When Lastiana started Aliet Green back in 2009, she set out to introduce Indonesia’s indigenous commodities to the world; and through that quest, promote values of fair trade, honest respect, and empowerment among every individual working in the agriculture value chain. To date, the company has exported organic food products across the US and Europe markets, while improving the livelihoods of farmers and women in rural Indonesia. In order to assist Aliet Green in further scaling both its business operations and impact creation, the IIX team visited it in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, to provide business advisory and impact assessment services.
Aliet Green’s prime commodity is organic coconut palm sugar, a humble sweetener that can be found in almost every household in Indonesia. The traditional method of producing it relies heavily on manual work. Twice a day, coconut farmers use their bare feet and arms to climb dozens of coconut trees that are about 30 meters high on average to collect the coconut sap – raw material for coconut palm sugar. Every year, there are dozens of accidents of people falling off coconut trees while harvesting, causing them paralysis, and at times, death. This daunting task explains why most coconut farmers you come across today are in their forties or fifties. For the younger Javanese, the rewards from coconut palm sugar do not justify the risks. Recognizing both the potentials and barriers for the coconut palm sugar industry in Indonesia, Aliet Green has step-by-step improved this traditional practice into a fairer, safer, and more sustainable process. Under Lastiana’s leadership, every coconut farmer has been equipped with a safety device to reduce accidents. Women who cook the sugar now earn stable income and enjoy improved working conditions. And all the unskilled staff involved in the making of Aliet Green’s sugar are now paid with wages beyond the regional minimum. As part of the company’s commitment to fair trade and grassroots development, Aliet Green also contributes 2.5% of the sales proceeds to a community fund. This fund will not be cashed out. Instead, it will contribute towards projects that benefit the entire community as a whole such as a scholarship fund for farmers’ children, health insurance, or public sanitation facilities.
Rubiyanto, one of the 300 organic-certified farmers currently working with Aliet green, greeted us by the door of his newly built brick home. Not long ago, it used to be a straw hut. We found that the new home is a direct result from working with Aliet Green. Through offering farmers a fairer price for their coconut palm sugar, providing them training on organic and fair trade standards, as well as creating social activities for community members to bond, those who work with Aliet Green experience substantial impact in both financial and social terms. While it was difficult for Rubiyanto to share with us accurately how much his income has increased, it was clear for him and his family that their lives have never been better. They now have a concrete home (literally) to live in, a motorbike for transport and nutritious meals with more than just vegetables from their backyard.
The next big thing for Lastiana and her team is running their own processing unit. Besides streamlining the production of organic goods, the modern processing unit aims to be a venue for Aliet Green to continue empowering local women. The company makes a deliberate effort to hire unskilled women from the community. Those with small children can send their kids to Aliet Green’s childcare center – to be built right next to the processing unit – free of charge. Drawing from personal experience as a working mom, Lastiana strongly believes that with sufficient support, women can achieve great strides in their career. The financial and social impact that Aliet Green has created has truly touch the lives of everyone who is involved in its coconut palm sugar business.
By Huong Holly Pham