I started this social project soon after a family friend told me about situation about the struggles of organic rice farmers in Indonesia. It was a sad story of how they their lives have been dominated by 'tengkulak', or loan shark middle men traders, who would loans to farmers at the beginning of planting season at a high interest rate. During the harvest, market price will fall, and the farmers would end up just breaking even, or even owing the tengkulak more money. This leads to farmers being trapped in poverty cycles for decades, and unable to break free.
Being raised and educated overseas since I was a child, I had no plans of returning to Indonesia. However, I was intrigued enough to investigate the situation, and decided to visit the farmers and to see the real situation myself. It was a visit that changed my life. I saw poverty and scarcity, and how it was like to live day-to-day. What they lack, however, they make up with the enormous wealth they posses inside their hearts. With high spirits, they welcomed me into their homes, extending hospitality richer than any others I have known. They wholeheartedly offered me the little they had, including daily portions of food on the table that are meant for their family. As the saying goes, what comes from the heart touches the heart, and it was then that I knew that I had to help them live a better life.
I started to organize and train these rice farmers until they achieved international organic and fair trade certification- it's first for Indonesia. It was important that we pave the way to build a more sustainable environment, and protect basic human rights. Together, we revolutionized the rice chain through empowerment, so farmers are no longer undervalued raw materials supplier for the tengkulak, but rather, producers of high-quality finished product they can be proud of. The first time we exported, which also happened to be the nation’s first for organic rice, there were tears of joy. I remembered, particularly, that one of the farmers told his son who was having his birthday, that this was the best birthday present a father could ever give to his son- a brighter future for his children and the inspiration that dreams can come true.
Soon after, the news of what I was doing with these rice farmers traveled to others. From different corners of Indonesia, farmers came to me in hope of changing their lives. I started helping more small-scale farmers, and our project began to grow. Sunria means “sun” and "joy" (ria means joy in Indonesian). We create Sunria to bring sunshine and smiles to the lives we changed through our actions. Sunria has just planted the seedling of change. With nurture and care, we hope that these seedlings will contribute to a better future for all of us.
Awards and Recognitions
We are humbled that our hard work and collaborative efforts are appreciated and recognized internationally. We hope that in the continuing journey, we can change more lives and make this world a better place.
Sustainability Award by Embassy of Republic of Indonesia, Brussels, 2015
Special Appreciation by Ministry of Agriculture for Excellent Partnership with Farmers, Indonesia, 2015
SOFI Silver Award for Best USDA Organic Product, USA, 2012
Cornell University USA Certificate of Excellence for Farmers, Consumers, and the Environment, USA, 2011
Presidential Award for Best Organic Farmer, Indonesia, 2011
Presidential Award for Best Farmer for Food Security, Indonesia, 2010
Minister of Agriculture, Indonesia (2004 - 2009)
“Sunria introduces a new concept for the farmers of Indonesia through its implementation of fair trade practices. Indonesia should have many of its farmers developing the vast amount of natural resources. However, the unfair practices of loan shark traders (tengkulak) had left the farmers with poverty, and limits their ability to tap into the potential of agriculture. Fair trade ensures that farmers' livelihood is increased, and their basic human rights are protected. Sunria maximizes the potential of Indonesia’s natural resources through farmers' empowerment, and presents products that are exceptional in quality.”
Vice Minister of Agriculture, Indonesia (2010-2011)
Vice Minister of Trade, Indonesia (2011-2014)
"Indonesia has many hidden uniqueness. If we are able to see it through the right angle, and have the will and ability to draw the uniqueness out, something incredible can surface. Sunria is accomplishing this. Surprisingly, from small villages through the hands of the villagers, something impressive and admirable is created. It may come across as humble, but these natural products have stepped up into the international stage and proudly present Indonesia to the world."
Professor Emeritus of Government and International Agriculture
Senior Advisor of SRI International Network and Resources Center
Cornell University, USA
"What Sunria has been doing with Indonesian farmers is part, but an especially innovative part, of a larger effort to make agricultural production more productive, especially for smallholders, and more environmentally-friendly and equitable. The organic and fair trade premiums that Sunria is securing for SRI farmers translate directly into life-altering changes for these households. Families can afford school fees, can invest in their farms, and if a health crisis arises, they no longer have to sell their land or go into debt. Most consumers, if they understand what their money is buying, not just in terms of the product at hand but also in terms of environmental and humanitarian benefits, are willing to pay a higher premium to have beneficial impacts on people and ecosystems, especially if they at the same time acquire a high-quality, healthy, tasty product."
Entrepreneur of "Damn I Love Indonesia"
"When I first heard about Sunria project, I had goosebumps...Finally, an Indonesian youth is doing something right for the good of this country and its people. As Indonesia's land is full of fertile fields, and yet highly skilled but undermined farmers, it is time to fully utilize the potential and establish a fair trade system following the international benchmark. For the welfare of Indonesian farmers and for the sake of the country's economic strength, I fully support Sunria project, and I recommend you to do the same for a better Indonesia."