Tourism-Economies
Everyone loves a good vacation or at least it is easy to think that while walking on a white-sand beach and sipping a Mai Tai. The truth lurking behind the tranquility of remote island temples and the prestige of historical landmarks is that tourist economies are not all sunshine and smooth sailing. With off-seasons that take up a large portion of the year and uncertain demand, tourism-economies may be more vulnerable to pitfalls than industrial or agriculture-based economies. The following countries exemplify the great promise and instability of tourism-economies.

Indonesia

Tourism in Indonesia is one of the main draws for foreign currency. In 2018, the number of people coming in from outside of Indonesia rose 12.6% to about 15.8 million. One of the biggest draws in tourism is culture. Countries that do well in tourism carry significant cultural influence in the area or have notable landmarks. For example, the world fetes Italy for its long history, art and cuisine. Meanwhile, statistics have shown that Indonesia underperforms in this sector compared to other countries in the region. Singapore, for example, draws in about 19 million people per year.

Bangladesh

Bangladesh is rapidly developing and this is an overall plus for the economy. However, it could bring a slight hiccup in the years to come. The nation’s main source of income, its textile industry, faces an imminent, irreversible decline with its graduation in development stages. Tourism could be Bangladesh’s biggest hope, with the industry contributing 10.4% to the global GDP. However, tourism only comprised 4.4% of Bangladesh’s GDP as of 2018, painting a bleak picture for the future of tourism. The country has been performing second to least successfully concerning popular destinations in Asia.

What might help is how well South Asia has been performing in tourism. Nations that have performed well in this area, like India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam, drew in 86% of the region’s total earnings in 2018 – a high Bangladesh was able to ride on the coattails of, as it attempted to market itself as a more desirable tourist destination. In recent years, Southeast and Southern Asia have demonstrated success in tourism, with respective 8% and 10% rates of growth.

One factor that greatly affects tourism is the visa facilities in a country. If tourists find the entry process to be too much of a hassle, they may be less inclined to vacation there. In India, a top-performing country in tourism, most of the world can easily obtain an e-Visa. In Bangladesh, however, in order for a person to gain a visa, many of their neighbors need to secure a visa beforehand. This further hampers an already struggling tourism industry.

Nigeria

Some have long thought of Nigeria as having great tourism potential, although obstacles in economic development stand in the way of meeting this full potential. Countries also have accommodation rates to take into account with tourism economies. Too steep a price may turn travelers off while not charging enough will undercut the profit potential of having a tourism economy to begin with. Since not all currencies convert equally, tourism-economies do well when they draw tourists from places with currencies that are more valuable to them. For example, Nigeria has this advantage over the U.S., with $1 being equal to 381.25 Nigerian Nairas. The average hotel rate in the U.S. was $131.21 per night as of 2019, while in Nigeria, the daily rate averaged anywhere in-between the equivalent of $27 and $128.

Relative Problems

Where tourism differs from other income-generating industries is that demand is less certain. If there is a use for a product, then a demand exists, and if there is a demand, then a country can profit by supplying for that demand. However, with tourism-economies, the “use” that creates demand is fickle, and as such, the success of the country “filling the supply” is less secure.

When the culture cannot compete, visas are too difficult to secure and prices just are not right, it does not just mean that the economy slows. People working in tourism potentially cannot generate an income, even if they can technically perform their jobs correctly. Travel trends and off seasons are out of the control of the low-to-middle income people working in the industry. For those already in a precarious financial situation, finding financial growth and stability in a tourism economy is incredibly difficult. In the past year, the global COVID-19 pandemic has also created further problems for the tourism industry.

Barefoot College International

With COVID-19, travel restrictions and business shutdowns, the tourism industry is all but entirely gone in most countries. As the earning potential of a tourism economy is insecure, some organizations strive to help populations attain more secure means of income. Barefoot College operates in more than 90 countries and is expanding across Africa, Latin America and South Asia.

Barefoot College has a variety of boots-on-the-ground efforts to help impoverished communities, including clean water and environmentally conscious health initiatives. It also has a strong education program that provides academic and practical skills that can help people increase their earning potential and make it easier for them to get jobs. Its focus is on digital education so that its work is accessible for people anywhere in the world.

After 40 years, 75,000 children have received an education, 65% of whom have been girls. From here, 40% of the children educated through Barefoot College have been able to enter their country’s mainstream education system. Of those educated through Barefoot College, 30% went on to become employed at jobs that required literacy. After graduating, 85% of those considering migrating decided to stay in their village to use their acquired knowledge and skills there.

While tourism-economies can be very profitable, changing factors such as a global pandemic cause many of these economies to be unstable. Organizations like Barefoot College help provide much-needed stability to tourism-economies. Moving forward, it is essential that more organizations work to find long-term economic solutions for countries that rely heavily on the tourism industry to help ensure a stable economic future.

Catherine Lin
Photo: Flickr

Indonesian Youth Programs
Around 85 million children live in Indonesia, making up one-third of the country’s population. Children are necessary for their country’s future, and the education and opportunities they receive are what allow them to have that impact. That is why it is important for children to have programs and organizations that give them more opportunities and allows them to realize their full potential. Several Indonesian youth programs provide these opportunities to children in Indonesia. The Indonesia Youth Foundation, Indonesian Youth Opportunities in International Networking (IYOIN) and Indonesian Youth Diplomacy are prime examples of Indonesian youth programs that aid children in education, provide resources and give them outlets to channel their passions.

Indonesia Youth Foundation

The Indonesia Youth Foundation began on July 23, 2020, as a non-governmental organization. Its objectives include connecting the children of Indonesia and other global youth through a variety of youth activities, offering general knowledge about the country and taking part in world advancement and the development of youth.

One can track the organization’s Youth Empowerment program through a series of articles on the organization’s official website, each entry providing tips on subjects such as boosting productivity and caring for mental health. Also featured is information on education and tourism to provide a better understanding of Indonesia.

Indonesian Youth Opportunities in International Networking

Indonesian youths created IYOIN in 2015. Since then, the self-started Indonesian youth program has spread across several different regions in Indonesia, with 18 local chapters.

The purpose of this organization is to serve as a medium for children in Indonesia to congregate, share and work together to realize their values for the country. The opportunities that this program provides also aim to improve the Indonesian youths’ education and to ensure that the youth will have the qualifications to tackle their futures successfully.

IYOIN became a United Nations SDSN Youth Member in 2017, a program that works to guarantee education that is inclusive and equal for all, in addition to encouraging learning opportunities. IYOIN joined this program because these goals align with its own mission.

Indonesian Youth Diplomacy

Indonesian Youth Diplomacy is a nonprofit Indonesian youth program that promotes and provides international exposure and empowers the next generation of Indonesian leaders. Known initially as G20 Youth Indonesia, efforts to form the organization began in 2010. This process continued in 2011 when the Indonesian Organizing Committee emerged to recruit Indonesian youth interested in contributing to the annual G20 Youth Summit. Recognizing the necessity of involving Indonesian youth in diplomacy beyond what the G20 program provides, the organization updated in 2013. Now known as the Indonesian Youth Diplomacy, it sends Indonesia’s promising young leaders to represent the country in international forums to raise awareness of diplomacy.

Youth programs can offer multiple benefits to children. They provide youth with quality education, a chance to involve themselves in their community and learn essential life skills and create a healthy social environment. All three of the organizations give these opportunities to the children of Indonesia. These Indonesian youth programs are crucial to allow children to spread their wings and learn since the youth are the backbone of their country.

– Celia Brocker
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Indonesia
As a burgeoning upper-middle-income country that has dedicated decades to development, Indonesia has made remarkable strides in poverty reduction. However, the tragedies of poverty still plague Indonesia and, in particular, are affecting children across the archipelago. Even so, Save the Children in Indonesia is doing life-changing work to mitigate child poverty in Indonesia through a holistic approach that includes immediate relief and programs that help develop young people to subsist in a 21st-century economy.

Indonesian Development: 1960 to 1997

Today, Indonesia is the 10th-largest economy and a member of the coveted G-20 organization, making it one of the world’s largest and most influential economies. Yet, to get to this economic level, Indonesia has had to marshal many economic ups and downs over the last six decades.

Between 1960 and 1967, Indonesia’s GDP per capita was a measly -.05%. This was largely due to the economy having a heavy focus on agricultural production. Nonetheless, the economy’s structure substantially changed over the next couple of decades towards a process of urbanization, industrialization and a general opening up of the economy to the outside world. The reformation of the economy resulted in the GDP per capita jumping to 5.3% between 1983 and 1996.

Still, the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis substantially reversed decades of progress. Although the crisis began in Thailand when the government turned the local currency, the Baht, into a floating currency; it had destructive effects on the rest of the Asian economies, particularly on Indonesia’s economy. By 1998, the Rupiah, Indonesia’s national currency, lost 30% of its value, its private-sector debt exploded, inflation reached 65% and GDP growth was at a staggering -13.6%.

Naturally, the financial shock increased the rate of poverty in the country. The poverty rate jumped to 24.2% in 1998 from 17.7% in 1996, and in 1998, the GDP per capita contracted by 13%.

Indonesia’s Successful Fight Against Poverty: 2005 to 2025

After years of a slow and fragile post-crisis recovery, in 2005, the Indonesian government stepped up its fight against economic contraction and poverty with the National Long-Term Development Plan 2005-2025 (RPJPN). The plan set up three general development goals for Indonesia that the country codified in the preamble of the Indonesian constitution of 1948. These goals include an Indonesia developed and self-reliant, just and democratic and peaceful and united. The plan comprises four stages with each stage correlating with a newly elected administration that will tailor the project to its agenda.

The plan’s implementation over 15 years has included investment in infrastructure, human capital, health and wellness, science and technology, improving exports and developing Indonesia’s competitive advantages.

The plan’s success is borne out in the numbers: between 2014 and 2018, the GDP grew by 5% annually and, as one might expect, the unemployment rate decreased significantly with over 9 million jobs created in the process. As a result, the poverty rate has been cut by nearly half since 1999, to 9.78%.

What About the Children?

Although Indonesia’s development strategy has paid dividends in reducing poverty, it has not been sufficient to keep many from falling through the cracks. Nowhere is the need to do more, more tragically clear than with the plight of children. For instance, 57% of Indonesian children grow up in families living on less than twice the national poverty line.

Moreover, although Indonesia has reached a near-universal education status, 14% of school-age children are out of school, while 7% work in child labor.

Regarding health, one in 21 girls between ages 15 and 19 gives birth and 36% of children suffer from stunted growth due to malnutrition. Most sobering, however, is that one child in 40 dies before their 5th birthday, a rate that is four times that of the United States of America.

Save the Children and Child Poverty in Indonesia

Save the Children in Indonesia has been working in Indonesia for more than three decades to assist the government in providing relief for children across the country. The organization provides immediate relief in disasters, such as in 2019 after a deadly earthquake and tsunami. Just 6 months following the disaster, it set up shelters, clinics and temporary schools to provide necessary health care, water and hygiene supplies.

The organization has also managed a more holistic approach that meets immediate survival needs and cultivates young people to thrive in a modern economy. For example, the organization provides sponsorship programs that have supported “knowledge, behavior and physical growth,” while also training teachers and principals on classroom management and academic skills. To this end, it also contributes to healthy learning environments by providing educational materials and hygienic supplies.

Perhaps Save the Children’s most ambitious and vital program regarding reducing poverty is its Youth Employment Program. Targeted towards the youth between the ages of 15 and 24, this program teaches skills to foster employability to create economic opportunities. The program has seen 5,000 young people graduate from employability skills training and have enrolled 3,600 in vocational training.

Indonesia has made significant strides in reducing poverty since the Asian financial crisis of 1997. However, the benefits of development have frequently left children out. As the government strives to fill in the cracks of those left behind, Save the Children in Indonesia is actively working towards eliminating child poverty in Indonesia by giving them a chance.

– Vincenzo Caporale
Photo: Flickr

How Agriculture is Ending Poverty in IndonesiaIndonesia has struggled with poverty since the Asian Financial Crisis of the late 1990s. However, the rate of poverty has been steadily decreasing over the years. In 1999, Indonesia’s poverty rate was a staggering 24%. In 2013, it had dropped to 11.4% and in 2019, it stood at 9.4%. Below are the ways agriculture is ending poverty in Indonesia.

Palm Oil Production in Indonesia: Providing Jobs and Alleviating Poverty

Palm oil is one of the most commonly used vegetable oils around the world and is found in half of grocery store items. Its popularity has skyrocketed globally since 1990, with global consumption growing from 14 million tons in 1990 to 63 million tons in 2015, 80% of which is supplied by Indonesia. After the Asian Financial Crisis, millions of Indonesians relied on the palm oil industry to relieve poverty. Between the years 2001 and 2010, 10 million Indonesians saw relief from poverty directly from working in the palm oil industry.

In 2017, 3.8 million Indonesians were working in the palm oil industry. Today,  17 million Indonesians rely on the palm oil industry for work, and 7% of Indonesia’s land is used for its production. Palm oil agriculture is ending poverty in Indonesia because it directly helps farmers in rural areas. Indonesia’s rural areas are most affected by poverty. However, by maintaining and increasing funding for palm oil production, families living in these rural regions can lift themselves out of poverty.

Indonesia’s COVID-19 Farmer Support

Farmers in Indonesia play a significant role in stabilizing the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Ministry of Agriculture saw the necessity of supporting the many farmers of Indonesia—who make up 30% of the population—by providing necessities such as seeds and fertilizer.

The government is also providing 34 trillion Indonesian Rupiahs, or $2,284,494,000, in loan subsidies. The 2.7 million farmers also received 300,000 Indonesian Rupiahs, or $20, which is typically one week of wages, for three months.

USAID: Partnering with Local Farmers

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) partners with farmers in Indonesia to help build a better livelihood, reduce poverty and help the economy. USAID ensures that farmers have a consistent supply of necessary resources needed to produce food at a high quality. This food security ensures that people see long-term benefits and avoid issues of malnutrition, weakened immune systems and cognitive health issues. At the same time, USAID is committed to achieving these goals in an environmentally-friendly way.

In its 2019 Annual Report, USAID clarified how its assistance with agriculture is ending poverty in Indonesia. USAID gained 2.9 hectares of farmland, which supports the livelihood of 11,400 people. Rubber farmers also received training on environmental sustainability and reducing the risk of forest fires, which have reduced by 74%. Additionally, 30% of farmers are now producing government-certified rubber products at a higher quality, which have increased in price from $0.50/kg to $0.80/kg. In addition, productivity has increased by 2.5%. USAID is focused on long-term goals and is expected to acquire 100 million hectares of forest land by 2030.

Agriculture is ending poverty in Indonesia at such a high rate because the agriculture industry is most effective at raising incomes compared to other industries. In a 2016 study by the World Bank, 65% of impoverished workers were able to make a living by working in agriculture The agriculture industry has made great efforts to eradicate poverty in Indonesia. Improvements in the practices of agriculture have correlated in better incomes and lifestyles for farmers, and are projected to steadily increase.

—Karena Korbin
Photo: Flickr

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

Organizations Providing Mental Healthcare
After natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes and floods, most survivors focus on physical needs first, such as food, water, shelter and electricity. However, psychological needs are just as important. This leads to the need for mental health relief and psychological first aid that addresses the initial mental health needs of survivors of natural disasters. Here is some information about the situation in six different places along with the organizations providing mental health care amidst natural disasters.

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is an island commonwealth located in the tropics and near a fault line that places it at risk for flooding rains, tropical cyclones and earthquakes. In 2017, hurricanes Irma and Maria affected the island chain, with the latter being one of the island’s most devastating storms in history. With health care workers leaving the island after the storm, resources squeezed tight, electricity out and pharmacies closed, issues such as anxiety, increased suicide rates and PTSD became heightened. After the storm, one-fifth of all residents were in need of mental health care. People leaving the island put a further strain on available health care resources, including mental health services. Predictions have determined that about 600,000 people will leave Puerto Rico by 2023. Additionally, about 7% of children met the criteria for PTSD.

While progress in building the mental health infrastructure has been slow since Maria, the island has made progress. When Hurricane Maria hit, the storm knocked out power to almost the entire island. According to The American Psychological Association, Hurricane Maria disrupted half of the island’s cellphone service and most internet connections. Pharmacies closed, meaning antidepressants were unavailable. Some rural towns experienced complete isolation so mental health professionals were unable to reach people in need. Moreover, staff with the Puerto Rico Psychological Association did not have full training prior to Hurricane Irma, and Hurricane Maria made PRPA aware of the various needs. Immediately after the storm, the PRPA sent psychologists to disaster areas, set up triage and provided counseling to people in need. The big things they focused on were listening to people’s stories of survival and focusing on a positive future outlook.

Organizations Providing Mental Health Care in Puerto Rico

Save The Children established the Journey of Hope project, and the organization worked to keep children on track through education, an important opportunity to support emotional wellbeing, in addition to coping with loss and anxiety. In the year after the storm, the project helped over 1,600 children. The Hispanic Federation provided solar lamps to people who lost power after the earthquakes since power outages triggered PTSD in Hurricane Maria survivors. The Hispanic Federation also teamed up with the University of San Juan to provide mental health services to people in both rural and urban areas. Direct Relief provided counselors and medications and hosted a workshop to address mental health needs.

Dominica

Hurricane Maria also caused widespread devastation on the Caribbean island nation of Dominica. As with Puerto Rico, the storm caused catastrophic damage on the island. International Medical Corps, together with the Dominica Psychological Society and IsraAid, designed and hosted 15 one-day workshops with over 200 leaders between December 2017 and February 2018, where they learned about psychological first aid. The community leaders who participated in the workshop came from various NGOs, local government councils throughout the island and ministries in the government, including The Ministry of Health. In addition, the organizations hosted workshops for art-based psychological first aid.

Bahamas

The Caribbean Development Bank provided $1 million to the island chain nation after Hurricane Dorian to address the mental health needs of residents. This came after the organization announced a broader initiative with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to provide counseling assistance, citing the need to address the link between natural disasters and mental health. International Medical Corps assisted the Bahamas Ministry of Health by providing mental health and psychosocial support services. Because individuals tend to focus on food, water and shelter needs first, issues such as anxiety, PTSD and depression could be major long-term health crises, since most people on the affected islands lost their homes or loved ones. As a result, the organization sent mental health counselors to Grand Bahama Island, trained officials in psychological first aid and supported community-based mental health initiatives.

India

The National Institute of Mental Health and Neurological Sciences in Bengaluru assisted flood victims in Kodagu after floods affected the region in 2018. A team of experts, which included psychiatrists and psychologists, went to the region where they trained people on the ground to help with local mental health needs and communication. Additionally, volunteer groups created the Kerala Floods Mental Health Support Group to connect survivors of the floods. In India, there are few resources that go to mental health care. A 2015 World Health Organization (WHO) report found that there were only three psychiatrists per million people, while the National Programme for Mental Health received less than one-tenth of 1% of the 2017-2018 budget.

Indonesia

After the 2018 Sulawesi earthquake and tsunami killed over 4,000 people, IsraAid provided mental health services and supportive activities to the communities the disaster affected. These included training individuals in the community to cope with and learn about the long-term effects of trauma. Doctors Without Borders partook in similar efforts, training volunteers on the ground to reach at-risk and remote communities. UNICEF worked to address the mental health needs of children, helping 4,500 at 60 different places through psychosocial support. More than 10,000 psychosocial kits went to children and teachers.

Southeast Africa

Cyclone Idai made landfall in Madagascar in March 2019, causing torrential flooding in Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi and killing more than 1,300 people. In Zimbabwe, UNICEF and Childline Zimbabwe and the Regional Psychosocial Support Initiative provided counseling to the children the cyclone affected. The organizations also established a shelter at Ngangu Primary School to cater to the victims’ material and psychosocial needs. Near Chimanimani, UNICEF worked with eight different organizations to provide counseling and psychosocial support to those the disaster affected.

In Mozambique, more than 31,000 children received psychosocial support through UNICEF after Idai and Cyclone Kenneth, which impacted the country a month later. In Beira, Mozambique, Doctors Without Borders provided counseling to the storm survivors and health care workers, and also trained psychologists on psychological first aid. Additionally, the organization undertook a public health campaign to talk about the symptoms of trauma related to the cyclone and the flooding it caused in Buzi. Meanwhile, UNICEF reached 10,000 children in Malawi through an initiative that provided opportunities for psychosocial support.

Closing Remarks

Future efforts by organizations providing mental health care will need to focus on community-based efforts and in collaboration with local figures. These modes of care will need to be integrated into the healthcare infrastructure and focus on long-term outcomes.

– Bryan Boggiano
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