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Breaking Barriers: A Female Producer's Story of Nurturing Agriculture Resilience and Embracing Ecofeminist Values in This International Women's Day

"The only thing that really made me interested in becoming a producer is the philosophy that this land is like a mother. Mother Earth. The mother who gives birth to all life. That we live from the earth. So, if we love the earth, Mother will also give life to us."


Celebrating International Women's Day 2024 under the theme "Inspire Inclusion" urges us to recognize the indispensable contributions of women to the ecofeminist movement. Ecofeminism intricately weaves together environmental advocacy and gender equality, illuminating the inseparable link between environmental degradation and gender-based disparities. Women stand at the forefront of this movement, championing ecological harmony while fiercely advocating for women's rights. This closely aligns with the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, especially Goal 5 (Gender Equality) and Goal 15 (Life on Land). Goal 5 aims to ensure equal rights for women regarding economic resources and land ownership, while Goal 15 focuses on conserving ecosystems and biodiversity. Here's Mery Krismas, a cacao producer from Lawe Bekung, Tampahan, Aceh Tenggara whose life is dedicated to sustainable agriculture, driven by her deep connection with nature. She embodies ecofeminist principles, emphasizing the vital link between environmental sustainability and gender equality. Mery's commitment, which is associated with SDGs, reflects Koltiva's values, as we support producers like her through initiatives like the Agri Solution Program, addressing barriers to sustainable practices.


Here's Mery's story, a testament to the transformative power of sustainable agriculture and the positive impact it can have on both the environment and society.


Celebrating International Women's Day 2024 under the theme "Inspire Inclusion" urges us to recognize the indispensable contributions of women to the ecofeminist movement. - Koltiva.com

In 2018, around 8 million women, constituting nearly 24% of the total 25.4 million farmers in Indonesia, were engaged in agricultural production, highlighting their crucial role in food security and environmental sustainability (BPS, 2018). However, female producers encounter challenges, including limited land ownership (less than 13%) and restricted their access to vital resources like fertilizers and loans due to existing regulations and policies (WRI Indonesia, 2020). 


Mery’s, 48 years old, was a nun with a bachelor's degree from one of the universities in Jakarta. However, she switched her career to farming in 2015 due to her desire to serve both the community and the environment. Mery even analogized that the land is like a mother. Mery's comparison of the land to a mother embodies the ecofeminist belief that nature should not be seen as a commodity to exploit, but rather as a living being worthy of reverence and nurturing. Her story reflects a larger trend in Indonesia, where women like Mery are increasingly taking on roles in agriculture. This trend is particularly significant to acknowledge on International Women's Day, as it highlights the resilience and contribution of women in traditionally male-dominated sectors.


The Central Statistics Agency (BPS) notes that in 2018, the number of female producers in Indonesia was estimated to be around 8 million, nearly 24% of the total 25.4 million producers. (Upland, 2021). By giving women agency over biodiversity, including plants, seeds, and natural resources, ecofeminism envisions a world where they play a crucial role in sustainable agriculture. This empowerment not only addresses gender equality but also contributes significantly to poverty reduction and food security. 


Although the number of women in agriculture has increased, their involvement in the sector in Indonesia often aligns with traditional norms, where many women work as unskilled laborers or engage in sporadic activities within the informal economy. Research has shown that within agriculture, women also often occupy roles as unskilled laborers, contending with limited access to crucial resources and support structures supportive networks, and training opportunities, all of which hinder their ability to fully realize their potential within the agricultural sector. (Science Direct, 2020). These problems are typically faced by Mery too, where she explains that she experiences a double burden. According to her, women work more both in domestic and agricultural fields. This results in women producing more harvest in their community compared to men.  


“Generally, people in my community are really into farming, you know, like going to the mountains. There's no real difference between the work done by men and women. Women's tasks can be said to be equally strenuous, and their results in agriculture are also substantial. In my experience, I've noticed that there are mostly women working in the fields, and men are not very common. As for balancing tasks, household chores take priority and must be completed by a certain time, before we can move on to other activities. That's how it is. So, we don't share responsibilities with other household members,” Said Mery.


Female producers also face challenges in receiving their rightful fulfillment. For instance, many women in agricultural roles do not own land, making it challenging for them to access essential resources such as fertilizers and loans. Less than 13% of landowners are women.

On average, this is due to regulations and policies that do not allow women to have land rights. (WRI Indonesia, 2020). She also experiences difficulties in accessing adequate financial resources to procure agriculture input. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), women producers typically have less access to credit compared to their male counterparts. This lack of access to credit can hinder their ability to invest in agricultural inputs. Moreover, a significant number of female producers, including Mery mentioned, struggle with outdated farming techniques due to limited access to technology. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that women's limited access to resources is directly linked to lower productivity and income in agriculture. This is further compounded by the lack of skills, technologies, and financial services that women smallholder producers may face. (FAO, 2023) Ecofeminism acknowledges that women often face limited access to crucial resources in agriculture, such as land ownership, credit, and technology.


Even as they find themselves already in vulnerable positions, these female producers experience additional challenges because of climate change. According to UNFCC various factors contribute to the vulnerability of women and men towards climate change impacts, such as age, disability, income, and residential area. Women are more affected by climate change due to their triple gender roles (reproductive, productive, and community managing) and often time due to pre-existing social and cultural norms. They are also more marginalized in decision-making processes. Research has shown that many coastal areas in the Global South, including Indonesia, are the most directly affected by climate change. Land erosion, economic decline, and losses in fisheries exacerbate the struggles faced by women and girls in countries where they already face disproportionate inequalities. Addressing challenges for female producers is crucial for gender equality and sustainable agriculture, a priority for International Women's Day advocacy. 

 

"Right now, it's dry season here again. It feels like a disaster harvest, you know? Like when the rainy season hits, everything gets destroyed. And then during the dry season, there's drought right away. Terrible water situation," mentioned Mery.


Women as Agents of Change: Nurturing Sustainability and Community 

It's vital to recognize women as agents of change in nurturing sustainability and community. Despite facing challenges, women and girls possess significant potential as catalysts for addressing environmental issues and climate change. With her conviction that the earth is a mother who needs to be loved and cared for, coupled with her nurturing nature as a woman, she often educates fellow producers to cultivate sustainable crops using techniques she has learned herself, embodying the spirit of ecofeminism.

 

“It is important to love the environment; if we use the land, we should not damage it. If possible, organic methods like that are what I practice in planting techniques,” mentioned Mery.

 

As a producer, she hopes for support for her and her peers to continue farming without harming the land is particularly poignant. Therefore, Koltiva's presence is highly appreciated by her community as it aligns with their aspirations, especially on this significant day celebrating women's achievements and contributions.  Mery joined the Agri Solution Program to overcome financial and access challenges in acquiring agricultural inputs. This program offers benefits such as increased cacao harvest and easy registration via the FarmCloud app requiring only an ID card. It also provides a convenient return process deducted from cacao sales, flexible payment options aligned with the harvest cycle, expert guidance on market trends and farming practices, and professional field agent support. She mentions that now they can borrow fertilizers without experiencing any discrimination in borrowing, and there is also assistance and training available, underscoring the importance of initiatives that empower women in agriculture and promote gender equality. This acknowledgment of women's crucial role in agriculture, especially on International Women's Day, underscores the importance of ongoing initiatives to empower and uplift women in farming as they strive for sustainable and equitable practices. Ecofeminism aligns with this goal by advocating for the empowerment of women in agriculture, promoting equal access to resources and opportunities for them. Together, these efforts recognize the interconnectedness between gender equality and environmental sustainability, highlighting the vital contribution of women to fostering a more balanced and resilient agricultural sector. 

 

“The community here is very enthusiastic, some even provide funding, and installment payments are not an issue. Everyone is excited, especially when they conduct surveys in our fields, showing serious commitment by visiting and observing our crops. This support means a lot to us, and it's reassuring to know we're not alone in caring for our garden. Additionally, they've offered helpful advice on cocoa tree pruning techniques, soil acidity measurements, and introduced a new fertilizer product. However, we've faced challenges with dwindling fertilizer quotas in recent years. Despite this, the community remains enthusiastic, grateful for the opportunity to borrow fertilizer, even if it means paying in installments," said Mery.

 

Mery’s story showcases the vital role women play in eco-conscious initiatives, particularly highlighted on International Women's Day, emphasizing their significant contribution to building a more inclusive and sustainable future. Her dedication underscores the importance of supporting women's involvement in environmental efforts, as they offer unique perspectives and solutions, aligning with the themes of International Women's Day. Ultimately, Mery’s journey embodies the transformative potential of women in nurturing harmony between humanity and nature, paving the way for a brighter and more equitable tomorrow celebrated on International Women's Day and every day. 


About Writer: Kumara Anggita, Content Writer at Koltiva

Editor: Daniel Prasetyo, Head of PR and Corporate Communication


Kumara Anggita, serving as Koltiva's dedicated Content Writer, brings a wealth of experience from her six-year tenure in journalism in the fields of humanities and lifestyle, as well as her role as a writer in the tech industry. Her deep-rooted passion for gender equality and sustainability spurred her to enhance her reporting and storytelling skills through the EmPower Media Bootcamp by UN Women. Now, Kumara utilizes her platform to advocate for sustainable practices and gender equality through her compelling writing.

 

References:

2.House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee. (n.d.). Summary: Deforestation in Supply Chains - Environmental Audit Committee. Retrieved from https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm5804/cmselect/cmenvaud/405/summary.html#:~:text=Around%2090%25%20of%20deforestation%20is,local%20communities%2C%20including%20indigenous%20peoples.

3.Upland. (2002). Upland Project as Training and Support Activities for Women Farmers. Retrieved from https://upland.psp.pertanian.go.id/artikel/1672330551/upland-project-sebagai-kegiatan-pelatihan-dan-dukungan-bagi-petani-perempuan.

4.The Status of Women in Agrifood Systems. Retrieved from https://www.fao.org/3/cc5343en/cc5343en.pdf

5.National Geographic.(n.d.) The Barriers Women Face in Agriculture. Retrieved from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/culture/article/partner-content-empowering-female-farmers.

6.Impakter. (n.d.).What Is Ecofeminism? 3 Key Takeaways from Vandana Shiva's Activism. Retrieved from https://impakter.com/what-is-ecofeminism-3-key-takeaways-from-vandana-shivas-activism/https://www.impakter.com.

7.Springer. (2023). Women Can’t Manage Farms: Empowerment of Women in Agriculture. Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-031-25924-1_9

8.Ecofeminism: Where Gender and Climate Change Intersect. Retrieved from https://earth.org/ecofeminism/

9.WRI Indonesia. (2020) Land Ownership and Women Empowerment. Retrieved from https://wri-indonesia.org/en/insights/land-ownership-and-women-empowerment.

10.SCMP. (2023) Opinion | How the Climate Crisis Is Worsening Gender Inequality, from Indonesia to Nigeria. Retrieved from South China Morning Post https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/opinion/article/3240383/how-climate-crisis-worsening-gender-inequality-indonesia-nigeria.

12.Science Direct. (2020). Gender Differentials in Climate Change Adaptation Strategies: A Case Study of Two Communities in Central Java, Indonesia. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1389934119305532.

13.Global goals. (n.d). Goal 5: Gender Equality - The Global Goals. Retrieved from https://www.globalgoals.org/5-gender-equality.

14.Global goals. (n.d).Goal 15: Life on Land - The Global Goals. Retrieved from https://www.globalgoals.org/15-life-on-land.

4 comentários


Convidado:
13 de mar.

Impresive, kumi!

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Convidado:
13 de mar.
Respondendo a

what a story telling article!!! Enjoy reading

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Convidado:
13 de mar.

What an empowering story! It's fantastic to see how this female producer is embracing ecofeminist values to drive positive change in agriculture.

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Convidado:
13 de mar.

Mery's story exemplifies the fortitude and determination that women contribute to the field of agriculture. Let's acknowledge the challenges she has conquered and continue to champion equal opportunities while amplifying the voices of women in agribusiness.

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