Sustainable cocoa and coffee

YEL: Making space for young people in agricultural value chains

May 9, 2019
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The state of cocoa farming

In the District of Ende, cocoa is an important crop to improve the livelihood of local farmers. In this district, Rikolto supports SIKAP -Nangapanda Cocoa Farmers' Cooperative- by training farmers to implement sustainable agriculture practices and mentoring them to adopt inclusive business practices so they can produce a quality product and sell it with a better price. The majority of cocoa famers in Ende are old farmers. Based on our evaluation in 2017, almost 80 per cent of farmers attending training and participating in collective marketing were above 35 years old, showing less representation of young people in the sector.

Where did young people go? Based on our observation, millennials in Ende look for a job in the city after completing their education. They do not see and are not aware of any lucrative opportunities in cocoa sector. Some of them find cocoa farming old-fashioned. They also do not have enough knowledge and skills to manage farming activities and businesses because they never learn about it at schools or from their parents. At the moment, there is limited space for millennials to share insights and experiment on agriculture business ideas. There is not enough platforms for them to meet their peers or mentors to consult to when they have agri-business ideas they want to develop. With all these factors, millennials in Ende are slowly leaving the cocoa farming.

To attract millennials to participate in the cocoa value chain, Rikolto works with a millennial organiser, Remaja Mandiri Community (RMC) Detusoko to launch Youth Entrepreneurship Lab (YEL) on April 7th, 2019 in Ende, East Nusa Tenggara. The event attracted 20 millennials from various backgrounds such as college students, farmers' children and members of youth organisations. On this occasion, we invited speakers from a Bali-based NGO [E]thical (Saniy A Priscila and Irma), SIKAP (Hasbi Ahmad), Tananua Foundation (Herry Se), UKM Pelita (Sisilia Ngura) and RMC Detusoko (Ovyn Wangge and Nando Watu) to share to the audience about their entrepreneurship and agribusiness experiences.

YEL in a nutshell

YEL is an open platform for millennials who are young and passionate about the agricultural value chain and are willing to contribute to improving the cocoa sector.

“YEL is one of Rikolto’s initiatives to engage more millennials in agriculture. Millennials are willing to get into agriculture through its business management; therefore, we attach this material into our intervention. It is crucial to attract them to agriculture sector by using a language and an approach suitable to their needs and characters, so they feel they are part of the sector and want to contribute to it.” Peni Agustijanto, Cocoa & coffee programme Manager - Rikolto in Indonesia

“YEL is a place for millennials to build a network and contribute to food system improvement. It is a new concept for a youth forum in East Nusa Tenggara. Young people will get intensive support to turn their ideas into reality, develop business plans, and pitch their business ideas to investors.”

Nando Watu, Founder of RMC Detusoko

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“My parents are farmers. Since I was a child, I saw with my own eyes how farmers were treated unfairly by a middleman. YEL informs me about what farmers can do to create more profit through value-added cocoa products.” Tini (21), Agrotechnology student of the University of Flores

Lessons from the field

Working with millennials is exciting and challenging. Several lessons we learnt from conducting YEL:

  1. Unstable internet connection in Ende. For the event, a virtual meeting was done where invited speakers did online presentations because they were unable to attend the event in person. This was quite challenging to do as internet in Ende fluctuated a lot causing interruptions during the meeting.
  2. Be flexible and be open with trial and errors towards the programme. Millennials have many fresh ideas that they pick up from internet and social media. During the discussion, the participants brought up a lot of new ideas that could be useful to integrate to Rikolto's programmes. Some of the ideas were creating food-based businesses from local commodities. Rikolto is encouraged to be flexible to accommodate the ideas suitable to local needs.
  3. Speak the language of millennials. Collaborating with millennials requires ability to speak in their language, including to use their mode of communication. All participants use smart phone and communicate through social media and mobile-based message apps. We used this apps as well to help us communicate with them more quickly and get responses from them.

For future events, we will:

  • Develop an alternative way of face-to-face communication to make the event more attractive.
  • Maintain a positive working relationship with millennials.
  • Keep informing millennials with trendy topics related to food systems and technology.
  • Prepare technical stuff better for next event.

"I used to struggle to turn my agribusiness ideas to a real product. My participation in YEL helped me unpack my thoughts. Here I met inspiring people and organisations that can help me to develop my business. I'm more aware of what I must prepare to start the business."

Romana M Ere, participant (28)

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