July 31, 2023
We met Alfian during a recent field visit to Bone, South Sulawesi. I’d been told that we would be chatting with a young Sahabat Jiva — our network of micro-collectors — that day, but when he arrived, I was surprised to see his youthful demeanor; I didn’t expect him to be that young. As he sat with us in a small, industrial-themed cafe in the more urban part of Bone, he shared his story of being a 21-year-old, self-taught rural entrepreneur.
He was shy at first, answering my questions with close-ended remarks and awkward pauses — perhaps because of the slight language barrier or the awfully loud music blasted inside the cafe. The field team who accompanied me in this meeting had been endlessly raving about his achievements like a bunch of proud parents, and this seemed like an effective ice-breaker as he bashfully nodded and started confirming their stories in his own words.
He was fresh out of high school when he joined as a Sahabat Jiva, he told us. Most of his schoolmates went on to pursue higher education, but he couldn’t go; his parents couldn’t afford to send him. As he was telling us this, I heard no note of regret. He knew exactly how he wanted to pursue his future: a successful rural entrepreneur.
Born to smallholder farmer parents in a small village called Lamakkaraseng in Ulaweng, South Sulawesi, he was no stranger to farming. Growing up, he watched his parents farm and trade chocolate and corn. Later in life, this has become his purpose. “I’ve always known I wanted to be a businessman,” he said.
He might only have generational agricultural knowledge and tradition, but he confidently dived into rural entrepreneurship, determined to achieve his dream. He started small, being a micro-collector in his village. He told us that becoming a Sahabat Jiva was a learning ground, helping him expand to other areas and get more farmers to work with him.
Of course, it wasn’t easy being a young one. Most farmers are much older than him, so it was difficult to gain their trust. But he didn’t give up easily, either. Instead, he leveraged his youth and savviness to technology to utilise services from Jiva’s mobile apps — helping farmers get fairer deals for their farm produce when they sell to him.
Now, Alfian is one of our most successful Sahabat Jivas. He ranked third in South Sulawesi and ninth nationally for making the most transactions in our mobile apps, gaining perks on top of his earnings. Recently, he purchased his own land. He bought his first car. He got married and welcomed his first child. At 21, Alfian had achieved his dream.
Of course, he still got his future in front of him, but the present looks promising. His parents couldn’t afford to send him to a university, but now he might be able to send his children.
Stories like Alfian’s are exactly why we keep doing what we do for the smallholder farming community. To them, our network and services might only be a small piece of their larger endeavours to improve their quality of life, but to us, their success is the fuel that drives our mission.
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