Young Indonesian farmers thrive during the Covid-19 pandemic

Just like the rest of the world, COVID-19 changed everything, also in Indonesia. It changed the way we live, work, and do our businesses. One of the most striking changes is how the food and agricultural sectors, among other sectors, shifted from offline to online sales. With whole villages in lockdown more and more people found their way to the digital grocery shop. This trend has been picked up by the younger Indonesian generation who suddenly see potential in farming.

Beeld: ©Jason Maximillian / Photo Credit : Jason Maximilian

With the success of Sayurbox and TaniHub, many Indonesian youths are flocking the agriculture scene and leave their steady job in big cities to get their boots dirty; an actual good news for Indonesia’s agricultural sector with its continuing crisis of young farmers.

According to the Indonesian Statistics Agency (BPS) Indonesia has lost 5.1 million farmers between 2003 and 2013, with their numbers falling to 26 million. If this trend continues, Indonesia is expected to lose all its farmers by 2063. Fewer young people are pursuing farming as a profession compared with previous generations, with only 23 percent of the country’s 14.2 million people aged between 15 and 24 worked in the agriculture, forestry and fishery sectors in 2019, according to data from the National Labor Force Survey.

Just like dozens others, the 26-year old Lidya Sophiani decided to join a bandwagon of Yuppies who switched their steady job in big cities like Jakarta to agriculture last year. Lidya now works on a five-hectare area of land, overseeing 15 full time workers in Cibodas village, Lembang, West Bandung regency. She plants vegetables and fruits, which include variety of oranges, purple cabbage, horenso, broccoli, romaine lettuce, string beans, and tomatoes.

Covid-19 Pandemic 2
Beeld: ©Photo credit: Jason Maximillian

“Many people living in urban areas with highly demanding jobs are becoming more aware they need food; and not just any food, but healthy food. This trend is on the rise, and I think it will continue to rise,” Lidya said, while adding “We need more young people in the industry. We need those who can think of more sustainable ways to produce food as land shrinks while we have more and more mouths to feed everyday”.

The BPS said that during April to June 2020 when the pandemic hit hardest, the Indonesia’s agricultural sector grew by 2.19 percent on an annual basis (year on year) showing resilience of the agricultural compared with other sectors. Agriculture is the second largest sector in Indonesia and is contributing 15.46 percent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2020.

With new life in agriculture, comes new challenges the young farmer’s generation has to faced. “It’s not easy creating a new access to a market. Today the competition is so tough, so if you want people to remember your products have to have a very strong identity. I think the challenge is more on creating the market for me, since volatility of commodity prices is also a huge impact,” she said.