A Tale of Champions: Empowering Southeast Asian Agriculture

In the heart of Southeast Asia, a compelling saga of economic empowerment unfolds, centered on agricultural prosperity and progress. Amidst breathtaking beauty, challenges loom large, marked by communication, education, and financial hurdles crucial for farmers to meet ever-evolving market demands.

Yet, between these obstacles, three spirited YSEALI alumni stand out for their unwavering perseverance in advocating for farmers.

Cultivating Capital through Coconut with Care

Gita Swasti, an Impact Lead at Kulaku Indonesia, revolutionizes coconut farming in Indonesia. Passionate about uplifting farmer livelihoods, she drives engaging initiatives and comprehensive impact measurement programs for sustainable development.

Encountering resistance from farmers who were comfortable with existing practices, Gita practiced patience and empathy. Immersing herself in rural communities to build trust, she conducted innovative training in unconventional settings like coconut fields, riverbanks, and mosques, fostering unique learning environments.

“Change isn’t just about embracing new methods; it’s about understanding. By standing shoulder to shoulder with farmers, we cultivate more than just crops–we nurture relationships,” said Gita.
Gita’s commitment stems from recognizing Indonesia’s agricultural richness and potential for sustainable improvements. In Spring 2024, Gita will participate in the YSEALI Professional Fellows Program focusing on Economic Empowerment, underscoring her dedication to driving positive change in Southeast Asian agriculture. As part of her objective, Gita aims to enhance financial independence and encourage collaboration among coconut farmers in Banyuasin, South Sumatra.

Growing together: Gita Swasti’s scholarship outreach cultivates community resilience and betterment in South Sumatra.

Strengthening Farmers’ Power for a Sustainable Future

Leonisia Guterres Belo, known as Monik, is a prominent Timor-Leste regional leader passionate about agricultural development to boost farmers’ income. With a degree from Massey University of New Zealand, Monik believes agriculture can provide a lucrative opportunity to tackle social issues.

Seeding change: Monik builds one-on-one connections to support Timor-Leste’s farmers.

Focusing on the challenges of applying acquired knowledge to local contexts, Monik employs adaptive strategies, seeking local solutions to optimize agricultural practices. 

“Knowledge without application is like seeds without soil. I strive to bridge the gap between theory and practice, adapting global insights to local realities for sustainable impact,” Monik explained.

She is dedicated to helping Timor-Leste’s farmers and encourages young female farmers to embrace agricultural entrepreneurship. Additionally, Monik collaborates with Duga Hau in Ainaro, where she has established nine producer groups encompassing approximately 127 individuals. 

Monik gives invaluable support through agricultural and market training, focusing on sustainable practices. By linking the groups’ products with the community and schools through the Ministry of Education’s school feeding program, Monik also provides the farmers with new financial access.

Motivated to strengthen food security and sustainable agribusiness, Monik leverages her participation in the YSEALI program to build connections, collaborate on projects, and secure funding opportunities. She is working towards a better life for farmers in Timor-Leste.

Eagle’s Wisdom: Soaring Beyond Profit

Zien Lew’s journey began during his final year of biotechnology research when he interviewed smallholder farmers in Malaysia. He co-founded Sebijihub, a reward-based crowdfunding platform that offers sustainable income and alternative funding to improve farmers’ socio-economic status.

Despite disagreements with co-founders about prioritizing fast growth, he chose sustainable impact over immediate gains. In search of revelation, Zien continued to validate Sebijihub, primarily to stabilize the local food market. By focusing on engagement and community welfare, Zien addressed Malaysia’s food price surge and aimed to increase production and workforce.

Like the metamorphosis of an eagle, Zien embodies resilience, growth, and excellence. This perspective shapes his pursuit of Sebijihub: “In the cycle of nature’s growth, we find inspiration akin to the eagle’s flight. Each challenge becomes a testament to our strength, each success a reflection of our perseverance.”

Zien Lew and Mr. Tung from Centainnel Agriculture: harnessing the power of partnership for sustainable solutions.

Championing Agricultural Stability for Economic Growth

As the sun sets on the vibrant landscapes of Southeast Asia, Gita, Monik, and Zien embody a new era of agricultural empowerment. Through their strong foundation, relentless dedication, and state-of-the-art innovation, these YSEALI alumni inspire hope for farmers. With initiatives like YSEALI, their solid efforts pave the way for a brighter future, nurturing the backbone of our societies toward prosperity and sustainability.

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