Written by Ranthi Whesi Umbarani (Grow Asia) and Ursula Toding (ANGIN)
As one of the world’s largest agricultural producers and exporters, Indonesia plays a vital role in supplying major crops including rice, corn, cassava, palm oil, coffee, and spices. While women make up on average ~27% of the agricultural labor force in Southeast Asia’s agricultural economies like Indonesia, these women face more social, political, and economic challenges than their male counterparts, including (but not limited to) inequitable access to knowledge and training about farm and household management.
The critical role women entrepreneurs, agripreneurs and business leaders play is an issue increasingly getting the spotlight it deserves - largely because the societal and economic benefits of gender mainstreaming is being recognized across multiple sectors. In addition, the fact that business leaders who are women face unique challenges compared to men - yet there are still few resources that help women overcome them - is particularly being highlighted.
In response to this lack of resources, Grow Asia (a multi-stakeholder platform that builds partnerships to cultivate sustainable food systems in Southeast Asia) partnered with ANGIN (early stage investment platform and advisory consulting firm) to host an intimate networking session for women agripreneurs. This session was designed to create a safe space for women agripreneurs to share the greatest challenges they face in their work, and offer insights to other women agripreneurs they’ve gleaned from these experiences.
This session, titled “Perempuan Agripreneurs Bercerita” (which translates loosely to “In Dialogue with Women Agripreneurs”) was held on 23 March 2022, with three panelists (women agripreneurs) and three ecosystem players showcasing programs and opportunities designed, at least in part, to support women agripreneurs.
It all started with the problem
Grow Asia and ANGIN invited three panelists to the event from diverse backgrounds to share what motivates them to build their businesses:
Ihsan Mulia Putri (CEO of PT Global Dairi Alami) started her journey by identifying the nation’s needs. She was aware that Indonesian consumption of milk per capita is only 16 liters, which is lower compared to other countries in Southeast Asia. She also recognized that 80% of milk consumed in Indonesia is imported. She saw this gap as an opportunity to play a part as a local player. Moreover, her company also innovated by presenting Indonesia’s first lactose-free milk.
Ika Juliana (CEO of Greenie) shared how she started her business from research she conducted on waste utilization across various industries. However, research remains immobile when the dissemination to the public is still lacking. She did not want to wait, so she created Greenie -a social enterprise that brings innovation for sustainable living and invites the community to solve environmental problems. Her initiative was also triggered by how illegal logging increased during the pandemic.
On the Agritech side, Lintang Pratiwi (Co-founder of Neurafarm) is aware of the irony that there are about 30 million farmers in Indonesia, but there are only around 70 thousand extension workers active in the field. Looking at the potential of smartphone use, she created a one-stop solution for farmers through the app that she built.
These three women agripreneurs had a clear understanding of the problems they were trying to solve around them and made it into an opportunity that benefits many.
How women agripreneurs face challenges
Becoming a woman leader in the food and agriculture sector in Indonesia comes with its own challenges. The panelists shared how their passion is what drives them forward and managed to put aside all the stigmas about women. Not only passion, but they also said that conviction, purpose, persistence, and the goals to chase their dreams are the fuel that keeps their focus on what they do. The hurdles must be there. In fact, the existing problems are what strengthen them and are the source of their strong will to solve challenges and make an impact.
Support System for Women Agripreneurs
Aware that having passion and a clear vision is not enough for women agripreneurs to thrive, we invited three ecosystem players to share what they are doing and offer any program or service that might be helpful for women agripreneurs. There were representatives from CDP (Carbon Disclosure Project), Supernova Ecosystem, and Lingkar Temu Kabupaten Lestari (LTKL).
CDP - a non-profit organization that offers a reporting system for companies’ climate-related disclosures - highlighted that they can help companies or organizations to fill in the questionnaire to disclose their climate impacts. One of the benefits for companies to use the CDP is to identify ways to align to sustainability requirements from investors and customers.
Supernova aims to accelerate the business not only economically but also by helping to strengthen the company’s connection with other companies or organizations through Constellation Accelerator. This program aims to enlarge the capacity of the company or organization economically while being connected to other value chains in the network. They are aware of how an organization should connect to each other from upstream to downstream as one organization grows within the chain, the others will follow.
LTKL, focuses on the agriculture side by supporting districts in their network to foresee agriculture as an economic driver from upstream to downstream. Additionally, LTKL demonstrates through their work that engaging in sustainable agriculture is a viable career choice for millennials or Gen Z, reflecting how we need new farmers to step in as farmers age out.
Through the engaging discussion, participants understood that women agripreneurs can thrive if they have a good support system in terms of spatial planning, development, capital investment, regulatory framework, and land use to allow agripreneurs to obtain a permit or other enabling conditions. More importantly, connecting women agripreneurs to various stakeholders and supporting them in marketing are the additional keys to their success.
The Way Forward
We are honored to be part of this initiative as our commitment to support women and agriculture and hope this would lead to a bigger impact for the ecosystem. Grow Asia will continue building a “community of practice” of organizations in Southeast Asia to share and learn about mainstreaming gender-inclusive practices (read more here).
Connect with Grow Asia to share resources or ideas, co-host events (such as this event with ANGIN), and more at email@example.com. For women agripreneurs, Grow Asia invites you to consider sharing your story on GrowHer.org, a microsite that supports and empowers women agripreneurs across Asia, to share more insights on your experiences and common myths you face on the ground. Simultaneously, ANGIN will continue its efforts to empower women and agriculture. One of them is through our program to assist entrepreneurs in the agricultural and food system value chain. For fundraising agripreneurs, feel free to submit your business at our website, https://www.angin.id/get-funding.
This event is a part of the the THRIVE initiative (short for Train Her to Promote Resilient, Inclusive Value Chains and Economic Empowerment). This multifaceted program, developed in close consultation with Grow Asia and Corteva’s community partners is tailored to the specific challenges women face, many of which have been exacerbated by COVID-19. THRIVE has two goals: (1) to increase women farmers’ farm management, digital and business skills; and (2) directly support women farmers, farm-level influencers and agripreneurs through networking events and mentorship opportunities.