Coconut sugar farming is closely related to the participation of women in the production chain. The work of cooking, collecting firewood, weeding, maintaining tools, storing products, and selling products is mostly done by women. The production kitchen is a mini factory owned by producer farmers, where the family’s economic turnover comes from the smoke rising from the kitchen chimney. Departing from the similarity of work and routines, these women are members of a farming community called the Kelompok Wanita Tani (KWT). The women also carry out many activities, exchange information, and develop the potential of their territory.
Through group meetings that are regularly scheduled every month, the women farmers receive constructive information about ideal farming according to standards, receive cooperative education, and receive other needed information. They even conduct comparative studies with other groups to learn how to cook products so that they are of good quality. Not only farmers who are members of women farmer groups, but also product collectors who in ancient times had a business history that tended to harm small farmers.
The 519 female members of KSP Karya Manunggal Sejahtera are divided into 11 women farmer groups. This is a great potential force to develop a much better cooperative by providing balanced information and a personal approach between management and members through group mentoring. In addition to information, farmers are also taught to express their opinions and ideas about whatever they want for the advancement of agriculture, getting access to loans, and social protection services.
To empower women, each Women Farmers Group has its own way of making activities, such as cultivating sweet potatoes in sacks, making demonstration plots of fruit trees, making food creations, and receiving snack orders for events, together learning to make organic fertilizers and pesticides, and many other things that can be developed from women farmer groups.
Empowered women are expected to encourage the advancement of livelihoods, realize equality and able to be a pioneer if there are other members who need support both materially and morally because women’s sense of solidarity is quite high. Through empowering women, they become more experienced and able to grow happiness in their families. This is a big dream to build a prosperous life, starting with women in the household.
Carrying out multiple roles as a housewife, cooperative administrator, PAUD educator, and the wife of a village secretary, Arin- the mother of one child must be good at dividing her time because the activities that must be done every day are often time-consuming.
How to give enough time to the baby and balance it with community social activities?
In people’s lives, gender equality occurs naturally because there are unwritten rules that place women to get preferential treatment such as not doing manual work, the right to be prioritized in the public sphere, being respected as social beings, and having space for women to lead and make decisions. Within the family, Arin and her husband often collaborate between doing household chores and taking care of the children. Her husband understands very well that there are jobs that cannot be completed because of the dual roles that are carried out by his wife.
As Arin mentions, there may be a few couples whose husbands tend to be dominant in many ways, but according to her, a decision doesn’t always have to be taken by a man, and neither does a woman need to submit to that decision.
Women should have the same rights to be able to live decently, have jobs, make decisions, have access to finance, and so on. This does not mean inviting women to fight against nature as wives, but this is the right of everyone to freely choose their way of life. The main concern is how important gender equality is in life, so that good cooperation between women and men can be established and reduce social inequality.
Being in the management of the cooperative and being part of the leader of the organization gives Arin more pride and confidence as a woman. The challenge in managing the organization is how to be able to hear and unite the opinions of many members, how to be able to resolve conflicts and become trained to interact with many people which is valuable experience.
Currently the cooperative is led by 100% women and the women in the administrative capacity worry that sometimes the decision taken in a more considerate approach for women may not be right for everyone. This becomes an obstacle when the management must make strategic decisions in a fast time and sometimes cannot be as firm as men.
The atmosphere that is built in women’s leadership is indeed more presentable. Within the cooperative, members are members of KWT (women farmer groups) and they have a forum to discuss and develop the potential of the group. This is a place for members to receive information from cooperatives, discuss programs, and convey thoughts and ideas, and can also be a medium for entrepreneurship.
“I am very happy to be an empowered woman who has the ability to maximize one’s potential”
Arin’s hope for women in the future is that women have independence and are not dependent on men, so they are not underestimated. Women are educated and wise, able to increase income for the family and make decisions for themselves.
The culture of migrating to improve one’s life has become a social issue that often occurs in rural communities. The hope of having a better income by wandering has also been experienced by Al Fajar, a coconut farmer (panderes) from Tepus hamlet, Somorejo village. At the age of 23, he decided to make his current livelihood.
Fajar has a dream to become successful in Mendes. He saw that farming and herding were promising jobs and could not be underestimated. His income from dredging is much more certain than he trades for other people’s businesses. During the pandemic, the community’s economy has been so affected, but the impact is not felt by the coconut sugar grinders and craftsmen in general. Even by working as a panderer he can manage his own work time and is more flexible.
However, at this time the youth in the area are still not interested in engaging in the world of agriculture, especially drooling, apart from wanting to have experience with migrating outside the region. Most youth view dragging as a rough and dirty job and most also tend to be afraid of drooling because the trees are so tall, it takes courage to climb a coconut tree and the risks are high. Penderes have to face natural risks such as rain which makes the tree slippery and strong winds during the dry season make the tree move faster, if not careful, the crane can fall and slip from a height.
According to Fajar, young people will be attracted to dredging if the income from dredging is higher than from factory workers or construction workers and lifting wood. The rejuvenation of coconut trees to be shorter is also a potential that attracts young people to pursue agriculture.
“For the next 5 years, I want to continue tapping coconut sap. If all the youth joins this, it will be a youth-led business and with the income, we can meet our needs. I also want to increase my knowledge about agriculture by traveling and studying in modern agriculture locations,”
Fajar himself is a member of Garet (Tepus Youth Association), a youth organization whose activities are more socially oriented, such as maintaining environmental cleanliness, repairing damaged public facilities, and managing vacant land to plant large timber trees, processing banana and banana tree trunks into chips to gain economic value if sold. This is an activity that adds value to income when it is occupied. In the management of this youth organization, all youth, both girls and boys, have the same contribution to be able to carry out their work programs. As the atmosphere of togetherness in the youth organization in the village is very close, it makes Fajar enthusiastic to continue playing an active role in the organization and contribute according to his ability.