Leveraging Digital Technology to Empower Local Communities and Traditional Markets

May 7, 2023

Sayur Sleman in Yogyakarta, enables consumers to buy fresh produce via an online platform, which also supported social programs that empower local communities.

Traditional vegetable markets have been a crucial part of the food supply chain, serving as the primary source of fresh produce for millions of people around the world, including Indonesia. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, both traders and consumers were negatively impacted by social distancing protocols and health concerns, which led to a decrease in foot traffic in traditional markets. Through the Urban Innovation Challenge, UNDP’s Accelerator Lab in collaboration with the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN) and Ecoxyztem Venture Builder made an effort to leverage digitalization for Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).

It is estimated that about five million or 43 percent of traditional market traders across Indonesia were forced to close; around 70 to 90 percent have experienced a decrease in income. Tapping into digital technology to help vendors deliver produce to consumers through online platforms could help address this challenge.

As follow up of the Challenge, a pilot project established by a start-up company Sayur Sleman (Sleman Vegetables) in Yogyakarta – enabling consumers to buy fresh products through online platform combined with social programs that empower local communities. It does this by collecting donations of produce and encouraging farming in urban areas. The experiment ran for six months, from April to September 2022.
To encourage use of the platform, the team opened WhatsApp services and optimized social media channels. In parallel, engagement is built with local traders, including vegetables, fruits, and meat traders, to sign on to the platform. During three months of operation, more than 200 online transactions occurred, and 100 trader partners in the traditional market were involved.

Apart from vegetable shopping, the platform allows people to participate in social programs, such as donations for vegetable sharing. Nearly 1,500 vegetable packages were distributed to 210 beneficiaries, including poor and elderly families. To ensure transparency and accountability, the website includes information on the use of funds and beneficiary data. In addition, urban farming activities were conducted in selected villages in Sleman City involving women and youth. This included training on organic waste processing, hydroponic farming systems, and fish farming. The experiments also installed tarpaulin fishponds with about 5,000 tilapia and pomfret fish and planted more than 600 tomato, eggplant, and chili tree seedlings with local residents.

This approach is expected to positively impact the economy and the livelihood of the beneficiaries, particularly vegetable traders, and vulnerable groups. Women played a significant role in the experimental stage of Sayur Sleman, in both commercial and social programs. This project has reached a total of 451 beneficiaries (including suppliers, customers, households, and donors), of which 82 percent are women. Women were also actively involved in supporting charity programs and urban farming activities.

Fish Farming installed in Kricak Kidul Village, Sleman

Based on the results of the of experimentation, the digital transformation process currently being worked on out can help traditional vegetable markets in Sleman adapt to the changing business environment and stay relevant in a post-pandemic world, as well as bringing social benefits to vulnerable people. The good practices both in business and community development in Sleman and Yogyakarta can be duplicated in other areas by prioritizing community participation and assistance in the transition to technology use. By embracing those two aspects, digital technology will be able to grow the community's economic power.

Text by Muhammad Didi Hardiana (Head of Experimentation UNDP Accelerator Lab) and Natasha Amalia (Product Specialist Ecoxyztem Venture Builder)
Photos by Sayur Sleman
Edited by Ranjit Jose