Most values owned by our ancestors sometimes already become the answer to how humans should live their life, in a sustainable way, simply side by side with the earth. Understand about this, the indigenous woman from Bayan Tribe in Lombok keeps learning and promoting the good values inherited by her ancestors to the world and her name is Mahniwati.
We knew Mahniwati from our activist circle in 2018, at that time we only knew that Mahni (her nickname) is involved in Trash Hero Tanjung, an energetic, volunteer-led movement supporting & motivating the community to clean and prevent plastic waste. But after several meetings, we found out many interesting things from her. Here is our conversation with her.
Q: Hi Mahni! Can you share a little bit about yourself to the readers?
Hi ! So since I was a kid, I was a very active child and like physical activities. I often followed my parents to the ricefields, I like traveling a lot thus I chose Tourism as my major in University, I even joined Menwa (a military training for university students). I am so grateful, that I am raised by very supportive parents, they always trust me as long as I am responsible for my life choices.
After graduating from university, I had my first job in a traveling agent office, but I found that I could not fit with the job then resigned. Not so long after that, I had a chance to join a forum about culture and heritage in Jakarta as the woman representative of Bayan Tribe, which somehow triggered my concern of my own community. As one of the indigenous women myself, I often hear some negative stereotypes from the people that “we” must be dirty, stupid, and poor, while actually, we do many things to protect our values, earth and forest.
And finally, in 2014, to break the negative stereotype to other people, I joined a regional pageant competition. Even though I could barely do the catwalk, I still insisted to join and trust my ability as well as my deep understanding of the culture. I was chosen as the 3rd winner & they sent me to the provincial competition then won the title of talented in Miss Tourism of West Nusa Tenggara Province.
I started working in the Government and also private sectors for years, but still, I could not fit with the fixed rule and tasks in each institution. I also often more prioritized tourism and culture related forums and activities rather than my task in my offices. I already put learning and promoting the culture and heritage of my tribe as my passion and priority.
Q: Let us know the story of how you started Kon Bayan and why do you choose to promote ethical and local coffee from Bayan?
My first step was actually when I still worked in a resort located in a village that has a lot of social problems, small example, I was often catcalled by the drunk youth when I finished my work around 11 pm. Then I met the owners of a small cottage across the resort, they are Mbak Nina, a former NGO worker, and Mas Widi, a musician. Then, I initiated if it is possible for them to open a small coffee shop where youth actually can have a more positive space to gather where they can learn about coffee and even music.
Of course, my initiative needs a commitment, therefore I decided to leave my well-paid job in the resort to open the Coffee Shop. I still remember that my mother cried and very disappointed with me after knowing that I left my job, but one thing I said to her is “ I promise Mom, I will be successful from this”. In 2017, I started my journey to learn about coffee and also started the business with giving coffee for free to everyone during 2017 to promote the Coffee Shop, step by step, we get income from people who still want to pay the coffee, from which we bought some equipment and also actively participated in some event to introduce our coffee in other regions. We agreed with the name Kupi Nina Bayan (Nina means women but also the name of the owner, and Bayan is to represent culture and me as Bayan Woman).
Then in 2018, the business starts growing, I also visited the coffee farmers frequently so I could know deeper about coffee especially coffee from Lombok. During my visit to the Bayan forest, I found our that majority of the coffee farmers are women, not only that in every process, like seedling, taking care of the plants, picking the beans, roasting until the coffee is served, all are done by local women in Bayan. It feels special, since our business name Kupi Nina Bayan (bayan women), it already represents how women have big role in the coffee industry.
However, like how other businesses might experience, a conflict of interest and different priorities happened until finally, I chose to start my own business in my own village — Bayan and take the previous name Kupi Nina Bayan since my coworker chose other names for their business. Then, I continued Kupi Nina Bayan shortened as Kon Bayan in 2019.
In 2019, I had the chance to be the participant of a business incubator, named Pro-Women, at that time, I really tried to make our company and products (Bayan coffee) improved. Besides helping the farmers to sell and process their coffee beans, I also committed to educating them to always pick the red coffee beans so it will produce the best coffee & the coffee will still be able to grow again from the same flowers.
In the same year, I try to bring Bayan Coffee to Jakarta Coffee Week, we received a huge enthusiasm and got our first huge order (200kg) for a well-known Coffee Outlet. We did face some hardship in fulfilling the orders since we are working with local farmers who sometimes do not obey our instructions or sometimes due to the weathers the red beans are broken. But still, it does not make us stop, we also asked the farmers to only use organic fertilizer since it is grown in a sacred forest so we make sure the soil will always in good condition. However, they also actually already know how to grow it in a sustainable way using their ancestor value.
In 2019, we also start a collaboration with Saifana organic farm to open a coffee shop in Bayan so the youth in Bayan will start participating in processing the coffee beans from the forest as well as learn the sustainable way to grow it. We also joined our first Flea Market and surprised since many foreigners in Gili like our coffee and our coffee are started to be well known. We also already exported our coffee to France with help from our partner.
Until now, we have been empowering 10 local women for the processing process to improve their income. We also collaborate with coffee farmers from several sub-villages in each group it consisted of 10–12 farmers, in the future, we hope the women will be able to use the processing machine so we can maintain the consistency of the taste.
Q: What does beauty mean to you?
Beauty is when you are confident in your own uniqueness that you already have. Beautiful in your own way. As Asian, previously, when I was younger I believed being white and flawless is beautiful, but many people approached me and said that they like my brown and exotic skin. They also like that I always use traditional fabric and cloth for every event, they noticed that I am different. So now I embrace my own beauty, I prefer to use less makeup and mostly try to maintain it by using nutritional and traditional skincare.
Q: What constitutes a happy and meaningful life to you as an empowered woman?
I remember that I felt my happiest is when I joined big coffee harvesting event with the local coffee farmers and the kids in my village, I asked them to sing together loudly, so we sang together happily. I was so happy until I did not realize that I lost my eyeglasses.
Besides, it also when someone said that our coffee is very good or special. But it does not mean we already satisfied and don’t want to grow our product quality and capacity.
I feel sad when there are coffee beans that are thrown away because the process is very long and complicated, some people said that only a few people who want to really process coffee from the first phase until it is served, however, I believe that coffee has magic in it. It is something that connects the people and brings opportunities to prosperity. Coffee has been a red string for connecting everything.
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — Learn more about Konbayan here or visit their Facebook here.
#womenWe&Earthlove is our first series edition where we want to share the stories of 12 women in Lombok who promote sustainable living and yet empower their community, knowing someone that people should know about? let our team know and email us in firstname.lastname@example.org