Meet our Gender Mainstreaming Project Associate, Ranthi Whesi Umbarani!
Launched in March 2021, Grow Asia and Corteva Agriscience™ have created a joint initiative to progress economic empowerment of women farmers and agripreneurs in Southeast Asia. The joint initiative - called THRIVE (short for Train Her to Promote Resilient, Inclusive Value Chains and Economic Empowerment) - 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.
Ranthi has joined the Grow Asia team as THRIVE Project Associate, leading the execution of the initiative in Indonesia.
Welcome to the team Ranthi! Can you tell us a little about your experience, particularly around the focus of your role with Grow Asia - sustainable agriculture in Indonesia and women's economic empowerment?
Before this role, I was pursuing my bachelor’s and master’s in agriculture, specializing in plant breeding and genetics. Both of my research topics were geared towards developing horticulture crops (chili pepper and spinach) with stronger tolerance towards diseases caused by fungi. We know that – especially in tropical countries like Indonesia, where I’m from - fungi have been the main disease problem in crops. The research that I have done hopefully contributes to the release of more varieties that support farmers in reaping higher yields while reducing the over-use of pesticides, which can be detrimental to the environment.
Additionally, back in my bachelor years, I joined an organization called IAAS (International Association of Students in Agricultural and Related Sciences). From there, I was exposed to various activities and networks in the scope of agriculture and the environment. One of the projects is called the Village Concept Project where we gave agricultural practice training to the local farmers at Genteng village (West Java). During this project I was also involved with improving the business capacity of the women farmers in that community, supporting their value-adding activities like producing eggplant snacks. Our organization helped the community in terms of sponsorship and marketing of the products.
What do you think are the greatest barriers to improving women farmer's agencies in our region? How do you think multi-stakeholder partnerships can address this challenge?
Women farmers generally still face more pronounced obstacles because of their gender, and Indonesia is no exception. These obstacles – including lack of access to financing, markets, agricultural training, education, and equal treatment - hinder them from thriving in this industry. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated their struggle. New conflict arises as women, and especially women in rural areas, tend to have more limited access to technology and internet access compared to men, which are significantly needed during this tough time.
To me, the biggest role multi-stakeholder partnerships can play are to equip women farmers with the knowledge and technical support to improve their farming capacity. This also includes facilitation and assistance to gain a capital investment and technology socialization to improve their livelihood. In the long run, these partnerships have the potential to eliminate (or at least significantly minimize) gender-specific barriers in farming while maximizing the potential of food production to the fullest.
What excites you most about the THRIVE partnership?
As a part of Grow Asia, I am excited to experience the multi-stakeholder platform activities. I always enjoy working in an international environment and ambiance where I can meet many inspiring and influential figures in agriculture and related fields. I am excited to learn from every Country Partnership in the Grow Asia network and adapt the applicable lessons to Indonesia.
THRIVE is a project that combines all my aspirations. I am looking forward to bringing a positive impact for the farmers through an admirable collaboration with great NGOs, companies, and organizations in Indonesia.
What impact do you hope the THRIVE program can have with women farmers in Java by the end of this year?
I hope that THRIVE will not only bring a tangible impact to the women farmers in terms of boosting their income through the business training that will be delivered - it is indeed a commendable goal - but also that the women farmers will receive valuable insights that inspire them to be more confident in their daily life. Despite living in a patriarchal society, I want the women farmers to realize that they play a major role as the core to family wealth and success. I want the women farmers to feel capable and empowered to develop their skills through the sustained assistance and networking that we offer. Additionally, I hope THRIVE can be an access opener for the women farmers for better opportunities ahead.