Posted by: Wisnu | November 15, 2017

National Award for Masarang’s Palm Sugar Factory

A few days ago I was given a package with batik cloth in it, sent from Jakarta. I asked Erwin Tanauma, our palm sugar factory director what it was for. “Well it is not 100% sure but this could mean that we won the prestigious Paramakarya award Sir.” I thought, sounds a bit like the Sidhakarya award of last year?…

So what is it about? Last year’s Sidhakarya award was given for the best provincial enterprise and the Masarang and Pertamina (Indonesia’s state oil and gas enterprise that also operates the Lahendong geothermal plant that provides our factory with energy) was chosen as the provincial winner for a mid-sized enterprise. It turns out the provincial ministry of labor and industry recommended us for the national level price!

Paramakarya stands for “extraordinary work”. The award was instituted in 1994 as part of an ILO (International Labor Organization) program. The goal is to support small and medium scale enterprises and create good quality jobs for people. In Indonesia, it is given as the highest national award for enterprises of small and medium scale. Our Masarang factory is in the category medium scale. Some of the criteria to be considered are to have a complete legal status and certification and the enterprise must have been active for many years.

Here is a picture of the jury that comprised provincial government officials and several independent national level jury members from the business and academic and NGO world that visited the factory for a final inspection some three weeks ago in Tomohon. Third from the right is Erwin Tanauma, our director and second from the right Ir. Marthen Polii, the operational manager.

When I asked what made the national jury decide that our Masarang Palm Sugar Factory was considered the best medium enterprise of all of the Republic of Indonesia with its 250 Million people and ten thousands of companies I was told that two aspects stood out for the jury. The first aspect considered the clever design of the factory using geothermal steam to save trees from being burned as fuel wood and increasing income for some of the formerly poorest farmers in the society that were tapping sugar palms. They also mentioned that the integration of traditional methods with efficient industrial processing of the palm juice was unique in Indonesia and that we are the first sugar palm sugar factory in the world like this.

So now we received the official confirmation that on November 16th, 2017 we are invited to the presidential palace in Jakarta to receive the highest national award directly from the Indonesian president Joko Widodo, better known as president Jokowi! Unfortunately I already committed to attending COP23 in Bonn, Germany this week and to lectures in New York and Boston so I will not be able to be in the palace myself but be represented.

I want to take this occasion to highlight a very special person whom I credit with improving many things in our operations and it is Erwin Tanauma. When we started the palm sugar factory the local sugar palm tapper coordinators, 36 of them, advertised the position of factory director more than 10 years ago. And they selected Erwin with a very big majority vote out of three candidates that had applied. Very unusual for Indonesia that farmers elect their own director! When the sugar palm coordinators had internal problems we had to reorganize the factory and Erwin choose another path. Two years ago we had a lot of issues that needed to be dealt with in the factory and I approached, rather begged, Erwin to come back and try to improve the factory and expand the production. I am very pleased that Erwin agreed and I want to thank him here for the great job he is doing, benefitting so many local people in Tomohon and now in many other places in Indonesia where we share our knowhow to improve the wellbeing of local people.

I also must thank a very generous donor that financed the upgrading of our factory and who chooses to remain in the background for now. We call him “Gaia” and when he reads this he knows how much we appreciate what he is doing to give Masarang a chance to bring about change. Thank you Gaia!

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