Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Start of a Fair Trade Movement in Yogyajakarta!

When Research turns to Opportunity

Yogyakarta, Indonesia is on the international news every once in a while when Mt. Merapi threatens local inhabitants with another volcanic eruption. However, outside of this Yogya is a laid-back city that has the charm and atmosphere of a small town. When I arrived, I was in search of four Fair Trade Organizations (FTOs) based there in hopes of meeting their producers and gauging the impact Fair Trade has had in Javanese communities. However, an unexpected opportunity arose.

If Jakarta is the center of political power in Indonesia, Yogya is the center of academia. Home to one hundred and twenty-two universities with tens of thousands of students from all across the archipelago, Yogya represents nothing less than the future of the country. I can imagine no better place for FTOs to be centered. When I first learned of the existence of so many colleges, my first comment was, “Great!! How many campuses have Fair Trade Movements?” 

Much to my surprise, the answer was: None. 

I had just spent six weeks researching and learning about the strategies and plans of the Fair Trade Movement of the Philippines; it was time to share the lessons I had learned. After interviewing the Directors of three FTOs and on the way to meet their producers in surrounding rural communities, I began talking with them about the strategies of the WFTO – Philippines and lessons learned in cities such as Cebu which is expanding Fair Trade Movements on university campuses. I had separate discussions with each Director and they always came to the same conclusion: we began exploring numerous possibilities for the creation of a local Fair Trade Movement in Yogyakarta. 

Mr. Amir Panzuri, founder and Director of Apikri agreed to hold the first meeting at their office and the others all agreed to come. Novi Kusuma Wardhani founder and Director of Java Ixora, Imam Hidayat founder and Director of Sahani Organic, members of the Ombudsman office in Yogyajakarta, a university professor in Borneo who happened to be on a study tour in Apikri to explore possibilities of introducing Fair Trade to Borneo, and Ms. Mbak Atiek of Apikri. This was the beginning of a new movement in Yogya! More importantly, this is the future of Fair Trade: Fair Trade localized in southern countries and in southern cities!

No longer can Fair Trade only mean 

           Southern Trade to the North. 

It is time for the Global Fair Trade Movement

           To enter a New Era…

Time for Fair Trade to be Expanded 

           and Localized in the South!

But how do you start a movement with founders of organizations that may have the same goals and uphold the same principles, yet work in different communities, utilize different approaches to address an array of social issues, have different trade partners, and may even have different Fair Trade certifying organizations? Well, the first step is to re-define a basic mathematical equation: 1+1 ≠ 2. 

I was looking to create synergy with these leaders, each of whom has a strong personality with extensive experience in Fair Trade; they represent the solid foundations of their respective FTOs.   

Synergy in mathematics: 1+1=11. 

Now imagine 1+1+1+1+1….

Each founding member of the new Yogya Fair Trade Movement understood Fair Trade as a business model very well, they utilized the principles in their daily work. My first task was to present the obvious, so I asked them to work together in small groups with the explicit purpose of identifying...

Fair Trade as a Business Model...

...and Fair Trade as a Movement

With the basics covered, I asked the members of the new Yogya Fair Trade Movement to do a self-assessment on a scale of 1-10 (10 being Yogya will be a Fair Trade Town in six months; and 1 being no activities and no movement). The average was admittedly low, but it gave us a baseline. Besides, they were not familiar with the ongoing activities of their fellow members and their respective FTOs, so here we gave time for each member to make a brief presentation. 

As a Movement, we needed to identify areas for advocacy. The groundwork of each FTO here begins with the producers, and their community, so we started from there. Secondly, the local business community is an important area for advocacy, beginning with suppliers FTOs contract with. Thirdly, they identified the local government offices and upwards to the national governmental departments and ministries with whom FTOs collaborate. Fourthly, the universities in Yogya are very influential institutions locally and within Indonesia. Fifthly, the media, whether it is print, television or online social media, these are influential forces and can have a positive impact if harnessed in an advocacy campaign. 

Additionally the local ex-patriots residing in Indonesia and the numerous tourists coming to visit Bali every year already have a high level of awareness of Fair Trade thanks to the millions of euros and dollars spent in continuous awareness campaigns of Oxfam and Maxx Havelaar in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. Not to forget, numerous local Fair Trade shops have tremendous impacts in their communities such as the Dutch World Shops and Ten Thousand Villages in the USA and Canada.

Lastly, the local and international NGOs in Indonesia would make for terrific collaborators as they are socially aware and active in a multitude of communities throughout the nation. 

With areas of advocacy listed, next came commitment. By committing to advocacy in a particular area, there is a transfer of ownership from discussing the idea, to forming committees and groups which will lead areas of advocacy. 

In the following meeting a couple days later, members of the Yogya Fair Trade Movement listed universities that they had close connection to, whether it was a connection with faculty, students, university administration, or student organizations. Of the one hundred and twenty-two campuses, there was a direct connection with ten. This was a start! 

Create a Vision!

Next the members listed out immediate, mid-term and long-term goals. Immediate goals center on initiating ten Fair Trade Movements on the campuses they had listed. This included identifying World Fair Trade Day as inauguration day for campus movements; creating a General Secretariat Office to support campus activities and facilitate intercollegiate collaboration; and designing a logo for the new YFTM. 

The mid-term objective is to have 50+ university Fair Trade Movements within three years!!! The long-term objective is that Yogyajakarta becomes the first Fair Trade City in Indonesia! No small ambitions for this group of Fair Traders!

It is my privilege to present the founding members of 
              the Yogya Fair Trade Movement. 

Chou and I look forward to witnessing the wildfire that is about to spread through the university campuses of Indonesia ushering in a new era as Fair Trade is localized! 

Mitch Teberg, MA 

Comments received on my FaceBook page regarding this post:
Sarah Ulina Sinuraya of Mandiri Craft in Yogya wrote: "we'll join it....."
Darwin Smith Toapanta Saltos "Fair Trade Movement, this topics will be a model for a Fair Trade Chocolate Movement here in Ecuador. The steps are very precise and the conceptualization of idea; 1+1=11 is applicable - many thanks dear Mitch. I´m taking note - :-)"

Ten Thousand Villages Toronto "So great to see the Fair Trade movement expanding! Keep us posted, Mitch :)"

Angelo Valencia Hi, Mitch, thanks for the updates and keeping the flames afire for the benefit of those who need it the most!


  1. Can't wait to see the out come of YFTM.

  2. Significant expansion and localisation of Fair Trade in the South is an interesting concept and we think 100% possible.

    Looking ahead, we wonder what impact this will have on supplies to the North where Fair Trade has traditionally focused? Where buyers in the North have traditionally called the shots, this will change if producers have significant demand in the South. In our opinion this will be a positive outcome.

    We will be watching progress of YFTM with great interest!

  3. Excellent article and thanks to Yogya Fair Trade movement ! Cant wait to meet you guys and looking forward the same synergy in Malaysia

  4. This IS a good initiative.
    Here in this part of South Africa it's a different world but we continue rowing against a strong current.
    Anyway: our initiative is not subsidised and based on mutual beneficial rewards (which makes it extra difficult) but slowly we succeed. The latest news (tweet) "The Swiss Collection: just Soil, Imagination and The Spirit of Africa It's Jewelry/'Schmuck' from Mother Earth available at Fair Customer in Zurich, Switzerland"
    See also and of just google
    You are WElcome.

  5. Extraordinary. I just wondered how was FairTrade would be spread among people in Indonesia. Yes, the movement must come also from students. Thanx to you Mitch, for your efforts and sharings. Hopes is in our hands now. We can do it :)

    (Alexander Tuan Simare)