A woman puts honey into a glass jar at RAPP's Rumah Madu Andalan. (Photo Courtesy of RAPP)

Soap and Honey: Helping Small Businesses Withstand the Pandemic

BY :JAYANTY NADA SHOFA

JANUARY 15, 2021

Jakarta. In addition to being a global health crisis, the Covid-19 pandemic has unleashed extensive socio-economic impacts, putting millions of micro, small and medium enterprises, or MSMEs at risk of being forced out of business. 

This is alarming, especially since MSMEs in Indonesia plays a vital role in the absorption of labor and account for more than 60 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP).

In response, the government has assisted these MSMEs, including disbursing productive social assistance programs to help them survive in this difficult time. The Environment and Forestry Ministry had also issued a regulation to support national food security, which dubbed an urgent issue to address amid the global coronavirus pandemic.

Besides the government, the private sector has a pivotal role to play in overcoming the crisis. 

For example, pulp and paper producer Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper (RAPP) via their community development programs.

The APRIL Group’s business arm has been running community development programs around its operational areas to foster community self-reliance. The program includes providing training to help local communities develop their businesses. As a result, their businesses were able to withstand the pandemic.

Rizal was among the many people who received training from RAPP back in July 2019. 

According to Rizal, the training helped him further develop his eucalyptus soap business, Euca Mitra Andalan. His business now sells body wash, handwash, floor cleaners, and hand sanitizers. Thanks to the eucalyptus’ antibacterial properties, the revenue skyrocketed by up to 1,400 percent.

“Who would have thought that my business would grow significantly amid the pandemic,” Rizal said.

Another RAPP-trained MSME that managed to reap big profits during the pandemic was the honey farmers who joined Rumah Madu Andalan (RMA). 

First established in 2020, RMA allows Sialang honey farmers to sell their honey at lucrative prices. The immune-boosting honey garnered revenue of up to hundreds of millions of rupiah during the virus outbreak. To fulfill the pandemic orders, each farmer can turn in up to 300 kilograms of honey to the RMA in a month.

RAPP provides community development programs around their operational areas to foster community self-reliance. (Photo Courtesy of RAPP)
RAPP provides community development programs around its operational areas to foster community self-reliance. (Photo Courtesy of RAPP)

Not long ago, RAPP helped the Kampar district people optimize the land in their village for fruit plant agrotourism. The 2.5-hectare garden will later be used to cultivate durian, longan, guava, betel nut, and many more.

Since 1993, APRIL has made positive contributions to the local communities. 

A 2019 research held by the Institute for Economics and Social Research (LPEM FEB UI), a think tank attached to the University of Indonesia’s School of Economics and Business Studies, revealed APRIL Group had contributed Rp 369 trillion ($26 billion) to the local economy over the past 20 years. During 1999-2018, APRIL Group operations created 89,646 jobs annually, particularly for Riau communities.

In the coming years, APRIL Group will continue to support community empowerment via an array of initiatives in hopes of ending poverty and provide access to health and education. APRIL solidified its commitment by launching APRIL2030 last November.

APRIL’s steps in partnering and empowering the local communities align with the global blueprint Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG 17 (partnership for the goals). Their support to end poverty is also in line with SDG 1 (No Poverty).

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