Creating a Brand for Farmers' Prosperity: Ammara's Changemaker Journey

How Ammara and her friends built an eco-brand that boosts farmers' harvests and livelihoods in Indonesia.
AYC Ammara with a farmer
Source: Ashoka Indonesia

Ammara's Changemaker Journey

Would you trust a 13-year old to run your company's branding and marketing? Farmers in Central Java, Indonesia, do. As the population across the country continues to rise, food demand is rising with it.

Now more than ever, farmers must find new ways to be competitive, efficient, and sustainable while attracting younger people to their trade. So, Ammara, a 13-year-old changemaker, and her team are stepping up to support farmers in their community by transforming the way young people play a role in agrarian life.

The moment of spark: A class field trip

Dozens of conversations with local farmers is how Ammara and her friends learned about their dire situation. Growing up in Baturaden, Central Java, Ammara was surrounded by farmers and knew their livelihoods were increasingly unstable, but she was not sure as to why. Her community was surrounded by land and resources, and she wondered, “what is preventing farmers from thriving?”

When she and her class went on a school field trip, they heard from farmers about how the agricultural community has been disturbingly shaken by the low and precarious prices of their harvest. Over the past few years, they learned that farming has also been stigmatized as a “last resort occupation.”

After the field trip, Ammara did not hesitate to share with her teacher about her concern for her neighbors. Her teacher suggested Ammara share this concern with her close friends, building up her courage to share her ideas with four of her close friends. To her delight, they each shared a similar desire to kindle prosperity and protect farmers' livelihood.

With encouragement from her parents, who are both educators, Ammara formed a team with her friends to brainstorm how they could change the reality of farmers. Their goal was simple: they wanted to promote sustainability and support farmers in their village.

Her first step: Conversations with farmers

To delve deeper into the root causes of low produce prices, Ammara's first approach was to return to the farms she visited during her school trip. She aspired to build a connection with farmers through further conversations and shadowing their trade. 

For a whole month, despite facing some rejections and doubts from adults, Ammara and her teammates restlessly visited farms across their community. Walking as far as they could and knocking on as many doors as possible, the team met with dozens of farmers, talked to their families, and learned more about their lived experiences. 

Ammara and her friends mapped the difficulties farmers faced across the region. They discovered sustainability to be a common theme amongst farmers’ daily challenges. For example, products are poorly processed and packaged with most farmers selling their harvests in plastic bags that do not add value. When observing forest honey farmers, they witnessed that they harvest honey by cutting down trees rather than a more sustainable form of harvesting that protects the trees and preserves their income source for the long run. Unable to compete with imported products that were more efficiently harvested and sustainably packaged, there is a “lack of value” in local farmers’ produce.

Iterate and Create a Solution: The power of a brand

Research in hand, Ammara had an idea. “Let's focus on the farmers’ perspective, so how can we improve the value and quality of their harvests? We should reimagine how to package, brand, and market their harvests.” Ammara and her friends decided to build a local and transparent eco-brand for the farmers –– Batuva. "We want to solve the problem not only from our eyes but truly from their eyes,” she shares.  

"We want to solve the problem not only from our eyes, but truly from their eyes,” she shares.  

Surrounded by Instagram posts, YouTube bingers, and TikTok users, the team recognizes the power of branding as a form of storytelling. When reflecting on the decision for naming her venture "Batuva", Ammara smiled. "Batuva means happy farmer. It was originally a word that my teammate's elder grandfather use to describe giant fields.” Now, Ammara repurposed the name to envision "a land producing fruitful harvests that boosts farmers’ quality of life."

All brands start from an initial sketch to a fully developed package, and Batuva was certainly not an exception. “Batuva's original packaging was poorly designed with a bold statement to ‘help the farmers,’” Ammara says. “But after nights of discussions and brainstorming with my team, we decided to use just three words on the packaging: meaningful, helpful, and fulfillment. The three words represent Batuva's goal to become a brand that is helpful for farmers and bring farmers hope.”  

The process of designing and redesigning the packaging of local farmers' produce enabled the team to refine Batuva's key messages. Alternatively, the process also built a new understanding of the role of young people in today’s world, and most importantly, trust between farmers and young people.

Multiply impact: Sell a story, not a product

Today, the Batuva team conducts market-based research in local communities, advocates for sustainable farming practices, and supports farmers in packing and marketing their goods. Together, they prepare farmers to share their unique stories vividly and authentically with potential buyers. “We are not just selling a product we are selling a story,” Ammara declares.  

“We are not just selling a product; we are selling a story."

As of the summer of 2020, Batuva partners with nine farmers in Baturraden, Indonesia. The team also developed seven original products ranging from ginger powder to honey. 

By embracing their power as changemakers, the global pandemic did not slow down Ammara and her team. Instead, they are employing communication as a tool for alleviating the shock farmers feel from the uncertainty of a changing world. 

Their new idea is to create a Farmers Journal, or Jurnal Petani in Bahasa Indonesian, to be distributed through social media. The journal will document every unique story behind each of the team's products and illustrate farmers’ journeys during a global pandemic. Through sharing uplifting stories, they hope to articulate the importance of sustainability, farmers’ rights, and agricultural solutions. 

For Ammara, she embraces her inner power to share her ideas and inspire more young people like her to step up and create change. “Why I started Batuva in the first place is because I want to bring changes in my life,” Ammara gleams. “By sharing stories, I am creating a changemaker community in my city.”  

This story was written by Anastasia Zhang and edited for clarity.