Sold To The Highest Bid

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These are the cracked candlenuts – ready to sell

“Here is my share of the week,” said a mother who came to storage room in Titihena, East Flores. She brought a sack full of cashew nuts on her head, while her son carried another two sacks behind her.

They are just one out of 100 families who joined the Farmer Union in Titihena sub-district. This initiative is a form of refusal toward loan sharks’ domination in their villages. World Vision Indonesia facilitated and supported the operational of sixteen farmer unions like this across East Flores. Through Market Facilitation, buyer and seller can trade fairly.

“Back then, we can only say yes to the price offered by loan sharks, even though it is very low. We had to sell our commodities because we never know whether there will be another buyer coming to the village or not,” said Emilia Emar, 49, one of the Market Facilitation cadres.

Her story was commonly found in remote villages like hers where access to traditional market is difficult, information is hard to get, and price clarity is unknown. They can only rely on loan sharks who came door to door to buy candlenuts, cashew nuts, cacao, tamarind, and copra – all five major commodities of East Flores. These buyers did not have any transparency and agreed price standard. The price instability means income instability which leads to uncertainty of families’ needs fulfillment, including children education, sanitation, and nutrition.

In 2009, World Vision Indonesia along with several change agents, initiated the collective selling system through Farmers Union. Interested buyers will have to buy from the union through weekly auction. The commodities’ rightful owner is the buyer who dares to pay more than the others.

“Each week, all the union members may bring the fruits of their labor to one storage room and weigh it in front the union’s caretakers. The number is written in a log book and compiled with the other farmers’ contribution to be auctioned on Friday. Once the unions receive the money from buyers, caretakers will distribute it to each farmer according to their contribution,” said Chrisman Siregar, Community Development Coordinator World Vision Indonesia - East Flores Office.

The auction is an interesting process to watch. Marsellino Hayon, the Farmer Union leader still remembers the first auction in his district. He said it was very tense, thrilling, and exciting at the same time. He remembers how the loan sharks did not like it at all as well as he remembers the joy felt after they received their first fair price. Another challenge is to gain trust from their fellow farmers who don’t understand the auction concept yet and refuse to join the union back then.

“Some people were suspicious toward us. They were afraid we might mismanage the money to gain personal profit and harm their income. But as time goes by, people can see and count the price difference if we sell stuffs collectively and if we sell it individually. Today, I can ensure that my children can pursue their education in a better way,” explains Emilia Emar excitedly.

Entering its fifth years, the Farmer Unions have developed into solid communities with clear organizational structure, profit sharing mechanism, as well as administrative order. They also use technology – in this case, text message - to set the opening price for weekly auction. Today, there are just three serious buyers who keep coming back to Titihena district and agree with the auction concept.

“This auction feels like a game to me. It’s a fun play where the winner can bring home all the commodities. I keep coming back to this sub-district and participated in the bidding process because the Farmer Unions maintain a good quality of their products. It also makes my job easier because I don’t have to spend more time going door to door to find products in small amount with different qualities and quantities. Here, everything is already organized,” said Fredi, one of the regular buyers at Titihena sub-district

Trust is the key to this activity and it is also one out of three other factors which become the motto of this Farmer Union. We can now be sure that unity strengthen one community’s capacity to support its children well being. (*IDNO/SK)

News Source : Sold To The Highest Bid

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