Fair trade co-op lifts Indonesians out of poverty

Christians and Muslims work together for empowerment

by Kathy Melvin | Mission Crossroads

Dr. Farsijana Adeney-Risakotta asks about exchanging money for the bamboo tokens used at the Papringan Market, about a 2½-hour drive from Yogyakarta, Indonesia.
(Photo by Puji Astuti)

Economic partnerships open the door for cooperation between Christians and Muslims through the House of Authentic Sense (HAS), Indonesia’s only fair-trade co-op. Like many countries, Indonesia needs development projects that are designed to empower society, especially women, minorities and disabled communities.

HAS was created in 2015 with the goal of becoming a social entrepreneurial unit that enlists Indonesian villagers, both farmers and artists, to create, market and sell products that help communities overcome poverty and achieve social equality.

Mission co-worker Dr. Farsijana Adeney-Risakotta was instrumental in the creation of HAS and serves with Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Indonesian church partners at Duta Wacana Christian University (DWCU), where she connects the Christian academic community with economically challenged Muslim and Christian communities in the surrounding area. Economic empowerment is a door for cooperation between academics and villagers and between Christians and Muslims.

In connection with the university’s goal of empowerment, Adeney-Risakotta was asked to organize DWCU’s human resources to establish a Center for Studies of Development and Social Transformation (CSDST). In addition to teaching graduate students in the social entrepreneurship program, she organizes lecturers and helps students research and empower social entrepreneurship in the surrounding communities.

Dr. Farsijana Adeny-Risakotta (Photo by Kathy Melvin)

Selling the Indonesian village handicrafts, food and drinks in the U.S. has the potential to strengthen product quality and help the villagers achieve a decent standard of living, continuing their journey to self-sufficiency and independence.

HAS offers handicrafts such as hand-painted batik patterns on wooden (teak) coffee mugs, teacups, herbal mugs and egg cups. Textiles include Mother Wahadah’s handmade batik and Mother Winarsih “Jumputan” fabrics (tie-dye). The co-op also sells chocolate with various flavors such as chili, orange, coffee and green tea, as well as 80% dark chocolate bars and granola nuts from Wondis, a new co-op member. Coffee- and tea-flavored chocolate bars are processed using Sister Mar’s Mocha Chocolate and Ki Suko’s green tea. A group of disabled teenagers who produce handcrafted batik tote bags, pillowcases, table runners, scarfs, clothes and cosmetic bags also are new to the co-op.

Through the co-op, members can learn the necessary skills to manage their businesses and ensure quality control. All members may add a “peace label” to their products in addition to the “fair trade” certification to indicate that Muslims, Christians and people of other faiths cooperate with one another in creating their products and are working together for economic justice and peace.

Kathy Melvin is director of Mission Communications in the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

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