Mental Health in Indonesia
In Indonesia, institutions have shackled and chained as many as 57,000 mentally ill patients, according to a Human Rights Watch report. The underfunded and understaffed medical sector, as well as mental health stigma, have led to this inhumane practice known as “shackling” or pasung in Indonesia. Indonesia’s shackling problem is improving, but the country has not entirely eradicated it yet. Additionally, the country is progressing toward improving mental health in Indonesia through its mental health sector.

Here is some information about the initiatives contributing to the improvement of mental health services and the reduction of stigma in Indonesia. The ultimate goal of these initiatives is to prevent mental health patients from experiencing cruel and insufficient treatments.

Indonesia Free from Pasung

The Indonesian government officially banned shackling in 1977 but has been working to formally end the process to this day. In 2010, the Indonesia Ministry of Health started a program called Indonesia Free from Pasung. It asked the government to collaborate with communities to address shackling.

The program provided mental health medications and training to community centers, and made mental health a primary mental health service. It also created community health teams intended to directly release and identify people with mental illnesses.

These teams include Tim Penggerak Kesehatan Jiwa Masyarakat (TPKJM) and the PIS-PK program. TPKJM works to monitor and facilitate the release of people from shackles. The PIS-PK program sends representatives from community health centers to identify families’ mental health statuses through home visits. The program was necessary because people were not frequently visiting medical posts, so were not receiving treatment. The program helped to identify Indonesians with mental health issues and direct them to resources.

The frequency of shackling has improved in the 10 years since the implementation of the program. Additionally, people do not stigmatize mental illness as much in Indonesia anymore. Moreover, community centers are more equipped to identify and treat people with mental health disorders. More groups are arising to address mental health issues and end the practice of shackling as well. However, only 20 out of the 34 provinces in Indonesia have successfully implemented programs to free people from shackling. Without full implementation, these programs are unable to free as many people as they aim to.

The Center for Indonesia Medical Students’ Activities (CISMA)

UNICEF partnered with the Center for Indonesian Medical Students’ Activities (CISMA) to promote mental health support for young people through online sessions on health on Zoom and YouTube. The sessions cover a range of mental health topics such as “Coping with stress during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Their partnership’s aim is to provide awareness and information about mental health.

CISMA’s sessions are an amazing resource because they are accessible and provide psychological support for people who may not be able to see a therapist. CISMA’s initiative is also beneficial to Indonesia’s mental health sector because it raises awareness and tackles mental health stigma. The type of awareness it is spreading can keep people with mental illnesses out of shackles.

The WHO QualityRights Initiative

The WHO QualityRights initiative supports countries in implementing policies and services to improve the conditions of mental health services globally. It developed a toolkit of information to provide guidance on how to improve mental health services. This includes information on assessing mental health services and quality standard goals. It also provides e-training and other materials for mental health professionals, NGOs and people with mental illness and disabilities. This program is encouraging a human rights-based approach to mental health issues.

Indonesia has been improving in awareness and identification of mental health issues. The next steps are for the implementation of policies and programs to improve resources, as well as the quantity and quality of community centers.

International aid can assist in building community centers and medical schools. However, more is necessary, such as quality training and funds to hire nurses, therapists and psychiatrists. The country must also address the availability of medications and adequate facilities by providing more funding for mental health programs.

The country is moving in the right direction to improve its mental health in Indonesia. With increased development and a continued focus on the mental health sector, Indonesia may be able to eradicate the practice of shackling.

– Stephanie Jackson
Photo: Flickr

Period Poverty in Indonesia
Indonesia is the largest country in Southeast Asia and the world’s third-largest democracy. It is a nation of economic and cultural crossroads, yet the country has made little progress in women’s health, rights and education. One can define period poverty as inadequate access to hygienic, proper menstrual products and proper menstrual education. The prevalence of period poverty in Indonesia continues to lead to discrimination against girls and adversely affects their health, education quality and empowerment. However, some are making progress towards ending the stigma and improving menstrual health management (MHM) for the 24 million adolescent girls who have or will soon reach menarche in Indonesia.

Overview of Period Poverty in Indonesia

Women and girls in Indonesia face numerous challenges during menstruation. They often have poor access to comprehensive information about menstruation, lack of appropriate materials to manage menstrual bleeding, inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene facilities (WASH) and harmful socio-cultural taboos. These barriers engender reproductive health risks, low self-esteem among adolescent girls and school-drop out and absenteeism, cultivating vast gender disparities within Indonesia.

Access to Resources

In Indonesia, commercial products, such as tampons and pads, are much less available and are prohibitively expensive. In Indonesian culture, there are many misconceptions surrounding tampon use leading to loss of virginity and blocking the menstrual flow. As a result, women and girls rarely use them. After disposable pads, reusable cloths were the next most frequently used sanitary item, and these were more commonly used in rural areas. It is common for young girls to make their own absorbent hygiene products at home, using materials such as cloths or towels, leaves, newspaper, tissue paper, sponges, sand, ashes and others. Greater access to menstrual products as well as information about menstrual hygiene and management is necessary in Indonesia, and especially in rural communities.

The Stigma and Lack of Knowledge About Menstruation

Many Indonesian communities commonly view periods as dirty and not socially acceptable to discuss. UNICEF Indonesia found that 25% of adolescent girls had not discussed menstruation with anyone before first menses and 17% were not aware that menstruation was a physical sign of puberty. Furthermore, cultural taboos persist in disposing of menstrual products: 78% of girls and mothers washed their disposable pads before wrapping them in a plastic bag and then finally disposing of them. They explained that they washed disposable pads because they considered menstrual blood dirty and wanted to remove the smell and prevent others from discovering that they were menstruating.

Along with the lack of open communication about periods, data from Plan International has shown that many female students do not receive the correct information on how to manage their hygiene and health during menstruation. In the UNICEF study, only two-thirds of urban girls and less than half (41%) of rural girls changed absorbent materials at least every four to eight hours or whenever the material was soiled. Nearly all of the girls interviewed reported that they never or rarely changed materials at school, due to shame and embarrassment about having their period.

Impact on Education

About 80% of girls reported as missing one to two days of school during their last menstruation. School absenteeism due to periods induces large gender disparities in the quality of education. Girls lack the ability to manage menstruation hygienically in most Indonesian schools. In 2015, UNICEF Indonesia conducted a study that found that nearly every girl never changed menstrual pads or cloths at school due to a lack of suitable latrines, inadequate water for washing pads, uncertainty about how to dispose of pads or lack of discrete means of disposal. Fear of others finding out they were menstruating also contributed to girls not bringing pads to school and reluctance to dispose of soiled pads in school bins where other students could see them. Improving MHM among adolescent girls in Indonesia and implementing effective MHM interventions in school is key in ending the stigma and disparities that periods elicit.

PERIOD Indonesia

Despite these barriers, people are taking many strides towards ending period poverty. One teen, A 16-year-old Indonesian youth activist, Alisha Syakira Triawan, founded the Jakarta chapter of PERIOD in October 2019,  in an effort to end the stigma around periods and eliminate period poverty in her conservative community. In an interview with the Malala Fund, Alisha called on the government, schools and families to “provide menstrual education in communities and schools” to address the gender and health disparities that periods incite. She has also led her chapter in participating in Women’s March Jakarta 2020, where it distributed pads to those in the homeless and young girls who could not access or afford menstrual products.

In addition to Alisha’s advocacy work with PERIOD Jakarta, Plan International Indonesia has been working to destigmatize periods and increase educational resources available in Indonesia since 2017. Collaborating with local school committees and government agencies, Plan International Indonesia is implementing a menstrual hygiene management program across five schools in Ende district, Indonesia. When the MHM program first emerged in schools, communities were uneasy and apprehensive to discuss such tabooed topics. However, students were thankful to learn about these topics. Keeping children informed about reproductive health issues leads to a more inclusive and safe environment for girls in schools.

UNICEF and the Indonesian Council of Islamic Scholars

Following UNICEF’s stance that “no adolescent girl or woman anywhere should be denied the right to manage their monthly menstrual cycle in a dignified, healthy way,” in 2018, it implemented a comprehensive initiative in Indonesia to address period poverty. UNICEF teamed up with the Indonesian Council of Islamic Scholars and is currently developing tools and guidance for girls on period health and hygiene based on religious teachings. It is empowering boys and girls with knowledge about MHM creatively through a storybook to provide education about menstrual hygiene and puberty through classrooms throughout the country.

Ending Gender Disparities and Empowering Girls

Promoting menstrual equity is fundamental to supporting women and young girls. The tenacity of girls in Indonesia fused with the work of organizations, such as UNICEF and Plan International Indonesia, are aiding in breaking down the stigma and cultural barriers oppressing young women. Yet, there is still much more that people can do to curtail period poverty in Indonesia. Indonesia and the world must eradicate period poverty to empower women and girls, and allow them to fully participate in all aspects of society.

– Samantha Johnson
Photo: Flickr

vanilla in IndonesiaOver the past two decades, employment in agriculture in Indonesia has declined from 45% in 2000 to about 29% in 2019. This decline has been accompanied by an aging farmer population, with 60% to 80% of rice farmers above the age of 45. However, Indonesia is the third largest producer of rice in the world. Its agriculture sector also provides an integral source of income for Indonesian families and export-revenue for the country. Without millennial interest in these jobs, the fading light of agriculture could cast a dark shadow on the economy. Thankfully, vanilla in Indonesia is bringing Indonesian youth back to agriculture and making the sector more profitable. This underscores the vanilla trade’s potential as a way out of poverty in Indonesia.

A Tale of Agriculture Revitalized

Sofa Arbiyanto, 30, began farming vanilla in 2018 in Blora, Central Java. Blora is one of two regions that produce most vanilla in Indonesia. After leaving his manufacturing job in South Korea and connecting with vanilla farming groups online, Arbiyanto began farming vanilla on a 1,200-square meter plot. He now has 2,000 vanilla vines.

Arbiyanto made the switch to farming because of the profitability potential he saw in the market. In 2019, vanilla beans from Madagascar, the world’s top producer, cost more by weight than silver. Vanilla itself is the second-most traded spice in the world. Vanilla in Indonesia accounted for 29% of the global supply in 2016, making Indonesia its second largest producer.

The lack of millennial attraction to farming is rooted in cultural stigma. Children who grow up in farming families learn from their parents that farming is a dirty job imbued with poverty and hardship. For these families, farming is as a last-resort career for their children. Thus, the people most likely to become farmers seek out other jobs instead.

Hilmi, a graduate student from Cigugur who spoke with The Diplomat, explained that young people in Indonesia see farming as a life of “soiled clothes with no pride.” However, vanilla in Indonesia may be changing this outlook. Indeed, Arbiyanto said, “My initial view that farmers live in hardship and poverty has changed. With a touch of innovation and technology, it is a promising opportunity.”

Indonesia Vanilla Farmers’ Association

Arbiyanto is one of around 250 vanilla farmers ages 25 to 35 who trained with the Indonesian Vanilla Farmers’ Association (PPVI). PPVI has a YouTube channel where farmers across the country can access informational videos. The channel has almost 15,000 subscribers, while some of its videos have more than 115,000 views.

This innovative approach to training farmers is revitalizing vanilla in Indonesia. Many millennials, more in touch with technology, have learned farming techniques through this method. Further, PPVI notes that experienced farmers use platforms like WhatsApp to offer the new generation their tips and tricks.

According to McCormick & Co., “Indonesia has strong potential to become an alternative origin [for vanilla], in terms of quantity and quality.” Although price volatility puts some risk in vanilla in Indonesia, the spice is bringing life back to a sector that many Indonesians have long associated with poverty.

Vanilla in Indonesia in the Global Trade

To make matters more enticing, the vanilla market has seen an increase in demand during the pandemic. Because of global stay-at-home orders, grocery shopping and home cooking have increased. This means that the average household now consumes more vanilla.

At the same time, the pandemic has caused shipping delays that resulted in an 18% drop in shipments from January to May of 2020. Kasan, a director-general in Indonesia’s trade ministry, noted that price volatility puts some risk in this enterprise. Still, the government has maintained its support.

“When the new normal begins and trade activities are gradually increased … vanilla exports will become one of the mainstays of trade that will be expanded,” Kasan said. This sentiment is part of a larger desire from the Indonesian government to diversify its agricultural exports, which are largely dominated by palm oil. The government also wants to use vanilla to create pathways out of poverty in Indonesia.

U.S. Aid

The opportunity to reduce poverty via vanilla came when a cyclone hit Madagascar in 2017, cutting off much of the global supply of vanilla and creating a shortage on the global market. This was an opening for other suppliers to gain a greater share of the market. The U.S. Agency for International Development, in collaboration with Cooperative Business International (CBI), stepped in to help. They have established partnerships between more than 5,000 small-scale, Indonesian spice famers and international spice vendors. Thus, U.S. aid further supports growth of vanilla in Indonesia.

Through this co-op, Agustinus Daka, an experienced vanilla farmer, told AEC News Today that his income had doubled. This moved him beyond subsistence farming. Daka harvests his beans after nine months and sends them to a spice factory in Central Java, where some 700 Indonesians work.

Sam Filiaci, senior vice president for Southeast Asia at CBI, explained the broader scope of such partnerships. “Even though we talk about the 700 people working in this facility,” Filiaci said, “the employment that it creates in the United States or the destination markets is even greater.”

He continued, “Vanilla and these other high-value crops that we grow and produce are a tool to improving people’s lives … helping farmers educate their children, build their houses, get health care. I think it’s extremely important and strategic for the U.S. government to invest in opportunities like this.” Thus, international aid has a large role to play in using vanilla in Indonesia to lift Indonesians out of poverty.

Olivia du Bois
Photo: Flickr

Women's Rights in IndonesiaWomen in Indonesia are working hard and fighting for their rights. Recently, Indonesia ranked second in the most dangerous countries for women in the Asia-Pacific. Violence against women can happen anywhere from the slums to the richest neighborhoods. However, this has not stopped the women of Indonesia, as they continue to march — closing the inequality gap. Importantly, women’s rights in Indonesia have fierce advocates.

Child Marriage

Concerning Indonesian girls, 14% marry before their 18th birthday. This is in part, due to their society’s view of women and discriminating legislation. The Marriage Law, established in 1974, states that parents can marry their daughter off as young as 16 years old. In April of 2018, Indonesia’s president, Joko Widodo, came forth and said that he was drafting a presidential decree that would ban child marriage. However, there has been no timeline set for the decree to be passed. Child marriage indirectly takes away a girl’s future and exposes them to a greater chance of being a victim of sexual violence. This can be directly related to the percentage of women in the workforce (51%) and the percentage of women experiencing sexual violence in their lifetime (33%).

UN Women

U.N. Women give girls and women in Indonesia the voice they deserve. This organization advocates for an end to the violence wrought against women while actively pursuing partners to respond to it. U.N. Women do so much for the women of Indonesia, from giving them access to entrepreneurship classes to directly fighting the government. This, in an attempt to hold authorities accountable for women’s rights in Indonesia. In the mix of their many programs, there is WeLearn and WeEmpower Asia, which both give women resources to integrate into the workforce. WeLearn’s goal is to improve equal learning opportunities and empower women to start their businesses. Where WeLearn encourages women into the workplace, WeEmpower Asia aims to achieve a business environment that empowers women and urges companies to adopt the Women’s Empowerment Principles.

Women Making Progress

Women’s rights in Indonesia have come a long way. Women in Indonesia now march freely in their opposition to the rights they have (or lack, rather). As backstory, the reason that this big (yet slowly closing gender gap) exists is because of the country’s second dictator, Suharto. He ruled for 32 years and widened the gap exorbitantly. However, most notably, he put the mindset in place that women and men garner different treatments. Now, the gap is closing and for the better. In political parties, 30% of the cabinet must be comprised of women. Further, as mentioned above, President Joko Widodo has the highest number of women in his cabinet in the country’s history. Now, those women in the cabinet are pushing for bills like the Sexual Violence Bill, to be passed.

Thanks to Suharto, the women in Indonesia have a lot of work to do. Fighting for women’s rights is not an easy battle. As for the support of men, Gitika Bhardwaj says that “I do think there are a large number of men who are supporting gender equality in the country but unfortunately there have not been enough high-level public awareness campaigns.” In the next few years, these women leaders hope to see the inequality gap as not a tangible thing, but a thing of the past.

Bailey Sparks
Photo: Flickr

Rich results on Flikr when searching for USAID in Indonesia "spice market"USAID partners with farmers in developing countries to provide economic opportunities and greater access to the global market. Not only does this partnership program improve the lives of the individual farmers, but it is also strengthing the overall economies of these countries. This story of an Indonesian farmer shows how beneficial these partnerships are for both them and the U.S. USAID in Indonesia is helping small farmers.

Agustinus Daka, Indonesian Small Farmer of Vanilla

Agustinus Daka is a hardworking vanilla farmer from a village in the Papua province, the most impoverished region in Indonesia. He exemplifies his dedication to farming the labor-intensive vanilla crop by pollinating each vanilla orchid by hand since the crop has no natural pollinator in Indonesia. Daka is a great example of how USAID In Indonesia helps small farmers. Due to his partnership with USAID, Daka doubled his income over two short years.

This increase in revenue has allowed Daka to afford a better life for his family including access to better living conditions, education and healthcare. However, Daka does not want to stop at improving only the lives of his family. In a province where most farmers are only capable of subsistence farming– growing only enough to provide for their families – Daka’s dream for his village is to “move beyond subsistence.” He has steadily begun to introduce more of his fellow farmers to the partnership program.

Improving Poverty Statistic in Indonesia

Despite successful democratic and economic improvements, approximately 25.1 million people in Indonesia are living in poverty and around 20.6% of the population is at constant risk of falling below the poverty line. Although these numbers may look grim, they are remarkable results of successful poverty reduction across the nation. Over the past two decades, Indonesia has cut its poverty rate by more than half, gradually improving from 23.4% in 1999 to only 9.4% in 2019. In the past five years, Indonesia has seen its economic growth improve at a rate exceeding 5% each year, demonstrating the success of USAID in Indonesia.

Economic Opportunity in Both Indonesia and the U.S.

USAID and the National Cooperative Businesses Association (NCBA) established Cooperative Business International (CBI) Global in 1984.  The company based in Ohio links spice farmers all over the world to over 160 partner companies in 40 countries. PT AgriSpice Indonesia is the branch of CBI Global that works with USAID to help more than 15,000 Indonesian farmers facilitate trade with companies across the globe. The company exports about $150 million in spices annually.

More importantly, PT AgriSpice works with farmers to teach valuable techniques for cultivating larger, more sustainable farms. The connection to the global market allows farmers to secure greater profits and provides approximately 400 to 700 new factory jobs with about 90% of them going to women. New job opportunities reduce poverty rates and the economy of Indonesia, making it more attractive to U.S. businesses.

These potential partnerships with U.S. companies are also mutually beneficial. The equipment used in these new factories is imported from the U.S. With more factories and products, more trade occurs between Indonesia and the U.S., requiring more jobs to be created in both countries, and simultaneously stimulating their economies.

Agustinus Daka’s vanilla is now in grocery stores across the U.S. McCormick, the U.S. top spice seller and long time partner of USAID in Indonesia, uses vanilla sourced from Indonesia in its products. It’s a long time, mutually beneficial partnership.

The Measure of Support from USAID in Indonesia

Through the support of USAID programs and partner companies, Indonesia has now grown to be the second-largest producer of vanilla in the world, the world’s number one exporter of nutmeg and the number one exporter of cloves to the U.S. USAID’s intends to continue fostering a healthy business environment for Indonesian producers to access the global market and conduct mutually beneficial trade with the U.S. This USAID-led program in Indonesia is a part of Feed the Future, the U.S. government’s initiative to fight global hunger and promote food security in partner countries across the world.

– Hanna Rowell
Photo: Flickr

Tourism's Impact on Reducing Poverty
Within the past decade, international travel to developing countries has risen substantially. Countries like Tanzania and Indonesia have benefited from a surge in tourism. Moreover, research postulates that this will improve economic growth in developing countries. Economic developments in these countries are essential for stable socioeconomic growth. Tourism’s impact on reducing poverty within developing nations will be addressed in this article. However, the tourism industries in these countries promote more than just income generation — also, stability, opportunities in local communities, employment and cultural prosperity.

Advantages

In 46 of the 49 least developed nations (nearly 94%), tourism has become one of the primary sources of economic income. Moreover, in some countries, this results in 25% of GDP. The total contribution of tourism in 2019 generated roughly $9.2 billion, with direct contributions globally generating nearly $2.8 billion. The income generated in these countries can provide further support to local communities and the overall infrastructure and revenue of developing countries.

The tourism industry offers excellent advantages for socioeconomic growth and poverty alleviation. One of the most significant factors is employment. Many individuals living in developing countries lack the education and opportunity for high-paying, skilled jobs. Jobs within the tourism industry, such as food, conservation and hospitality require lower skill levels. Therefore, allowing for expanded employment opportunities. In these ways, tourism’s impact on reducing poverty is both positive and significant.

Disadvantages

The tourism industry can certainly promote nations, effectively raising their global profile and allowing for even more tourism. However, it can also allow for environmental damage, such as pollution, littering, resource depletion or loss of natural habitats due to the massive increase in visitors. In this same vein, roughly 40 million Americans traveled internationally in 2019. Yet, alternatively, it should be noted that tourism can potentially provide funding for conservation and create incentives to preserve natural areas. This occurs in both urban and rural environments to regenerate the areas.

Infrastructure such as roads, airports, hotels and other tourism services may fail to keep up with the estimated tourist projections of an “additional 400 million arrivals forecasted in 2030.” Infrastructure’s crucial role in tourism is in the amenities that these countries can provide for visitors. Although, with tourist arrivals already surpassing projections by 2017, some countries may struggle to progress and uphold their “infrastructure readiness” quickly enough.

Tanzania and Indonesia: Success Stories

Tanzania, located in sub-Saharan Africa, has become a significant tourist attraction within the past couple of years. Due to its rich culture and conservation, Tanzania has become a highly desirable destination. The nation accounted for 1.28 million tourist arrivals in 2016 alone. With this rise, Tanzania’s GDP of 4.7% is directly linked to tourism and travel expenditures. Furthermore, the country increased investments by 8.7% ($1.2 billion) and “export earnings,” generating $2.5 billion in revenue. These earnings dramatically impacted job opportunities, a significant variable in alleviating poverty. E.g., the increased investments employed 470,500 persons in the tourism and travel industry in 2016. Recent reports from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) expect the tourism and travel sector to continue to rise “6.6% annually in the next 10 years.”

Indonesia has also created a profitable tourism and travel industry. Striving to improve income inequality and alleviate poverty through tourism has proven to be a successful initiative. A study conducted by LPEM FEB UI, Universita Indonesia, shows that tourism activities have reduced the “depth of poverty from 2.04 to 1.21.” Along with this, severe poverty lessened in 2016 from 0.37 to 0.29. Additionally, the study also reveals that tourist activities offer more significant support within communities. For those living in regions with more prevalent tourist activity — the poverty rate is 1.5%–3.4% lower than regions that are not.

Continuing the Positive Impact

While the advantages do not necessarily outweigh the disadvantages — there are significant, positive results in promoting the travel and tourism industry in the highlighted regions above. With continued progress, countries such as Tanzania and Indonesia have made increasing strides in alleviating poverty. Tourism’s impact on reducing poverty represents a significant feat that will hopefully continue to yield positive results for the world.

– Allison Lloyd
Photo: Flickr

poverty eradication in IndonesiaIndonesia is a large Southeast Asian country with a population of 267.7 million. As of 2019, 9.4% of Indonesians lived in poverty. Different programs both located in Indonesia and in other countries are innovating ways to eradicate poverty in Indonesia. Among them are cash transfer programs, food assistance programs, WASH sanitation programs and others. Here are five facts about innovations in poverty eradication in Indonesia.

5 Facts About Innovation in Poverty Eradication in Indonesia

  1. Poverty is declining each year, but not by much. From 1999 to 2013, the poverty rate in Indonesia went from 24% to 11.4%. However, in the years after that, the rate of poverty reduction has slowed to be 0.5% lower each year. In 2014, out of the Indonesians in the bottom 10% of the income bracket, only one-fifth received all governmental social assistance programs that they were eligible for.
  2. Conditional cash transfer programs are working to provide support to Indonesia’s poorest families. Program Keluarga Harapan, which translates to the Family Hope Program, is a social protection program. It provides assistance to very poor families in Indonesia. This program has been recently expanded to reach the 10 million poorest families in Indonesia. Program Keluarga Harapan focuses on targeting pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. It also focuses on families with toddlers and school-aged children.
  3. Non-cash food assistance programs deliver food assistance. By 2018, Indonesia expanded non-cash food assistance programs to serve about 10 million Indonesian families. These programs are similar to food stamp programs, and they deliver food assistance with a focus on proper nutrition. One of Indonesia’s longest-running food assistance programs is Rice for the Poor, also known as Raskin. Rice for the Poor is changing into an electronic voucher program that provides non-cash food assistance.
  4. Healthcare programs are also an imperative part of poverty reduction. When faced with illness or health problems, low-income households are often at financial risk. Indonesia’s Healthcare Guarantee Program, known as Jamkesmas, protects low-income families from this risk when they become ill. As of 2012, this program covered about 76.4 million people in the low-income bracket in Indonesia.
  5. WASH programs help improve access to clean water. Indonesia Urban Wash, Sanitation and Hygiene (IUWASH) partners with a local water utility and micro-finance institution. It helps provide services to families and small business owners in order to allow them to build bathrooms that are hygienic and safe. In 1990, only 35% of Indonesians had access to sanitation facilities. In 2015, that percentage jumped to 61%. Additionally, sanitation services and clean water can improve the health of many families, particularly low-income ones.

Overall, these programs are all essential in reducing and eradicating poverty in Indonesia. Poverty, homelessness and hunger are still relevant issues in Indonesia. However, these programs will pave the way for more innovations in poverty eradication in Indonesia that can also help in other parts of the world.

Ayesha Asad
Photo: Flickr

American ExportsThroughout the past several decades, nations in Southeast Asia have seen significant declines in extreme poverty rates. As poverty has fallen and these nations have developed economically, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations has become the United States’ fourth-largest trading partner. While the United States does rely heavily on this region for imports, trade with ASEAN also supports American exports and bolsters nearly 346,000 American jobs. The following five countries in Southeast Asia are critical trading partners and demonstrate the economic benefits that can coincide with a decrease in extreme poverty:

1. Malaysia

Malaysia has been extremely successful in reducing poverty throughout the past several decades. According to the United Nations, “… in 1970, 49.3% of Malaysian households were below the poverty line.” As of 2015, the figure had fallen to 0.4%. As poverty has fallen, Malaysia has also grown economically, developing profitable manufacturing, petroleum and natural gas industries.

As the country has reduced poverty and developed economically, it has become an important trading partner to the United States. The United States imports electrical machinery, tropical oils and rubber from Malaysia. It also exports soybeans, cotton and aircraft to the nation. In total, the trade between the two nations totals around $57.8 billion each year and supports nearly 73,000 American jobs.

2. Thailand

Thailand is another country that has seen impressive levels of poverty reduction in recent decades. According to The World Bank, poverty rates fell from around 65% in 1988 to under 10% in 2018. The nation has also evolved economically, developing large automotive and tourism industries as poverty rates have fallen.

Trade between the United States and Thailand has steadily grown, totaling $48.9 billion in 2018. When analyzing imports, the United States relied on Thailand for machinery, rice and precious metals. In terms of exports, the United States provided the nation with electrical machinery, mineral fuels and soybeans. In total, the exports to the nation supported nearly 72,000 American jobs. Additionally, exports to Thailand have been increasing in recent years, growing nearly 14.5% from 2017 to 2018.

3. Vietnam

Vietnam is perhaps one of the most astounding examples of poverty reduction and economic development. The World Bank reports that “the poverty headcount in Vietnam fell from nearly 60% to 20.7% in the past 20 years.” As it has done so, the nation developed one of the most rapidly growing middle classes in Southeast Asia, became a center for foreign investment and developed key industries in electronics, footwear and textiles.

While the United States has come to heavily rely on Vietnamese imports, Vietnam is also a rapidly growing market for American exports. In fact, American exports of goods to Vietnam increased by 246.9%, and American exports of services to the nation increased 110% since 2008. According to the Office of the United States Trade Representative, “U.S. exports of Goods and Services to Vietnam supported an estimated 54,000 American jobs in 2015.”

4. Indonesia

Though the nation still has significant progress to make, Indonesia is another nation that has seen a reduction in extreme poverty rates. Since 1990, the nation has managed to half its poverty rate and make significant economic advancements. Currently the largest economy in Southeast Asia, the nation has developed notable industries in petroleum, natural gas, textiles and mining.

Trade with the nation totaled around $32.9 billion in 2019. While the United States imported apparel and footwear from the nation, it also exported soybeans, aircraft and fuels to Indonesia. In total, American exports to Indonesia are growing, increasing 19.1% from 2017 to 2018 and supporting nearly 56,000 American jobs.

5. Philippines

While poverty is still an issue in the Philippines, it has seen significant declines in recent years. According to the World Bank, poverty fell from 26.6% to 21.6% from 2006 to 2015. The nation has also made significant improvements in developing industries outside of agriculture. While agriculture composed nearly one-third of the nation’s GDP in the 1970s, it currently represents 9.3%, split between an emerging industrial and service sector.

Trade with the nation currently provides $29.6 billion each year, and exports to the Philippines grew 3% from 2017 to 2018. Mainly, the Philippines relies on American exports for electrical machinery, soybean meal, and wheat. Overall, exports to the Philippines support an estimated 58,000 American jobs.

Affecting nearly one in five American jobs, international trade is a critical part of the American economy. As demonstrated by Southeast Asia, a reduction in global poverty rates not only contributes to global economic development but also supports the export industry and American jobs.

– Michael Messina
Photo: Pexels

Tourists at Kawah Ijen
In Indonesia, 9,000 feet above sea level, on the Kawah Ijen volcano crater, one can see two kinds of people: sulfur miners suffering backbreaking labor in toxic conditions, and tourists wealthy enough to afford gas masks and enjoy the rugged beauty of the landscape.

Background

The miners are locals of the region. They trek up the steep cliffs, carrying 80 kilograms of sulfur per trip for compensation of about 7 cents per kilogram. PT Candi Ngrimi employs them and processes the sulfur into powder, slabs and granules for sale to manufacturing companies. In particular, sugar processing companies use sulfur to refine and whiten sugar crystals.

Despite working next to the most acidic lake in the world and within the toxic fumes of the volcano, the workers have virtually no equipment to protect themselves from hazards. Most wear only a thin piece of cloth over their nose and mouth.

Unlike the miners, who have been active since 1954, the tourists at Kawah Ijen are a new addition to the volcano. East Java was rather obscure until 2010. Then, Abdullah Azwar Anas became regent of the Banyuwangi Regency (the city in which the volcano is located). Upon his election, Azwar developed fervent promotions for tourism, and now millions of people visit Banyuwangi yearly.

Benefits of Tourism

The economic impact of tourism is immense for many countries around the world. For instance, Maldives has shifted from a least developed to a developing country largely because of tourism, which is the dominant economic sector for that country.

Tourism is a growing economic force for Indonesia, too, as it accounts for 5.2% of GDP and 3.7% of total employment. Tourists at Kawah Ijen create the potential for public and private sector cooperation. This relationship could build infrastructure to support tourism, ultimately increasing employment and income.

Tourist attractions like the Kawah Ijen crater rely on the environmental and cultural health of the area. Thus, the governments and corporations in Banyuwangi have the motivation to preserve these aspects. Although there may be increased infrastructure development in the area, it is unlikely that there will be large-scale changes that would alter the natural and cultural beauty of Banyuwangi.

Consequences of Tourism

The primary concern of tourism at Kawah Ijen is that the sulfur miners become an attraction, much like the alluring blue fire, yellow sulfur and acidic lake of the volcano’s crater. Tourists reflect this concern by taking selfies with miners who are about to begin their trek back to base for their daily $5. Despite their popularity, the miners have not seen any monetary rewards during Banyuwangi’s tourism boom, barring small fees for photographs. Their wages remain as they have for decades.

Tourists at Kawah Ijen are not an inherently bad thing, of course. However, the sulfur miners are a big reason that the volcano is a tourist attraction at all, yet they continue to live in poverty. It is an extreme example of exploitation without compensation.

So popular is the hardship of the sulfur miners’ lives that they are documented on a database of “dark tourism.” Dark tourism, according to the website, is “travel to sites that are in some way connected to death or disaster.” Kawah Ijen received a 10/10 on its “dark-o-meter” rating, alongside memorials to the Hiroshima bombing and the Rwandan genocide.

How to Ensure Positive Development

There are ways that tourism can theoretically provide a positive experience for host communities. These ways not only avoid voyeurism but seek to alleviate some of the challenges host communities experience.

One example of this is voluntourism, which melds volunteer service work with tourism. Tourists could plant trees resistant to sea-level rise on the coast of East Java. They could help build a road to make the miners’ travels easier. Voluntourism, however, is a potentially deleterious activity that can strip local communities of their agency. If implemented at Kawah Ijen, officials would have to monitor voluntourism with extreme caution and attention to detail.

Another example is pro-poor tourism, which aims to create a net benefit for impoverished communities in host countries. This often takes the form of governments or private companies training impoverished populations to take part in the tourist industry, perhaps as a travel guide or an education specialist.

Because of tourism’s growing economic importance in Banyuwangi, tourists themselves have indirect political power in the region. Considering this, tourists at Kawah Ijen have an opportunity to become activists. If they demanded that miners received just compensation for their work, the regency or PT Cambri Ngimri may oblige. This is called justice tourism, and although it may seem idealistic, it could produce a serious change in places like Kawah Ijen, if it were done correctly.

Sublime photos of Kawah Ijen’s sulfur mines and blue fire continue to circulate on the internet. It is clear that the volcano’s popularity is not dwindling. Governments and companies, then, should try and discover ways to make tourism socially sustainable. This practice is necessary not just in Indonesia, but in any place that is worth visiting and celebrating.

Christopher Orion Bresnahan
Photo: Flickr

Palm Oil in Indonesia
One can find palm oil in most U.S. packaged products. Indonesia was the top palm oil exporter in 2019 with a record output of 36.18 million tons, making this resource a significant contributor to economic prosperity. However, meeting the high demand for palm oil has taken a toll on the country’s social and natural environment. Here is some information about palm oil production in Indonesia.

The Need for Palm Oil

The market for palm oil quickly became robust following a rise in boycotts of trans fats in packaged food items. Many companies previously utilized trans fats to extend products’ shelf lives, but discoveries of their associated health risks in comparison to other vegetable oils led to a worldwide shift toward safer alternatives like palm oil. Palm oil is cheaper to produce and buy than other oils, costing roughly $2 per 2.2 pounds. Although its low price is certainly beneficial, the heavy demand for palm oil has harmed plantations workers and forest regions.

Deforestation and Reduction of Biodiversity

Indonesia is the largest exporter of palm oil, producing approximately half of the global product. Palm trees are highly efficient, so growers can produce palm oil quickly and in large volumes. Still, the deforestation that is necessary to expanding palm oil plantations is devastating to forest areas and wildlife. Global Forest Watch stated that between 2001 and 2018, Indonesia lost “26 million hectares (Mha) of the forest,” leading to a 25% deforestation rate — the highest in the world. This land clearing releases carbon into the atmosphere, causing wildfires that reduce biodiversity to a mere 15%.

Societal Impacts

To accommodate the growing palm oil industry, many indigenous people had to leave their homes. In addition to losing their shelters, these individuals have lost rights to their land, culture and resources. The Human Rights Watch carefully inspects the devastation that many native families experience.

Local workers within the palm oil industry have experienced a burden from long hours and little pay, sometimes working overtime without proper compensation. For females, the gender divide makes conditions even worse: these workers usually do not receive paid contracts, meaning their labor is abused. Despite a minimum wage requirement set in 2017, women receive 66,000 rupees ($5) a day. Their male counterparts obtain nearly 100,000 rupees ($7.50) a day. Additionally, women often work in maintenance management where they work with harmful pesticides and chemicals, predisposing them to more health problems than men. The accumulation of these negative conditions perpetuates the cycle of poverty for many Indonesian palm oil workers.

Economic Impacts

Palm oil production in Indonesia generates nearly $18 billion annually in foreign exchange, a significant benefit to the country’s economy. In comparison to other vegetable oils, palm oil is the most sustainable, efficient and versatile option. Despite the deforestation that has destroyed much of Indonesia’s forest area, palm oil production remains more environmentally friendly than any of its alternatives. Even with a substantial gender pay divide, the industry lifts locals out of poverty by providing over 4.5 million jobs.

Here to Help

The Asian Agri’s One to One Commitment has helped local palm oil farmers develop smallholder partnerships since 1987, with the ultimate goal of improving land productivity. Independent smallholders often lack access to the newest technology or industry standards. Asian Agri creates partnership opportunities to assist these local farmers keeping their protocols as effective as possible. The One to One Commitment has boosted the efficiency of palm oil farms, improving incomes and living standards for thousands. Given the palm oil industry’s overwhelming success, Asian Agri’s investment in local stakeholders provides hope for the future of palm oil production in Indonesia.

Allison Lloyd
Photo: Flickr