografie

Meanwhile, Ardiyanti Cahyan, currently at Boskalis, shares her past internship which focused on water management at the Port of Teluk Lamong. Cahyan remarkes, “Being on-site allowed me to truly connect with and better understand the local issues.” Her take-home message? The importance of experiencing the local context for a more profound understanding of the problems at hand.

Change takes time

Straight after his arrival for a work visit to the Netherlands, Adriaan Palm, Deputy Head of Mission at the Dutch Embassy in Indonesia, succinctly summarises the event: “I think we all agree on the significance of engaging the local community to ensure project sustainability. Additionally, I’d like to recognise the value of collaborating with students and emerging professionals. And lastly, change is a gradual process. So, I encourage you to give yourself that time.” As the attendees shift towards the facilitated networking lunch, fresh perspectives and emerging ideas on today’s themes echo amid the lively chatter. While change may take time, the attendees sure don’t waste it.

Keen to keep the conversation going? You are invited to share your thoughts, ambitions or anything else you’d like to discuss with our core team working on the bilateral water cooperation with Indonesia. You can find the team’s contact details in the sidebar.

Results of the study of the ambitions of the Dutch water sector within Indonesia

Below you can find an infographic that highlights the key outcomes of the study that investigated the ambitions of the Dutch water sector within Indonesia. The study consisted of an online questionnaire complemented by focus group interviews conducted at the annual Indonesian Platform meeting in October 2023. The study was commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management and the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO).

If you have any questions regarding the outcomes of the survey you can contact Simon van Meijeren:

 Apply for the Partners for Water subsidy scheme

Do you have an innovative technology, methodology or prototype in the field of water management? And would you like to use your knowledge, expertise and ingenuity to enhance water security in Indonesia? Apply for the Partners for Water subsidy scheme!

The scheme is applicable to innovations in the field of WASH, water quality and availability, climate adaptation, biodiversity, sustainable agriculture and water infrastructure.

The following subsidy round opens in July. Apply for the mandatory intake interview now.

Learn more about the Partners for Water subsidy scheme

This month, Simon van Meijeren started as Programme Advisor for Partners for Water

Specialising in irrigation and integrated water management and with extensive experience working on water-related projects worldwide, Simon brings valuable knowledge and expertise to the team.

Partners for Water is excited to have him on board. Nice to meet you Simon!

From Zeeland to Yemen

After completing his studies in International Land and Water Management, Simon spent six years working at Acacia Water, a small consulting firm that develops sustainable solutions for water-related issues around the world. Their projects cover a wide range of topics and areas, from groundwater to surface water and from Zeeland to Yemen. Simon began as a technician and has since become an advisor focusing on irrigation and integrated water management. He is now looking forward to applying his knowledge and skills to his new role as a Partners for Water’s Programme Advisor for Indonesia.

Systems approach

‘During the last 1.5 years at Acacia, I provided the German Development Bank (KfW) with technical and strategic advice on their water portfolio in Yemen and Palestinian territories. I learned the importance of a well-formulated and technically sound framework in which projects can be executed, and also what the impacts are when this is not the case. Often the framework does not match the reality on the ground or provides limited guidance for effective project execution, hampering the overall impact and sustainability. I also discovered that the success of a project heavily depends on the engagement of local actors and their expertise.’ Simon aims to integrate these insights into his work at Partners for Water by fostering a systems approach and emphasising the importance of engaging with local actors.

Social Inclusion

‘One important lesson that I have learned is that a technical solution is not necessarily a silver bullet. A technology’s success is over 50% dependent on its ability to adapt to the social context and local traditions. For instance, a project proposal in Ethiopia aimed at increasing water use efficiency for small farmers proposed to introduce drip irrigation systems. However, it appeared that previous drip irrigation projects had failed. A lack of technical know-how and absence of farmer support left farmers using the drip lines to tie up their tomato plants. In order to avoid repeating the same failure, we investigated the reasons for farmers to use their water more efficiently and tried to find alternative technologies that matched their rationales. As a result, we choose to optimise the existing irrigation technique, rather than switching to a new technology. I learned that a successful project should involve key stakeholders in project design. Find a solution that is close to them, meets their needs and aligns with their practices. This applies as much to farmers in Ethiopia as to those in Zeeland, or any other region where a project is being implemented.’

A journey of discovery

‘In the coming years, I believe I will learn a lot from government collaborations, diplomacy and political relationships. I’m also very interested in the social aspect and cultural differences that I will encounter. Understanding these differences can offer valuable insights into why people do certain things and why things happen as they do. In addition, I am looking forward to sharing my technical background and knowledge of Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) with my colleagues and the various subsidy-receiving parties. My first destination? Indonesia.’ Next week, Simon will board a plane to Java for a two-week working visit. ‘It will be a great journey of discovery in the months to come!’

Sign up for the newsletter