“Before I learned about the coop, I was selling my milkfish through the local collector. I was constantly disappointed with how the business and communication were done between me, the collector, and the factory – I only had one option but to accept the factory’s offers without any negotiation possibility. Working through the co-op is very different. All transactions are conveyed transparently, we get a much better price from the buyer. I am very satisfied with the co-op services.” Aris, Secretary of Kopihitam Co-op
Aris, 36 years old, is a milkfish farmer in Batang Tongka Village, North Luwu. Like other heads of the family, he is working hard for his wife and children. His decision three years ago to join the co-op and actively participate in the INVEST Co-op project activities has positively impacted his life and family.
Since the beginning, Aris has participated in many trainings on cooperative development, best farming practices, gender equality, and financial literacy. He gradually improved his production and management practices thanks to the knowledge he received. He also became a big believer in co-op values and approaches toward supporting WMSAP.
The application of BAP helped him to reduce the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers by up to 30% per week. He replaced these chemical substances with organic fertilizers and better-quality fish fodder. His milkfish production in Y4 was 5,510 kg, and he sold 100% of his produce to the Kopihitam co-op. Previously, he sold only 2,700 kg of milkfish, 61% of his produce, to the co-op. One of the reasons for the lower sales volume to the co-op before was the insufficient quality of produce which could have affected other co-op produce.
As soon as co-op Kopihitam was established, Aris was convinced that this was the right way to go and to develop his business. He was the first co-op member who sold milkfish to the co-op, even though, at that time, the price offered was still lower than the one offered by the local collector. His trust and support of the co-op at the initial stage put more responsibility on the co-op’s board to start looking for better buyers and more competitive conditions. As the co-op grew and developed, Aris started to sell all his produce through the co-op. In Y4 the total value of his transactions was IDR 44,986,000 or 16% of all Kopihitam co-op transactions; and towards the end of the year 2019, the total value of this transactions amounted to IDR 717,145 (or 15% of co-op distributed dividens).
Thanks to the mentoring provided by the INVEST project, its team, consultants, and Canadian volunteers, Aris – working as a co-op board member – and other co-op members have developed a business plan, mastering negotiation, marketing, and sales techniques. The diversification of co-op services – rice distribution, LPG gas sales, small-scale processing unit (milkfish floss & banana chips) – set a benchmark for this new business model in the village.
In 2020, Aris was appointed transaction manager for milkfish in the Kopihitam co-op. Using an “open business” management approach, he regularly provides detailed information on business development and updates to Kopihitam co-op members and potential members on the price offered by the buyer (milkfish processing factory). This approach significantly increased trust among farmers and boosted Kopihitam’s co-op business development.
In 2019 the co-op reported only ten members selling their milkfish to the co-op with a total volume of sales at 20,466 kg and a transaction value of IDR 233,211,460. However, under Aris’ management, the co-op is close to reaching last year’s annual result within the first three months (January – March 2020) – the number of milkfish transactions has reached 17,031 kg with a transaction value of IDR 211,845,000.
In addition to these achievements, Aris demonstrated a significant change in his perception and behaviour regarding gender norms. Before, he was never involved in routine domestic responsibilities, but after attending INVEST project workshops, he started helping his wife with household duties. He encourages his wife to participate in various trainings provided by his village administration, as well as by the INVEST Co-op project while taking over responsibilities in the house.
“Our parents teach us that after we get married, the wife is supposed to work in the kitchen and the husband is responsible for the family income. However, after I attended gender training provided by INVEST Co-op project, I realized that it is not a shame when a husband helps his wife at home. Now I can explain this to my parents.”
Aris, Secretary of Kopihitam Co-op
Aris and his wife also followed the financial literacy training provided by the project. This encouraged them to work together and consult with each other on household finances. The positive outcome of this was that they had now accumulated enough funds to buy land to start livestock production.
Aris’ example in Batang Tongka village motivates and encourages other community members. The project is continuing his efforts to empower other farmers to join the co-op and to learn from project participants how some changes can benefit their lives.