Would you risk falling five storeys every day to making a living? He will!

A farmer climbs a coconut tree twice a day to harvest the sap necessary to make coconut palm sugar. His bare hands and knees are his climbing tools and in most rural undeveloped regions, there is no security of a safety strap or cable. Rubiyanto, an Indonesian farmer, is aware of the safety risks in harvesting coconut sugar, but what choice does he have? Without the small income from this job, how can he support his family? Rubiyanto comes from a small farming community in Yogyakarta, the same community that entrepreneur Lastiana Yuliandari comes from. Armed with knowledge from a previous career in business, Lastiana returned to Yogyakarta in 2009 with the aim of helping her community.

During this time, Lastiana had noticed that coconut palm sugar was gaining traction abroad as an alternative health sweetener, and the export market for it was growing. She realised organic certification would bring local coconut farmers a price premium that could double incomes. If she could organise a sustainable and profitable Social Enterprise (SE) around the local commodity, she could support the social and economic needs of those around her.

Fast forward a few years later, Lastiana had grown the business, from selling several kilos at small local shops to exporting tons of coconut palm sugar internationally. She not only hired local female staff into the SE’s processing unit – most of whom had no previous employment – but also reinvested income earned from the enterprise into education and improved sanitation for employees. Lastiana was keen to expand and certify more farmers and employ more women. However, she was unable to meet the demands of the investors she was approaching. In her words: “They requested more and more documents”.

IIX met Aliet Green in mid-2014 at the Impact Forum, an annual gathering organized by Shujog and IIX that attracts the interest of SEs like Aliet Green region wide. There, Lastiana learned about the ACTS program, which champions a module of professional support to help SEs attract impact investment capital. Unique to this module is an impact assessment that measures and validates a SE’s multi-dimensional impact on stakeholders. Through ACTS, Lastiana secured the upfront capital to work with IIX, a partner of the program and a leader in impact investing for SEs in Asia. Thanks to IIX’s in-depth consultancy on the financial and business documentation necessary to showcase Aliet Green’s business and its extensive outreach to investors, Lastiana secured the funding she needed. The program’s unique ‘pay it forward’ feature means that Aliet Green will return a portion of the money advanced by ACTS, supporting the program to propel more SEs to scale. In 2015, ACTS will support a total of 15 new SE’s, improving 20,000 lives in marginalized communities across Asia.

With a substantial new investment, Lastiana will support more farmers like Rubiyanto, who now lives in a concrete home, owns a motorbike, and earns enough to eat nutritious and plentiful meals. He now has the safety equipment to climb a coconut tree and the insurance to protect his family from emergencies.

By Taila Muller
Manager, Shujog ACTS