Empowering Sumbanese Women through Entrepreneurship

Blog by Amy Lumban Gaol, July 13, 2018

Sumbanese women and entrepreneurship

Salomi Rambu Iru, popularly known as Mama Salomi or Mama Foremba, is a native of Sumba who aspires to empower local women. Growing up in Anakalang, Central Sumba, Mama Salomi experienced continuous gender-based discrimination caused by the local patriarchal culture and vowed to fight against it. Her struggle for equality began around twenty years ago when she joined a local CSO aiming to change the culture that unfairly excludes women from receiving a share in inherited land.

In 2000, she was appointed as the chairperson of Yayasan Forum Perempuan Sumba or FOREMBA (Sumba Women Forum Foundation). Together with other members, she continuously approaches countless stakeholders and utilizes many tools to discuss and bring progress to women’s lives. One of the tools she uses to empower women is entrepreneurship. Under her leadership, Foremba partners with many institutions such as Yayasan Rumah Energi and Hivos to open access to entrepreneurship for Sumbanese women.

Sumbanese women are potential economic agents

When Hivos expanded the Commercial Pig Rearing program to Sumba, Mama Salomi expressed interest in becoming the sub-agent (part of the distribution channel) of animal fodder in Central Sumba. Hivos and Foremba established 14 demo plots as learning avenue for local farmers. Mama Salomi and her team also got involved in pig farming management and business training conducted by Hivos and private sector partners. As a result, they gained new knowledge and skills on how to rear pigs efficiently, develop a marketing strategy and make a business analysis. Mama Salomi herself now rears around 10 piglets. One of her piglets was sold at Rp 15,000,000, a rather high price due to its good quality. Besides selling piglets and fodder, she diversifies her business by providing livestock medicine.

Pig rearing in Nusa Tenggara Timur has now become a source of additional, or even main income for local households, and Mama Salomi wishes to invite more Sumbanese women to get involved in the business. As she says, “The local culture emphasizes that Sumbanese women are second-class citizens and merely complementary to men. We are not. I say Sumbanese women are potential economic agents and pig farming can be one of the options for us.”

The cooperation between Mama Salomi, Foremba and Hivos begun in 2016 under the Commercial Pig-Rearing program. The AIP PRISMA-funded program aims to increase smallholder productivity and overall production of pigs in Nusa Tenggara Timur by using improved inputs such as fodder. Nusa Tenggara Timur owns the largest pig population across Indonesia, and pork plays a central role in the local culture, hence its potential economic benefits. Playing the role of market facilitator, Hivos designs a business model and connects private sector partners with intermediary service providers such as local agents, sub-agents and pig farmers.