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Fair trade co-op lifts Indonesians out of poverty

Thursday’s webinar will explore Christians and Muslims working together for empowerment

by Kathy Melvin | Presbyterian News Service

Mission Co-worker Dr. Farsijana Adeney-Risakotta helped create the House of Authentic Sense. (Photo by Kathy Melvin)

LOUISVILLE — 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 PC(USA)’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.

In 2018, the HAS Foundation and DWCU received a $46,000 grant from Presbyterian Women to strengthen the capacity and independence of the HAS Co-op and increase the production quality of HAS Co-op members. This led to the co-op being certified as a fair trade organization and acceptance as a member of  Indonesia Fair Trade Forum.

Despite the pandemic, during 2020 the HAS Co-op successfully navigated the complex process of applying for certification as a fair trade organization. With the new designation, HAS Co-op members can market their products both in Indonesia and abroad as fair trade. Fair trade status certifies that the products were produced in ways that are fair to the workers, healthy, transparent, and ecological. It also certifies that most of the profits go to the workers who produced them rather than to large international corporations.

While sheltering in place in the U.S. during the pandemic, Adeney-Risakotta brought co-op products to be evaluated for potential sale through PC(USA) churches and individuals. On Thursday, a group of co-op representatives will meet via Zoom to talk about the possibility of marketing the products through programs such as the Presbyterian Hunger Program’s fair trade product sales.

 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 hand-made 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, 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. Another new co-op member is a group of disabled teenagers who produce hand-crafted batik tote-bags, pillowcases, table runners, scarfs, clothes and cosmetic bags.

Through the co-op, members can learn the necessary skills to manage their businesses and ensure quality control. Small- or medium-sized enterprises that create processed food products are taught how to get the necessary health permits to ensure their products are safe and ready to send to the marketplaces. All co-op products must be packaged with environmentally friendly materials instead of plastics. Members are encouraged to recycle; the co-op runs a recycling store where members can exchange recycled trash for basic food supplies. At the annual members meeting, members receive a bonus of up to 2.5% of the total value of the food supplies they have received by trading in their recycled trash. 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.

The Zoom discussion on fair trade and empowerment is scheduled for Thursday.

The Thursday Zoom will include strategies for marketing products in the U.S. In addition, graduate students from the university will be observing to get a better understanding of how to market fair trade products in the U.S.

The Zoom discussion is scheduled Thursday, Feb. 18, at 4 p.m. Pacific Time (5 p.m. Mountain Time, 6 p.m. Central Time and 7 p.m. Eastern Time). To join, go here, click “Join,” enter 828 0101 3401 for the meeting ID and use passcode 19022021.

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