PEKKA NTT – focusing on food security in a challenging year

It has been a challenging year for the women of PEKKA NTT on the islands of Adonara and Lembata in East Flores, Indonesia. In the face of Covid-19 and government restrictions, the women of PEKKA NTT have proven themselves to be a powerful and resilient collective of women with strength in spades. Covid-19 forced PEKKA centres to temporarily close but we are pleased to share that they are now almost back to full operating capacity.

The Indonesian Bureau of Statistics estimates that out of 65 million households, approximately 9 million are headed by women. This includes women who have been widowed, abandoned and divorced, or who are primary carers of family members. Women-headed households are too often seen as invisible; the Marriage Law of 1974 that dictates that only a man can be legally considered a head of household. Female heads of households face multidimensional social and economic problems, not only related to the fulfilment of basic needs but also to their social status in the community.

Following an organic food growing workshop in 2018, the women of PEKKA have scaled up their compost-making facilities and are bulk producing compost for their own gardens and to sell at the local markets.

PEKKA has worked hard over for two decades to transform the lives of women heads of households. The ultimate goal is to develop a grassroots movement of women-led economic cooperatives that empower women individually and collectively to transform their lives and their communities, and challenge the structures that breed discrimination and poverty.

a focus on food security

Over the past three years, indigo foundation has partnered with PEKKA NTT to establish three women-run cooperative food gardens, which support a network of over 70 women and their dependents. While women were largely excluded from the gardens at the height of the lockdown, the gardens continuing producing and PEKKA NTT was able to deliver produce to women in the community, and with the income generated from selling the excess, PEKKA NTT purchased and distributed face masks.

Purchasing farming equipment has also been a priority of PEKKA over the past 12 months with the aim of improving productivity and reducing the amount of time women spend on manual labour. PEKKA NTT now have a coffee and coconut milling machine which shreds and grinds, as well as a milling machine for corn. They have also purchased two mulchers and infrastructure to establish three new hydroponic systems – one each for the gardens at Adonara, Lembata and Lanantuka.

Following an organic food growing workshop in 2018 that brought together our three Indonesian partners, PEKKA NTT have focused on improving their facilities to make organic compost and fertiliser to improve the harvests from the gardens. The women  are now bulk producing compost, which they use on their own gardens and sell at the local markets.

The gardens produce a range of fruits and vegetables – and, now that restrictions have eased again in Indonesia, there are over 70 women visiting and working in the gardens on a daily basis. The fruit and vegetables they harvest are shared between the women at the PEKKA Centres, as well as being sold at the local markets and directly from the gardens.

PEKKA have also established a reading area in the garden at their Adonara centre, where children have access to books about agriculture and gardening, and the chance to learn about sustainable farming.

PEKKA’s theory of change

PEKKA NTT, supported by the National PEKKA body led by renowned feminist Ibu Nani Zulminarni, has a clear ‘theory of change’ that underpins the work they do to transform lives and communities.

PEKKA’s theory of change identifies the importance of changing community and individual values, attitudes and beliefs that perpetrate inequality, discrimination and poverty, along with changes in policies and power structures that negatively impact women-headed households. The PEKKA community works to change formal structures (visible power), values and beliefs (invisible power), and informal structures (hidden power), by promoting access and control over resources and decision-making (change in policy), and internalisation of new values (attitude change). As such, it seeks to influence economic, political, juridical, social and cultural dimensions of power.

In Adonara and Lembata Islands and in East Flores, PEKKA NTT has built and supports a network of local collectives with an active base of over 2,600 women heads of household. This structure empowers women individually and collectively to achieve positive change and challenge typical stereotypes and beliefs found in remote and marginalised communities in Indonesia. As well as the education and food security initiatives supported by indigo, PEKKA NTT runs a range of programs, including a savings and loan initiative, training for women leaders and weaving collectives.

We are proud to be a part of supporting this creative and resilient organisation, run by and for women from female-headed households. And we are currently working closely with PEKKA NTT to sign a second three year commitment agreement so we can continue building on their remarkable achievements.

By Jacqui Fidler, Partnership Coordinator