As COVID-19 continues to spread across the globe, it poses a severe threat to food security for millions of people. Agribusinesses and food markets are facing disruptions due to labour shortages created by lockdowns and movement restrictions.
In Indonesia, ensuring food security through sustainable agriculture development continues to be one of the key focuses for President Joko Widodo. According to the UN World Food Programme (WFP), the country still faces critical food security and nutrition problems, with the WFP’s latest report indicating that “while still struggling to address long-standing food security and nutrition challenges, Indonesia is currently facing an unprecedented crisis triggered by COVID-19.”
Due to the pandemic, the Australia-Indonesia Partnership for Promoting Rural Incomes through Support for Markets in Agriculture (PRISMA), has shifted focus to supporting some of the more crucial aspects of food security – agribusinesses and food supply.
Under ‘normal’ circumstances, PRISMA works to increase smallholder farmers’ competitiveness and access to new markets through better inputs, know-how and technology. But more recently, they’ve been working closely with agribusinesses, farmers, and traders to educate them on utilising and implementing digital means of communications, and buying and selling through ICT-based off-taking services to streamline the supply chain process.
For many agribusinesses struggling to maintain contact and sales with farmers and processing corporations, digital marketing has opened up new opportunities to stay in touch and keep their businesses afloat. For instance, PRISMA worked closely with two agribusiness partners, FMC and Agricon, to improve their online marketing on Facebook. Where the organisations had only sporadically used the platform to share information with farmers, they’ve now pivoted as a result of the pandemic to pilot digital marketing strategies with great success.
Farmers, Meet Zoom
One of the most successful digital marketing campaigns implemented is what PRISMA has dubbed a ‘Zoominar’. With a goal of reaching more farmers while still maintaining social distancing under lockdown and COVID-19 restrictions, Agricon conducted four Zoominars with a total of 2,500 farmers in the first two months. The recordings garnered more than 35,000 total views on Facebook and generated nearly AUD 290,000 in sales. These results combined with positive feedback from farmers and retailers led Agricon not only to begin running the Zoominar program on a weekly basis, but to diversify its national-level Zoominar to more specific regions and internalise them as a regular marketing activity.
“We had approached several companies with online marketing concepts to reach farmers during the pandemic,” says Mohasin Kabir, PRISMA Portfolio Advisor. “FMC and Agricon were the first to pick up the idea. Both the companies improvised their online marketing strategies based on initial results and learning. While Agricon commits to continue online marketing, FMC has decided to adopt multiple forms of online marketing in the future.”
Agricon’s Zoominars are focused on educating farmers on topics such as farm management and farming innovation during and after the COVID-19 crisis.
The goal is to increase productivity, and the company has invited prominent agriculturists as speakers for to garner further interest from farmers and retailers. To complement online activities, agronomists in different locations even invite farmers to safely watch the Zoominar live-stream together.
Improving Sales and Food Security
Agricon also offered exclusive discounts to the participants to boost direct spot sales – and it’s worked. Retailers are increasingly placing new orders to Agricon’s distributors and farmers during the Zoominar events. Both FMC and Agricon are committed to continuing these online initiatives. FMC has invested in Zoom and aims to launch a new format of zoominar in the coming months that they hope will be more interactive and appealing to their farmer audience.
Overall, PRISMA’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic – gathering field-level intelligence, pivoting immediate response strategies with partners, and gradually transitioning to recovery strategies – has helped to keep agricultural businesses afloat. PRISMA expects to contribute to the additional production of 64,955 tonnes of maise, 8,000 tonnes of paddy, and 1,086 tonnes of mung bean, benefitting 243,799 farming households with additional net income of AUD 53,942,200 during 2020 and 2021.
These efforts are crucial to maintaining stability and food security for both farmers and vulnerable workers across Indonesia in continued uncertain times.
According to Kabir, government-imposed social restrictions have compromised farmers' access to knowledge and information. There’s a broad concern that the restraints are causing a challenge in maintaining the harvest and protecting it from pests and diseases.
“Our partners have already utilised online marketing to access more than a million farmers with agriculture inputs and information,” he concludes. “We are now supporting more companies to adopt similar approaches and in turn, contribute to the country's overall food security.”
PRISMA is a Palladium-implemented development partnership between the Government of Australia (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) and the Government of Indonesia (Bappenas). The multi-year development partnership aims to accelerate poverty reduction through promoting inclusive economic growth. To learn more about visit: https://aip-prisma.or.id/en. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.