In the small low-income community of Toisapu, in the Maluku islands, nutmeg used to be seen as a waste fruit. Local villagers would use the nutmeg seed and its mesh, and would throw away the outer cover or the fruit itself.

That all changed in 2010, when the “Sejuk Women Cooperative” came up with the idea of using the rest of the fruit to produce juice. Initially, the cooperative produced about 40 to 50 bottles per month. Today output reaches about 2,400 bottles a month and rising. As a result, the women involved in the project now enjoy a better income and living conditions. Membership has also increased from 15 to 25 members.

Today the cooperative ships juice all over the country, including to the capital Jakarta, and to places as far as the Netherlands. And the aim is to keep expanding.

“We are now planning to set up a multi-purpose cooperative to start a saving and credit scheme and to sell other products such as daily domestic goods,” said Genova Mercilyn Maliombo, Secretary of the cooperative.

The cooperative also plans to join social security programmes to provide better protection for its members. “It is not only for future protection, but also for future investment of the cooperative, as we can benefit from credit schemes, especially when we are planning to expand our business activities to bread production, accessories and fresh water fishery,” explained Genova.

The establishment of women’s cooperatives is part of the joint ILO-UNIDO Pelagandong Project covering 21 low-income villages of three target districts (Ambon City, West Seram and Central Maluku).

The programme aims to foster peace and poverty reduction by reducing vulnerability, promoting local economic development and livelihood improvements among target beneficiaries who have been affected by human security issues.

These initiatives are in line with the government’s goal and programme to revitalize and improve the cooperative movement. Small and joint business ventures play a key role in helping to boost economic growth which, in turn, will reduce poverty and create more job opportunities.

According to the latest 2012 statistics, there are more than 192,000 cooperatives in Indonesia with a total of 33.6 million members or 14.1 per cent of the total population. Most of these cooperatives (around 70 per cent) are located in rural areas.

“Indonesia is a good example of a country where there has been a revival of cooperatives, contributing to economic growth while promoting social inclusion, poverty reduction and sustainable development,” said Simel Esim, Chief of the ILO Cooperative Branch in Geneva.

Gita Lingga is the Media relations/Information officer at the ILO Jakarta office.

As of the writing of this story the woman cooperative ‘Sejuk’ is evaluating whether the cooperative form will best match their needs and may possibly choose a microfinance model.