Farmers in Central Java are turning their backs on tobacco, and the future is looking nothing but bright…
Indonesia has a rich farming culture, and it is tobacco farming that is intrinsically linked to their national identity, both historically and economically. There’s a small village an hour or so north of Yogyakarta city in Central Java, at the foot of Mount Sumbing called Windusari. In 2013, this area relied on tobacco farming for almost all of its income, but as a result of a growing resistance to tobacco consumption nationally and internationally, the farming community has strived to create a more unique local image. It is a unique area in central Java, being known for its mountains and colder climate in what we know to be a very hot country. From the beginning of 2020, the region will have halved its tobacco crop, relying on a diverse crop of coffee, sweet potato, onion and garlic to act as a safety net for the village in case one particular harvest fails.
The only reason I know this was because of an interview with a farmer from this area. He has requested to remain anonymous but was willing to share his story and his thoughts about the future of farming in Central Java. I will refer to him as Mr Sukarno, although this is not his real name.
Mr Sukarno says that although many people in the local community of Windusari are eager to diversify their farming and explore possibilities other than tobacco, there are many patriotic communities who feel it is their duty to continue harvesting only this crop to enhance the symbol of Indonesian independence. These feelings are still evident despite the fact that many large tobacco companies create a complex system of contracting farmers that leave them with a significantly lower amount of profit than if they were to farm other produce. Mr Sukarno and other farmers in the Windusari area have understood they were limiting their potential economic growth by only farming one crop and have been able to obtain government assistance to provide produce that is ‘in-demand’ in the local area, such as onions and garlic. Mr Sukarno was also one of the few farmers in the area to receive coffee seeds from the local government, planting over 500 trees in an attempt to economically grow the region further in future.
I was intrigued to find that the future of the area is looking as prosperous as ever, as many young people and children of farmers are keen to educated themselves and return to rural life, despite the belief that a large amount of young people are seeking the attractive urban lifestyle. Mr Sukarno has three children, two of which are returning to Windusari by free choice to employ innovative and experimental farming methods, assisting to create a stable income for local families. Young people who have a primary AND secondary education that are eager to return to rural farming communities will open a new door for agriculture in Windusari and Central Java, populating a region that has rarely received a formal education.
In 2012, the Indonesian government introduced a tobacco control regulation. Three years later, Indonesian tobacco consumption grew by almost 800,000 metric tonnes…
Advertising is meant to be attention grabbing. It’s meant to showcase innovative ways in which a message can be portrayed and ultimately influence a viewer to become a consumer. These designs and campaigns however are not always used to sell virtuous or ethically responsible products, as embodied by tobacco advertising in Indonesia. It is obvious that the designs incorporated into campaigns such as Surya Pros’ Never Quit, have been thoroughly thought through, and engaged in a rigorous process of iteration to obtain the final outcome, highlighting the fact that all design is not benevolent. Despite the fact that the designers and creative directors behind these enormous tobacco brands may not be smokers themselves, it is undeniable that they are contributing to the detrimental ramifications of tobacco related health issues as a result of their work. “Cigarette advertising visibly saturates Indonesia” (C. Reynolds, 1999), and acts to sway impressionable minds and “using advertising to encourage younger people to smoke”.
It is this culture of unrestrained design that raises questions of the benevolence of design and to what extent Indonesian designers will push the boundaries of ethical and moral responsibilities. Despite the fact that powerful tobacco companies such as Phillip Morris International (PMI) and British American Tobacco (BAT) have “known for decades that kreteks are highly carcinogenic” (R.D. Hurt, 2012), government policy embodied in the Roadmap of Tobacco Products Industry intended to increase its tobacco production by 12% between 2007-2012, using advertising as a means to achieve this. In 2012, the Indonesian government adopted a “tobacco control regulation that included some limitations on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship”, but rather than subduing tobacco ads, gave rise to a new type of aggressive advertising that was arguably more successful than previously.
Garam advertising pre-2012 (C. Reynolds, 2015).
An advertisement for Gudang Garam: “Kreteknya lelaki” (“The man’s cigarette”)
By banning imagery of cigarettes or tobacco on television, print or digital media, tobacco companies effectively gave tighter briefs to creatives to navigate around these barriers. Rather than depicting personalities enjoying themselves smoking, tobacco companies such as Garam played further into ideas of masculinity and made an explicit link between smoking and being a man; ‘If I don’t smoke, I’m not a real man’ were many teenage boys views about smoking (N. Ng, 2007). Smoking has effectively been designed as the norm in Javanese and Indonesian culture, and non-smoking something different or an anti-culture. While the notion of psychological advertising is the antonym of benevolence, it opens a new direction for design to explore. Designers are presented with the opportunity to somehow design ‘out’ smoking culture in Indonesia while thinking sustainably and responsibly.
Alexandra C, 2019, ‘Design Activism in an Indonesian Village’, Massachusetts Institute of Technology DesignIssues: Volume 35, Number 3.
Astuti. P, Freeman B. (2018). Tobacco company in Indonesia skirts regulation, uses music concerts and social media for marketing, The Conversation, viewed 20 Dec 2019.
There’s a small village an hour or so north of Yogyakarta in Central Java, at the foot of Mount Sumbing called Windusari. It is a unique area in central Java, being known for its mountains and colder climate in what we know to be a very hot country. Windusari is also an area that has relied on tobacco farming for almost 100% of their income in 2013.The local farming communities are struggling to create a more unique image, and want to be known for more than just tobacco farming. ‘The Windusari Project’ is a 20 year endeavour undertaken by the people of the area that aims to reclaim their ‘oleh oleh’, or locally famous food, the honey sweet potato and Indonesian Mountain coffee. In engaging with the diversification of crops, their tobacco crop will have been massively reduced to take up around 10%-20% of the Windusari area by 2040.
The area is only accessible by Angut-minivans like the ones we took to visit Spedagi, and is known for its mountainous crop fields and farms perched precariously upon steep, rolling hills. Farmers in this village have already recognised the wicked problem and influence of tobacco, and by 2020, Windusari is on track to have halved its tobacco crop. The other half of their land is used as a form of ‘farming diversification’, planting onions, garlic, coffee trees and most iconic of all, some of the sweetest potatoes in the world.But the fight against tobacco can’t stop here.
The Windusari Project will begin with a seasonal farmers market at the end of each sweet potato harvest, and will be celebrated 4 times each year as the potatoes take around 3 months between planting and collection. By planting more crops than just potatoes, fulfilling the local demand for onions, garlic and herbs, the local economy will be stimulated with a very low risk of failure, allowing for further education of farmers and their families to contribute to these markets. After a few years, having been planted in 2020, the first coffee crops will be ready for harvest, prompting a more affluent group of visitors to the region outside the time of the potato harvest, also opening the area for a larger export range.
By 2040, the Windusari project will be in full force, exercising a balanced industry of produce by marketing its sweet potato business as a local social enterprise, and its coffee export and industry on a larger, and possibly more luxurious market. All of this is achieved with Windusari’s growth, engagement and education at the center of all thinking, ensuring the benefits of local produce, stay with local people.
Let’s fast-forward into the future. 2040 is now the current year, and the cultural life of Windusari is flourishing because of their agricultural initiatives. Today we’re going to look back at the features of the area that are so iconic today and unpack how the 2040 “Windusari Project” campaign is enhancing the rich and diverse culture of the region and contributing to the areas immense growth.
When Windusari was based on tobacco, the village had been a place of production for outside industries and it left the identity of the community greatly malnourished. However, the shift towards potato and coffee crops saw a change in the culture of Windusari. Farmers could reclaim their crops and the village had founded a deeply-rooted connection to their land through their staple food of honey sweet potatoes. This relationship between the people and their surroundings reflects the philosophy of Indonesian designer – Singgih Susilo Kartono. As he had once said, “if a country is like a tree, villages are the roots… the country is healthy if the villages are healthy.” The social movement started by Singgih has inspired villages to become a fusion of the city’s global connection with the rural setting, resulting in cyral communities.
From its early flourishing way back in 2020, the potato farms (as well as onions, garlic, some rice and herbs) of Windusari have been providing a constant form of income for many of the local families. Two types of sweet potato exist in these farms, the normal sweet potato, used in many local dishes as a savoury supplement to meals, and featuring in meals for families who cannot afford meat. Second, the honey sweet potato which is very rarely found anywhere other than these mountains of Indonesia. The Windusari project began with a long term goal in mind, and thus these potatoes laid the foundation for more affluent and luxurious crops such as coffee trees.
In order for the local community to gain revenue from their harvest, a quarterly marketplace was established to celebrate the end of the harvest. It was just this small market of around 20 stalls that has now evolved into the festival that we know in 2040. The Windusari people knew that it would be a long process of attracting people from far and wide, so focused on attracting local visitors in the early days from Magelang and Yogya for their sweet potatoes, and after the event grew, the were able to better educate themselves on the opportunities of cooking, crafting and experimenting with the foods they could grow locally, and market their unique food at a larger and more geographically diverse audience.
The community centre is used for education. It is a place equipped for training and the sharing of ideas between the people of Windusari. Here, the community share ideas on experimental farming, new recipes, phases of production, and many more. The centre provided a space for the community to collaborate, allowing varied disciplines to inspire one another. What the community had found was that with more and more visitors coming to try their iconic honey sweet potatoes, an area for rest and refreshment was also needed. Therefore, the centre is equipped with facilities like bathrooms, kitchens and open spaces for everyone that gathers here to be comfortable.
In 2019, 20 years ago farmers of Windusari, such as Mr Suwandi, revealed the potential and appeal to coffee beans. This was evident in the government’s provision of 500 coffee bean seeds.
Today, Windusari has utilised coffee as a distinct source of economy appealing to a more luxurious market. Sweet potato has become the heart and source of economy for the local community, whereas coffee has grown to become a prospect for the international market, with visitors providing another source of cashflow for the region. Sweet potato keeps people alive, where coffee makes a life worth living ( WINK AT ALI ). Taking advantages of peoples love for such crop, Windusari provides visitors with the privilege of enhancing their knowledge and experiences as they follow the process of coffee making themselves with their official tour guide, who is a local member of the farming community.
When combining Windisari’s strengths; sustainable agriculture, sweeping mountainous vistas and a rich culture we visioned a harvest festival celebrating the local area. As mentioned before Honey sweet potatoes and coffee are a potential opportunity to create both culture and tourism revenue and these could be celebrated in a festival format. Honey Sweet potatoes are harvested quarterly and coffee beans harvested annually this opens up option of 3 smaller festivals and 1 large festival. Following a traditional Harvest festival model the festival in Windusari is a form of local showcase attracting a small number of international tourists but is targeted to a local just above grassroots level. Our interviews and research indicated the government is pushing for more inter regional tourism and Windusari is ripe for controlled development. Celebrating its 10th year in 2040 it was started a grassroots initiative to attract attention to the area and highlight the need for government stimulus to farming. Over the course of this period the festival cemented the potato and coffee identity which was central to the area.
People have been travelling far and wide, particularly from the far corners of Indonesia to explore the magically mountainous farms, taste the unique and rich mountain coffee beans, and savour the scrumptiously satisfying taste of sweet potatoes, as well as sweet potato brownies, sweet potato ice-cream, sweet potato crackers and even sweet potato noodles.
A component which was also important to consider is the road quality and air pollution caused by the influx of visitors as they travel to and from Windasari. In order to avoid the crowded roads and excessive amounts of cars, Windasari has created a service which allows visitors to park just outside of the town with access to angkut-minivan services provided by the locals themselves to reach the area. By taking this approach, Windasari is able to boost the local economy and reduce emissions, while also ensuring the safe passage of people who may not know the roads as well as locals.
Due to the increase of visitors into Windasari due to events such as the festivals, markets, and tours, you would think that there would be an increase of waste in the surrounding environment. HOWEVER, Windasari has managed to tackle this problem and unbelievably even benefit from the waste of their visitors. This has been achieved by using natural and sustainable resources such as leafy food wrappings, bamboo straws and spoons that can be disposed of in compost stations around the village. These bins would ensure the waste is managed in the best way possible, and would feed back into the local produce production, to be used as compost for coffee and potato farming.
Today, Windusari have worked to further diversify their crops of sweet potato and coffee, and plantations that have increased in demand such as garlic and onion.
The diversification of crops has proven to become a safety net for potential crop failure as a result of external factors such as weather conditions. Once the economy gains a strong balance of coffee and potatoes for the community, Windusari are able to move to experimenting with introducing more crops and funds for experimental diversification.
With more and more visitors coming to Windusari to explore the region, it was clear that there was a need for more infrastructure. However with new construction comes the risk of land degradation. Therefore these additions will be done by revamping existing and unused infrastructructure, with the inclusion of rooftop gardens to plant more delicate crops such as herbs and small fruits. There are plans to expand the community centre to become a Bed and Breakfast. The additions will be of a small greenhouse for those who’d like to view the crops but can’t access the tours, and the beds will be provided for those who will need a place to sleep. This plan for Beans, Bed and Breakfast is to provide a space suitable for visitors to learn about Windusari in a comfortable space, with the focus still on the livelihood and the culture of the community.
Tobacco is now a very minor part of the agricultural area of Windusari. In effect, the communities drive and ambition to gain a more unique identity has designed out the wicked problem of tobacco. In doing this, Windusari has created a social enterprise with its best interests taking center-stage, using all of their local resources to feed back into their communal benefit.
What if I told you that smoking was not a problem in Indonesia?
The effects of tobacco on the population are so subliminal in Indonesia that no further action is required, and a larger issue should be targeted more strongly; vaping.
Sounds crazy, right?
This blog thus far seems like insanity, but is actually representative of Head of Indonesian Food and Drug Control Agency (BPOM), Penny Lukito (Indonesia Expat, 2019). Ms Lukito is not alone in the vocal condemnation of e-cigarettes, and claims that “scientific findings that electronic cigarettes contain chemical compounds that are harmful to [the populations] health” (Indonesia Expat. 2019), while strongly denying comments by an Indonesian vape consumer association that “e-cigarette and vape are safer replacements for tobacco consumption (Xinhua, 2019). That statement would have been easy for her to deny as a government offical, as the tobacco industry brings in US$4 billion yearly, and is the governments largest source of income after oil, gas and timber. Not long after the Indonesian government (and many media outlets) inferred that ‘tobacco is healthier than vaping’, vaping-liquid and some associates products were slammed with a tax up to 57% (Amalia, A. 2019). Many health experts such as Hasbullah Thabrany, adviser for the National Commission on Tobacco Control commented on the new tax saying, “I do believe that the policy sides with the [tobacco] industry” (Agence France-Presse 2018).
If the head of a major government division in Indonesia is negating the effects of tobacco, the strength of their steer is evident, nay blaringly obvious. Thus, the core of the problem can be assumed as being of strong cultural roots, but can be swayed slowly yet strongly by the governments maneuverings. “The evidence suggests increasing pricing is the single most effective way to reduce demand,” says Vaughan Rees, director of the Center for Global Tobacco Control at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (Christensen, J). The reduction of consumption is the goal, and while the cost of the product would be one key in achieving this, more methods must be used to boost its potential. Upon further field research and a more centralised geographical analysis, a different approach may be more successful than governmental intervention.
Teluk Kemang Sungai Lilin in South Sumatra is a small rural village and home to Aldi Rizal, who was a two-year-old chain smoker (Senthilingam, M. 2017). Six years on, Aldi has quit smoking and lives a healthy life with his mother Diana on the farm. What is interesting about Aldis journey to health was that it was not instigated by by authorities or government driven initiatives, but primarily western media. Now when I say the media was the golden savior for the 8-year-old, I don’t mean to say that they put him into rehab and nursed him to health, but rather it was all his mothers doing. Diana explained how she would try to resist giving him money to buy cigarettes, and would ‘steal and hide’ her husbands ‘100kg of tobacco leaf’ under the house so their son could not have any more cigarettes. This simple statement that the mother tried to prevent the action of smoking offers outstanding and invaluable insight into the Indonesian smoking conundrum;
Indonesian people know that smoking is unhealthy, but are not exposed to its unhealthy nature.
Sukamdi. Wattie, M. A. 2013, Tobacco use and exposure among children in migrant and non-migrant households in Java, Indonesia, Asian pac migr J. author manuscript, PMC funders group, Europe, vol. 22(3), pp.447-464.
How design branding can be used as a catalyst not for consumerism, but a social campaign for public health.
The early 1980s HIV rates in NSW hit a crisis point, and thus the Aids Council of NSW (ACON) was created in an attempt to survey, monitor and reduce these rates. Since 2013, Frost* Collective has partnered with ACON and has created five transdisciplinary campaign iterations as a part of the ‘Ending HIV’ initiative. A highly-visible plethora of posters, products, screen-based advertisements, events, billboards and active social media presence has aimed to “change the behaviour of a whole community” (A. Donovan, 2017), using design and branding to strategically achieve the mission of the NSW Government of ending HIV transmissions by 2020.
A crucial element to this campaign and its success is that HIV can be made undetectable with appropriate treatment and thus limit the chances of an AIDS diagnosis, of which there is no known cure. However there is a clear link between diagnosis of the two conditions, “once recognised and treated, the risk of AIDS is lowered significantly” (M. Hurley 2007).
The mission of ACON, was to primarily spread awareness and encourage members of the NSW homosexual community to get tested for the condition and eradicate the chance of HIV being spread without the individuals knowledge. Four venues have been established in the Sydney area where patients can get tested on the spot and free of charge for various STIs and HIV, as well as roaming testing facilities for regional NSW all funded by the NSW Government for “prevention and reduction of transmissions” (R. Green, 2017).
The campaign to eradicate HIV began at the peak of the epidemic in 1987, with over 2,412 new cases, and has been overwhelmingly successful, smashing the rate to only 278 new diagnoses in 2018 while testing almost 160,000 patients (Health, NSW). Frost* uses “simple visual mnemonic” that is a “bold, simple black and white font-based approach… without need for colours, visuals or provocative imagery” (Y. Calmette, 2019 p.279), giving the campaign a sophisticated and contemporary design aesthetic.
Since the beginning of the Frost* and ACON campaign in 2013, similar results are obvious. (Frost, Updated 2019)
The campaign itself uses a complex set of messages to communicate various missions that enable a conversation about sexual health, especially using humour and risque visual graphics to lighten the mood in regards to a somewhat taboo subject.