The many sustainable commodities in Indonesia

Why Sustainable Commodities and Sustainable Development

According to the World Economic Forum, Indonesia’s commercial agriculture is responsible for a staggering 70% of tropical forest destruction. For the past 50 years, Indonesia has lost more than 74 hectares of rainforest due to deforestation. The major drivers of deforestation are the expansion of agricultural lands to produce export commodities such as palm oil, soy, and pulpwood. Forests are often wiped out illegally for industrialization and small-scale farming. This impacts the ecosystems and the livelihood of local communities while also becoming an alarming contribution to climate change.

One way to tackle deforestation issues is through sustainable measures and development. Indonesia’s government has moved towards a greener economy by applying policy to make environmental changes. What is also needed is to bridge for sustainable practices, especially in farming and the chain of commercialization.

Supernova and developing sustainable commodities ethically

Supernova Ecosystem is established by a team with over 40 years of combined experience in the private, development, and governmental sector. One of the key frameworks is based on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), where the main attention is on climate change. Hence, enabling sustainable commodities between different stakeholders and the aggregation of supply chains becoming a priority for a greener Indonesia.

The expectation is to create a shift in local commodities and businesses to be both economical and environmentally sustainable companies that can thrive and create an enduring ecosystem.

Inclusivity in Sustainable Commodities

In Africa, Shea Butter, which is the fat extracted from the nut of an African Shea tree has limitless potential. In Burkina Faso, West Africa, the Shea tree itself is often termed as a ‘Woman’s Gold’ because as the name implies it brings favorable wealth in function and economy. The nuts of the Shea tree are collected and processed into a Shea butter—a bountiful commodity that is used as soaps, cosmetics, moisturizers, salves, and as a lotion. The butter is also edible, used in food preparation or in the manufacture of chocolate.

The women themselves are the wheels that drive these local commodities. Women play a central role in the extraction of Shea Butter. But economical conditions were not always in their favor as once a disparity of earnings in their efforts existed as the middlemen exporting their commodity were earning more. It was only after a social intervention that the middlemen could be bypassed and the women were also trained in the trade to produce better quality products that ultimately regained their self-respect and also their earnings.

The empowerment of the local communities created through Shea Butter is a prime example which can be applicable to Indonesia’s Illipe nut—especially since both commodities possess similar qualities. In Indonesia, in West Kalimantan, Tengkawang or the Illipe nut, is considered a fruit from the Shorea tree that produces a highly priced fat oil. Traditionally, this oil is used for cooking, as food flavoring, or as the basis of medicine. In an industry, Tengkawang oil can also be an alternative to chocolate fat, pharmaceutical products, and cosmetics. In fact, it has earned itself the term as “Green Butter”, as it can be an alternative to the conventional butter.

Harvesting Tengkawang is done seasonally and has to be done with care. Often there is a customary procession involved within the community and a clear division of labor. The customary elders determine when to harvest and who can be involved—including women and children. This procession also regulates distribution of harvest is done equally and fairly.

Indonesia’s Commodities Growth Potential

Indonesia also has a potential in the wealth of its commodities. Sustainable commodities in Indonesia are wide and varied, and some include, coffee, cacao, coconut, nutmeg, honey, and non-timber products.

Cacao is a highly demanded commodity in Indonesia. As the country is one of the major producers of cacao in the world, by 2009, the Central Statistical Agency (BPS) recorded an 850,000 tons production of cacao beans that was more than decades earlier. However, as the government encouraged taxation in bean exports by 2010 and to have manufactured plantations in Indonesia, a rough decline in production occurred. An unforeseen deadly disease affected the cacao trees and production decline was recognized due to the farmer’s limited skills and also funding limitations to establish new plantations. This led to farmers shifting to lucrative businesses as palm oil and an unfortunate circumstance to import cacao beans.

As is the case with coffee, coffee is a highly sought commodity with Indonesia being the third-largest coffee producer and exporter in the world. Indonesia has a long history in coffee production and culture, especially with the tropical climate, Indonesia’s coffee can be obtained from Sumatera all the way to Sulawesi, Bali, Flores and other regions.

Coffee in Indonesia—often favoring production of Robusta over Arabica—has been a highly exported industry, however, the past couple of years has shown a rise in domestic demand. This demand requires an upskill in the farmers’ capabilities, increase in large-scale farming, and investing in modern harvesting techniques to build competitiveness and sustainability in the market.

Seeing the two cases of cacao and coffee, as with other commodities, investment and downstream opportunities are abundant. An upgrade in knowledge, facility, and marketing will not only be beneficial for the economy but will support livelihood as well.

Written by Athina Dinda for Supernova Ecosystem.

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