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Converting agricultural waste in to new sources of income in Jambi, Indonesia

Updated: Jul 8, 2022

In Jambi province, Indonesia, areca farming is one of the city’s main sources of income – of the 152,000 hectares of land planted with areca trees across the country, 22,000 hectares are in Jambi alone.

Ika with an areca palm leaf sheath

Reducing waste from one of Jambi's most popular export products

The areca palm fruit produces betel nut which is a main export product for Jambi, in addition to oil and rubber. In 2021, betel nut exports amounted to over 5 trillion IDR in the country (over 300 million USD). In Indonesia, betel nuts are exported to countries like Thailand, Iran, India, China and Pakistan and the government aims to make it their leading export commodity by increasing the quality and quantity produced.

The areca palm is a medium sized palm tree, which can grow up to 20m in height.

Finding a sustainable alternative to burning by products

However, with such a large amount of farming for betel nut also comes a large amount of waste. Often, the unusable parts of the areca plant are burned away and the farmers and members of the Jambi community fear that this will worsen environmental issues for them.

To help reduce this waste, Ika Juliana founded start-up Greenie Indonesia in July 2020. As a social entrepreneur and researcher of bioproducts from agricultural waste, Ika is elevating environmental consciousness of the home furnishing industry in her city by educating and empowering non-timber farmers on producing sustainable furniture.

Reducing reliance on activities that are harmful to the environment

Using leaf sheaths from areca trees, Ika teaches farmers how to create minimalist, functional and customizable furniture to be sold for more income. This is a new and uncommon practice in the home furnishing industry in Indonesia where large areas of timber plantations exist for timber furniture and trade. However, using areca leaf sheaths encourages responsible consumption, increases environmental awareness, and reduces reliance on logging activities, says Ika.

Ika's designs are minimalist, functional and customizable

Green chemistry for a greener future

Working hand in hand with areca palm farmers, artisans and waste collectors, Ika has created a local community committed to adopting green technology and innovation, contributing to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 12 and 13 – to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns, and take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. She does so by applying green chemistry, using synthetic-based low-emission adhesive combined with agricultural waste to support carbon emission reduction in the furniture created.

A community champion and gender equality advocate

The local community, she says, has been very welcoming of her approach and mission as the farmers worry about the impact of burning substantial amounts of areca waste. Her passion for green technology and sustainable practices has landed Greenie Indonesia a spot at the IKEA Social Entrepreneurship Program where Ika will be able to scale her project to reach more farmers, many of them women, to create an income for themselves.

Dream big

Ika believes that every woman should be given the opportunity to achieve their dreams and she does her best to provide this opportunity to the women in her local community. As a firm believer of gender equality, she champions this with employees in Greenie.

Ika’s journey with sustainability started when she was just 12. She joined a competition to combat environmental issues in Bali and started reading up on sustainable practices and solutions for Indonesia’s agricultural landscape. Ika was a finalist at the Falling Walls Lab competition in 2017 at Berlin and is an active member of the Policy-Making Forum as a G20 Young Global Changer since 2018. Her global connections and network have contributed to the success of her Green-tech innovations, she says.

Ika hopes that her startup will support areca farmers with additional income while also promoting environment-friendly practices to create a better future for Indonesia. Slowly, but surely, she hopes to bring her technology to the world stage, contributing to the movement towards a zero-waste and zero-emissions future all over the world.

For more Indonesia stories, click here to read about Dini.

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