Wednesday, July 24, 2024 | 18:38 WIB

Nukila Evanty: Empowering female farmers at Sumber Jaya village, Jambi

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Jakarta, IO – For Nukila Evanty, chairwoman of the Indigenous Community Initiation (IMA) and executive director of the Women Working Group (WWG), advocating women’s interests is important because their voices, especially in rural areas, have often been neglected. The call to help her people was deeply etched in her psyche. As a women’s activist, she often has to visit different villages, cities, districts and provinces in Indonesia to carry out advocacy.

This year alone, Nukila has carried out various advocacy works to provide safe spaces for women in Rempang (Riau Islands), Air Bangis (West Sumatra) and Pangkalan Susu (North Sumatra).

And, most recently, she advocated for 50 female farmers in Sumber Jaya village, Kumpeh Ulu subdistrict, Muaro Jambi regency, Jambi. During her visit, Nukila and the female farmers formed a community called Padek Women (PEPA). Padek in Jambi vernacular means ‘brave.’

The Padek Women’s Community is established an act of solidarity and resistance to the discrimination they experience from palm oil companies in the area. This action was sparked by the verdict against Bahusni, leader of the Kumpeh Farmers’ Cooperative, who was sentenced to 1.5 years in prison by the Muaro Jambi District Court on December 6.

According to Nukila, through this community, the women can support one another and build a support network in the village. “This community exists to empower female farmers in areas experiencing tenancy conflicts as women are often the worst impacted.”

“In several locations we visited, we also carried out legal, mental health and economic advocacy activities,” explained Nukila. “I see a double impact for women. Starting from environmental damage, to loss of livelihood. Some women even complain that they have become more prone to depression, physical pain and dejection.”

For the material about mental health, Nukila was assisted by a team of psychologists from Jambi University. “Based on the psychologists’ explanations after meeting these female farmers, they explained that land conflicts have affected their daily lives, some are even traumatized. Therefore, supportive activities are needed to increase their self-confidence. There are even some people who need personal counseling because they were showing symptoms of depression,” said Nukila.

In the economic front, the women are taught how to farm spices organically. The team from Jambi University also teaches them how to make organic fertilizer from fruit peels. One of the farmers, Yusnidar, appreciated the new knowledge because it can be applied at home. Yusnidar said she plans to grow long beans.

Various spices such as ginger, turmeric and lemongrass can also be planted at the yard. If planted on a large scale, the harvest can even increase the local community’s income. “For example, black ginger is expensive as it can fetch Rp500,000 per kg. If the women in Sumber Jaya village can plant this crop, this village will be known as a spice village in the future. They can use it as ingredient in their foods, while making money out of it,” said Lisani, one of the trainers from Jambi University.

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Nukila views the economic assistance giving a means of support in their struggle. “The PEPA Community can open everyone’s eyes, that villages experiencing tenancy conflicts are also able to thrive economically. My hope is that Sumber Jaya cillage will become a tourist village known for its spices. The more people who come to visit, the more people will empathize with the farmers’ struggle here,” she explained.

In the future, this solidarity action from the PEPA Community will attract the attention of many parties, so that more and more people will gain awareness of their plight and support the protection of farmers’ rights, especially female farmers. (des)

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