Meeting the unmet needs of smallholder farmers across Indonesia

by Radityo Hutomo

Adonara, East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia | Ripe cashew fruits are littered on the ground or still blossoming in the trees, producing a pleasant scent as one passes by. Here on this island of lush forest and aged tin roofs, it’s common practice for cashew farmers to stop at just separating the cashew nut from its fruit, selling it unprocessed any further at the market or to the ‘bigger’ traders. But is there a better way to improve incomes and livelihoods of the farmers who live here?

It’s no secret that Indonesia has abundant natural resources with an extensive range of biodiversity. From rice to cacao and from rattan to seaweed, commodities are spread out across the archipelago. However, what often goes unnoticed is the process of converting these commodities into ‘value-added’ goods that have the potential to increase incomes for smallholder farmers.

East Nusa Tenggara is one of the country’s top cashew production regions, yet in islands like Adonara, small farmers still do not have access to post-harvest processing information — let alone suitable facilities or adequate tools. There is often a gap between traditional, less effective methods and industrial, more effective, but also more expensive technologies. Such a gap, in many cases, limits the options and income for smallholder farmers. In the case of cashews, there is a price gap of up to Rp.65,000 (US$5) per kg between processed and unprocessed product.

Keeping true with its culture of ‘challenging the status quo’, Kopernik strives to pursue any changes in the process that will improve the income, business, or the livelihoods of people living in the last mile. As much as we want to directly jump in (yes, we are very eager people) and implement programs or introduce solutions, we want to ensure the impact is meaningful. Our first step towards this is ‘need identification’ — a report on unmet needs will be published this year that will identify the need for user-friendly and affordable ‘niche’ products to enhance productivity of the smallholder farmers that are not currently available in the area.

The research focuses mainly on agriculture in Sumatra, Java, Sulawesi, and Nusa Tenggara. During the research, many needs were identified in varying sectors, including fishery and food processing. However, for this year, we will restrain ourselves and stay with the theme of agriculture, and specifically ‘drying needs’ of crops, in order to have a more focused analysis and to avoid the team from literally breaking their legs.

Throughout this year, fellow analysts Prita Raditiarini, Nadya Pryana, Trista Bintoro, and myself, with the help of our field office staff, spearheaded the research. We met with farmers and other small business owners throughout Indonesia asking them about their challenges as well as their ideas for how they might be resolved. The team is currently compiling a case study to support the report and undertaking some additional research.

To celebrate the work that the team has done and to share findings with our peers looking to resolve some of the bigger challenges facing the agricultural sector, we will hold launch events in Bali and Jakarta later this year. Stay tuned for more updates and get ready to meet the unmet needs of smallholder farmers in Indonesia!


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Kopernik connects simple, life-changing technology with the people who need it the most. We’ve reached more than 330,000 people to date.

If you’d like to see more findings from our program and research work, view our Kopernik Insights series.

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