Seated in front of a herd of cows at his cattle farm, young Indonesian farmer Ikin said that he never imagined dabbling in a side job as a green tour operator to help his family. But that’s exactly what he plans to do with his fellow villagers, after attending a series of UNDP-supported village empowerment programmes.
His next chapter in life continued a pattern of self-fulfilled destiny to become a farmer, despite having completed his degree in Economics at a respectable urban university. Getting 'office' work in the city and leaving his West Java's sleepy village of Ciwaru has long been a common goal for many young people of his generation in the countryside. And yet, the 37-year-old farmer had always known that his destiny was to head his family's agriculture and cattle farming. A dream that involves daily routine of milking cows in the small hours of the morning and cleaning dung.
Nonetheless, Ikin’s educational background in economics was never put into dormant. We met Ikin on a recent afternoon after he attended a village discussion that was part of UNDP’s Social Innovation Platform (SIP) initiative. The SIP aims to extract development ideas from community members like Ikin. It’s a ‘co-creation’ process to come up with the most fitting solutions to the concerned communities. In collaboration with the Ministry of Village, Development of Disadvantaged Region and Transmigration (Kemendesa PDTT), UNDP co-hosted the programme.
Participating in SIP conversation allowed Ikin to put his economic studies into action. Ikin was able to give tangible suggestions that might ensure that the redevelopment of his village is inclusive and puts communities like his at the centre of economic pulse.
Despite being content with his decision to return to his village, Ikin expressed his dissatisfaction with the fact that many of his fellow villagers did not partake in the ‘sharing of wealth' as the surrounding places of his home village became booming tourist destinations. Blessed with natural wonders such as waterfalls and cool highland parks, the area is often visited by local tourists and trekkers from the capital city Jakarta and provincial city Bandung.
“It is the lodging businesses owned by big investors from the city that reap the most benefit from the tourism zones”, said the father of two daughters.
He went on to say that the majority of his fellow villagers lack the necessary skills and understanding of the tourism industry. Lack of capital among villages has also been cited as another reason.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also put additional strains among small farmers and women-led micro-businesses (such as warung ) in the area as they struggle to sell and market their crops due to social mobility restrictions. According to the local government, the pandemic has partly contributed to the increased number of poverty there with an additional 40,000 people classified as poor from 2019 to 2021 . Unfortunately, this story is not unique to Ikin and his neighbours. Millions of poor living in more than 70,000 villages in Indonesia continue to bear the brunt of the pandemic. Marginalised rural communities are at the risk of slipping behind.
The inequality picture in Ikin’s village reinforces the need for a holistic and inclusive solution that puts communities at the centre. This is precisely what SIP aims to do through a methodology called ‘Portfolio Approach’. This approach involves a rigorous analysis to produce the most fitting solutions with input from concerned communities. West Java province - where Ciwaru village is located - and Gorontalo, are the two SIP pilot provinces.
Using ‘inclusive listening tools’, SIP helps capture local narratives and identify real-time challenges and opportunities at the community level – that allows us to hear Ikin’s side of the story. And out this SIP-led process, the idea of farm-based tour was born. Under these planned tour initiatives, tourists will be able to take part in village activities, which include animal and crop care, sheep feeding, fruit picking, local cuisine cooking, and handicrafts making.
The farm-based tour also tapped into the grand plan of ‘Sustainable Tourism’ as championed by the provincial governments of West Java. On the other hand, Gorontalo province has championed ‘Blue Economy’ as the main lens of the locally-developed solutions.
Ikin closed his story that afternoon by sharing with us his dreams. He said that after receiving more training, he plans to grow the agrotourism company he is developing with his farmers group.
With SIP initiatives, UNDP Indonesia stands ready to support Ikin’s dreams and his neighbours’ to get their shares of the prosperity pie and to leave no one behind.
Written by Ainul Djula and Anastasia Widyaningsih, Edited by Tomi Soetjipto