From Chips Making To Empower Women in Mandala Sari
Asia Pulp and Paper Sinar Mas
The Integrated Forestry & Farming System (IFFS) is a program by APP Sinar Mas to support alternative livelihood for the local community in order to reduce the community’s dependence on forest land. The overarching goal is to empower village community to actively participate in sustainable forest management through agroforestry, non-fire use farming practices that couple community prosperity, forest sustainability, and reducing forest fire. Mandala Sari village is located just outside of the concession of one of APP Sinar Mas’ pulpwood suppliers, PT. Sumber Hijau Permai, in Musi Banyuasin regency in South Sumatra. It became the beneficiary of the IFFS program due to its close proximity to the concession area, where the activity of the villagers potentially has an impact to the forest in the concession area. The program chosen as the beneficiary of the IFFS is the MSME by local women group focusing on the production of cassava and banana chips.
Women's Business Group of Mandala Sari Village, which deals with the making of cassava and banana chips, started in mid-2019. This group empowers eight women in the village to increase family income. In the beginning, the group received assistance for business capital of IDR 10million from the local government, however they did not have the right equipment. The IFFS Program supported them by providing the required equipment such as press machines, stoves, chopper, flour milling, and coconut grater. In addition, the IFFS also aided in marketing the product. Every month, there are around 350 packets sent to the company canteen, while the rest are sold in the local shops and stalls. Although this business is still in an infancy stage, there has been a lot of orders coming in which often exceeds their production capacity, many of which are from the neighboring villages.
At present the Mandala Sari women's group can at least support the household income of its members with at least IDR 500,000 to IDR 800,000 on a monthly basis. This is very important for the community to be able to develop their own livelihoods even though they live in villages around the forest.
A relatively simple product opens opportunities for better improvement. Packaging improvement and food certification (P-IRT) are needed to open a wider market network. Over time, further innovations are needed in order to ensure the sustainability of the KUP Mandala Sari business.
Women Empowerment initiated by IFFS with this simple business model is quite strategic and easy to be replicated in other villages. The capital of the activities that are accompanied by an increase in women's capacity has the opportunity to produce useful and valuable to the village community.
During the pandemic even though all businesses were in decline, the women group still continues to produce the chips and also use cassava for their own consumption.
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