Obsessed with cows as a little girl, Ara Kusuma asked for a cow of her own when she was 10. She and her parents set off to Central Java to visit a few farms and learn the best way to raise and care for farm animals. The first farm they went to had 1,500 cows living in clean, healthy conditions.
The farmers used integrated farming to repurpose waste for fertilizer – it was a dream! But at the next stop, they found a different reality: villages overrun with cow dung, flies everywhere, and unhappy animals and humans.
Ara wanted to know, “What if all animals could live on farms like that first one?” With support from her parents, who took her seriously and helped her lay out a plan, Ara started Project Moo: For the Welfare of All. The goal? To surface and share innovations among village farmers to increase dairy production in a more sustainable way.
In the four years that followed, Project Moo brought together 150 farmers, many of whom became leaders in the community, testing the new approaches and spreading what worked for the benefit of all. The community saw more income from new dairy products and sustainable fertilizer. It also became cleaner, new opportunities for ecotourism emerged, and a spirit of collective problem-solving took hold.
In 2008, at age 11, Ara was recognized as an Ashoka Youth Venturer and got connected to other young people who were setting their ideas for change in motion, too. She went on study marketing and management in Singapore. Now 21 and back in Indonesia, she has started a second venture, a travel-learning project URTravelearner (www.urtravelearner.com) to help others envision changemaker lives by seeing social entrepreneurs in action.