Rice is one of the world’s most important food crops, bringing income to millions of small scale farmers, and food to the table. As consumer awareness grows, the demand for certified organic and thus healthy rice is increasing worldwide. In Indonesia as well this presents great business opportunities for farmers.
Development of an Organic Farmer AllianceFarmers have been producing organic rice since 2005 in Boyolali, a regency located in the eastern part of Central Java. To ensure consumers that the rice they are buying is healthy, organic rice producers decided to set up APPOLI (Organic Farmer Alliance Boyolali), a rice farmer organization, in 2007. The vision of APPOLI is to become a strong, business-oriented farmer organization, which produces certified, healthy and high quality rice. In 2007-2008, the organization started with consumer awareness activities. In 2009 then, they started implementing the International Control System (ICS) to guarantee the quality, traceability and organic certification of the rice. When in 2010 APPOLI received its legal status as an association, it became VECO’s boundary partner.
ServicesAPPOLI wants to increase farmer’s income by organic farming practices. To reach this goal the organization for instance trains farmers on how to produce organic inputs like bio-fertilizer and set up a collective marketing system. The organization offers three services (for members and non-members of APPOLI) in three divisions which work closely together. The ICS division supports farmers to deliver high quality rice, the business division is responsible for sales and contacting new buyers and the networking division contacts and convinces more farmers to implement ICS. Today the farmer organization counts 67 farmer groups with 3328 members, of which 18 groups are already implementing ICS standards (1027 farmers). Since 2011, the rice of three farmer groups (68 farmers) is certified as organic under Indonesian National Standard (SNI) by BIOCERT, a national organic certification agency. Mr. Muhdi, ICS Manager, highlights the importance of the support from VECO Indonesia and LSKBB - a local NGO - during the implementation of the activities. “LSKBB works as a consultant and service provider to APPOLI and supports us by lobbying the Provincial government and asking for support to set up the ICS and to fund necessary equipment and infrastructure”.
Creating chances for youngstersCurrently, the organization employs six people which work as volunteers and receive an honorarium payment. From 2013 onwards, however, salaries will be paid. Giyarti (18) and Sidiq (25) both volunteer at APPOLI. “I come from a farmer family with little income. I have two older brothers, one of them works on the family farm, and the other one is a driver,” Giyarti says. “I used to have a small job in a supermarket but when this volunteering opportunity at APPOLI arose, I wanted to be involved. Through this job I can contribute to a better future for family farmers and this by developing the organization in a more ‘business oriented way’. Through my work here I have met a lot of people, made very good friends and have learned so much on organic agriculture. I would like to improve my facilitation skills because one of my tasks is to contact new, potential farmer members, informing them about ICS. In the future I see myself in charge of setting up relationships and contracts with national and international buyers.” “I studied agriculture and I am very happy with this job because I can put into practice what I learned in theory at university,” Sidiq introduces himself. “I have learned so many new things, from organic farming to ICS, marketing and documentation. I want to learn how we can link the work we do with business and how to better market our products.”
[after an article by Caroline Huyghe in Lontar Magazine]