Farmers Helping Farmers

Farmers Helping Farmers

Sharing best practices about growing coffee and other crops takes a village

While Atma Connect originally launched as a mobile app for people to share information and build resilience in disaster-prone areas, the impact is far greater now. Atma and its Indonesian counterpart, Sakawarga, are enabling many more people to collaborate, including coffee farmers coping with climate change.

Farmers face many challenges, from weather to crop prices to emboldened rodents.

In the South Sumatra region in Indonesia, a new website is enabling farmers to share hard-won information with one another on how to grow crops more sustainably and build sustainable livelihoods for their families.

To ensure a successful launch, the team met with literacy ambassadors from 20 villages to talk about Citizen Journalism and sharing sustainable farming practices

The site: Penatani.ID meaning Indonesian Farmers.
The slogan: Growth and Traditions.

Penatani was launched by the Jakarta-based Penabulu Foundation and Ford Foundation to encourage sustainability. Sakawarga Foundation, Atma’s tech team in Indonesia, built the site in two months, after extensive human-centered design based on user testing and world-renowned methods that Atma integrated through its partnership with IDEO.

The result: a robust platform for farmers to ask questions and get answers, have a marketplace for selling produce and farm tools and, not least, share valuable information with one another on a wide scale.

The driving force is not only citizen journalism, in which local people share news and insights with one another; Penatani is also focused on cultivating sustainable natural resource management, according to Meiardhy Mujianto, the Penabulu Foundation’s model area partnership development coordinator.

So far, the most popular section on Penatani is the information sharing section. Here’s just one of the tips that newer farmers can learn from experienced farmers from South Sumatra on the southeast of the island of Sumatra where coffee beans, rice and other crops are grown. A blog post, with more than 300 views so far, notes:

“Farming has been the main livelihood of the Besemah community since long ago; there are many customs and traditions that have become a legacy until now. One of them is the tradition of pinching mangosteen leaves to repel rodents in the fields.”

That type of specific and useful information exchange is a strategic part of Atma and Sakawarga’s work. “We believe in enabling climate action, building community, and growing household income. This type of people-to-people communication platform builds the capacity of communities on the frontlines of fighting climate change,” says Aisyah Gunung, Sakawarga technical lead and Atma Connect’s head of product.

The main goals for the site that the team built were to enable farmers to:

  • Conserve natural resources,
  • Manage forestry resources, and
  • Share effective practices to build sustainable livelihoods.

“I’m proud that this platform can provide solutions that leverage the existing nature and potential in a rural area of Sumatra, a region whose contribution is massive to our national coffee production,” says Alfan Kasdar, Sakawarga Co-Director and Atma Connect’s Indonesia field director. “It was great to see how the farmers and citizens were very excited to see the platform and instantly understood how it could help them to communicate with each other, share knowledge, and promote their produce and region.”

As for those pesky rodents? The popular post, written by a farmer nicknamed Cantika, explains the tradition of pinching mangosteen leaves before fruiting and how to do it with bamboo sticks. Like many users on Penatani, Cantika is concerned about growing local produce while preserving the environment for further sustainability. Her post noted:

“All farmers in Sukaraja village follow this tradition to repel rats without poisoning or trapping rats, believe it or not,” said Agustami, one of the farmers in the village of Sukaraja.

Cantika’s article went on to explain the many advantages of the mangosteen custom:

“This method is certainly very good for the preservation of the natural environment and pro-environmental sustainability. Why is that? Because by not poisoning rats, we can maintain the existence of the ricefield food chain population. ….

We learn from history that many animals or plants that we think are easy to find anywhere are now very rare and even extinct. Likewise, we judge rats, which is a part of the food chain that snakes eat. If the rat is not there, the snake will lack food and prey on livestock. In addition, by not poisoning rats, we will keep the river flow clean from chemicals.”

To ensure a successful site launch, the Sakawarga team worked closely with Penabalu and villagers in advance. There was more than a month of in-depth writing and citizen journalism training so that farmers would know how to best use the platform.

A crucial step was identifying literacy ambassadors for each village in a “train the trainers” mode, to be able to encourage others to use the website effectively to share insights and ideas. One of the ambassadors is a farmer named Silvia. She herself is gleaning useful information through Penatani. As she says, “Besides being able to share stories about the potential of the village, on the Penatani.id platform I also recently learned that friends in the Mulak Ulu area have started planting coffee companion plants, such as pepper plants.”

How Atma and The Nature Conservancy Joined Forces to Share Resources for the Disaster Risk Reduction Community

How Atma and The Nature Conservancy Joined Forces to Share Resources for the Disaster Risk Reduction Community

While headlines from around the globe can seem overwhelming, a certain set of people are too busy to despair —  people who specialize in disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate adaptation are racing to put innovative ideas into practice to use nature to reduce risk.

When the Atma Connect tech team landed a contract to build a robust learning platform to serve this audience, the team leapt into action. Here’s a look at how the tech team quickly created a platform for The Nature Conservancy to support DRR professionals and humanitarian organizations in how to use nature to reduce coastal disaster risk in Indonesia, Micronesia and the Caribbean.

The result: NatureProtects.org

The focus of the site is nature-based solutions, which, the homepage explains “can protect life and property from disaster risk through the protection, sustainable management and restoration of both natural and modified ecosystems.” The website is filled with resources in three languages: Bahasa, Spanish and English.

Among the resources:

  • The Blue Guide to Coastal Resilience, the basis for the website, is also available as a downloadable, 100-page compendium of scientific guidance, dozens of video case studies and a larger suite of tools on using nature-based solutions to reduce climate risks.
  • Nature-based solutions to reduce disaster risk in six categories: Reefs, Mangroves, Seagrass, Marshland and Swamps, Dunes, and Shelterbelts.
  • A library searchable by material to read, watch, or apply as in put into practice; as well as by ways to connect with eco-initiatives, media and networks.

The information is part of the Nature Protects People Project, an initiative funded by USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (USAID/BHA) and implemented by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in Indonesia with the nonprofit YKAN (Yayasan Konservasi Alam Nusantara), Micronesia and the Caribbean.

“The original plan was to offer in-depth information on nature-based solutions to practitioners in person, but when the pandemic hit, we quickly made the decision to make the extensive information and case studies available online,” says Dr. Moushumi Chaudhury, TNC’s Community Resilience Program Director.

The Atma tech team, led by product manager Aisyah Gunung, used human-centered design to understand the core issues, such as figuring out the best way to take information-laden PDFs and transform them into a truly interactive and useful website.

“I really enjoy implementing a human-centered design process into a real platform, not to mention one instantly utilized by the TNC team,” says Aisyah. The first step, as with any software project, was to create an initial design for a minimum viable product or MVP. Then came implementation, first in English, then in Indonesian along with added features, then in Spanish.

While the NatureProtects content is for a specialized audience, it’s also useful for community members, government staff, and staff and volunteers of NGOs or National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies working in coastal communities.

The issue of climate change is, after all, being felt worldwide. More than 600 million people worldwide live in vulnerable low-lying coastal areas. Atma will share highlights from NatureProtects on the Atma Go mobile app and platform, used by neighbors to help neighbors in Indonesia and Puerto Rico.

5 Questions with Atma Connect’s Head of Technology Ardy Satria

5 Questions with Atma Connect’s Head of Technology Ardy Satria

In honor of Atma Connect’s 5-year anniversary, we are highlighting our inspiring community including employees, supporters and board members.

Meet Ardy Satria, self-described tech guy. A technology strategy advisor and consultant as well as a software architect, he keeps the AtmaGo platform in Indonesia and Puerto Rico running and takes the lead on delivering technology solutions and features to meet strategic objectives.

Q: What Atma accomplishment are you most proud of?

A: I’m proud of how Atma has taken a leadership role during the pandemic by enabling neighbors to share trusted information about COVID-19 and the vaccine and reaching millions of people with education and tools through a microsite we built called Covid19.atmago.com

Q: How do you describe Atma’s vision?

A: We want to become the go-to application for people to share information, connect good people and support their communities in the spirit of neighbors helping neighbors.

Q: What are your goals with Atma Connect? 

A: We would like to reach and help more people and build more community by continuing to build the technology platform and product.

Q: What inspires you to be a leader within the Atma community?

A: I started a small movement in West Java called Pelukan Rakyat during the pandemic. It means “People’s Hug.” Volunteers join an action team to cook, package and deliver food for free to people who need it. Many people are living day to day, and we want to help. This to show that we are grateful to God. We believe in caring and giving back to people and the community. And motivating people to remember that you don’t need to be rich to take some action to help others.

Pelukan Rakyat uses AtmaGo to organize action teams. We use the new feature known as Ruang Komunitas AtmaGo (Community Room) to share updates, track our impact and reach new members to serve more people.

Q: What has been your favorite story from working with Atma Connect?

A: It is so inspiring to hear about people who have been helped through the power of AtmaGo. I was touched by a video of a woman who survived a tsunami, Tsunami Palu in 2018, and found shelter, thanks to AtmaGo.

5 Questions with Atma Connect’s Board Chair Lisa Diaz Nash

5 Questions with Atma Connect’s Board Chair Lisa Diaz Nash

In honor of Atma Connect’s 5-year anniversary, we are highlighting our inspiring community including employees, supporters and board members.

Meet Lisa Diaz Nash, seasoned business and nonprofit leader. She has advised Atma Connect since 2016. Currently serving as board chair, Lisa envisions a world where neighbors help neighbors build resilient, empowered communities. We asked her 5 questions, plus a bonus question.

Q: What Atma accomplishment are you most proud of?

A: I am most proud that Atma does not just “talk the talk” but also “walks the walk.” Our progress is measured in lives saved, livelihoods improved and people empowered. The most important thing that Atma has done is to give people the tools, platform and training they need to repair their communities, prevent preventable disasters and realize opportunities to create better lives for everyone.

Q: Why do you believe in Atma’s vision?

A: I believe in Atma’s vision because it is inspired by the people it serves. What we do, how we enhance our products, where we expand…all this is driven by what our customers – our users, our community members – say they need to solve their problems and improve their lives. Atma’s vision stays and grows because we listen to the needs of our users and do our best to meet and exceed those needs.

Q: What inspires you about Atma’s approach?

A: Everyone talks about changing the world and putting power in the hands of people to improve their lives. Atma unlocks the power that already is in people by helping them connect and create the lives and communities they want.

Q: What are your goals for Atma Connect? What would you like to accomplish in the next year?

A: We have proven the “concept” of Atma, i.e. the power of our platform to unlock the power of individuals, no matter who they are, to improve their community by working together toward common goals of good. Now we need to “supercharge” that capability, across Indonesia and Puerto Rico and across the globe. Local communities anywhere want to find the power to connect, educate each other and join together for change. I want Atma to enable more communities in more countries to solve basic problems and take charge of their futures.

Q: Why are you excited to be an Atma leader?

A: I have seen Atma grow from an idea to a small pilot to a platform that people use to create the change they want to see in their worlds. The reason Atma has grown to 7 million people is because it unlocks the power already in people. Atma connects people behind a common goal and helps them accomplish it. That isn’t “Power to the people.”  That is “Power OF the people.”

Q: What has been your favorite moment from working with Atma Connect?

A: I am humbled by the stories of people, time and again, who have used AtmaGo to connect with their communities to overcome disasters, rebuild their lives and create opportunities they didn’t have before. Being witness to the tragedy, hope, determination and joy that people find by working together, supported by Atma, is to see the human condition in total. I am very optimistic about what we can do, as long as we do it together.