Starting small, saving big in Boven Digoel

OGENETAN VILLAGE, Iniyandit subdistrict, Boven Digoel regency, Papua – Yulia Bayup, 24, is a happy woman. She is the proud owner of two fishponds, having been provided with IDR 2 million (US$150) in credit as a result of a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) project in Boven Digoel.

UNDP offered training in the making of organic fertilizers and pesticides in Yulia’s village in April of 2014. Yulia had land measuring 50 meters by 40 meters, and began making her own organic fertilizer after the training. She now earns over IDR 1 million (US$75) every month growing morning glory, spinach, pumpkin and turnips.


  • UNDP’s People-Centred Development Programme facilitating credit for farmers in Boven Digoel
  • Micro-credit offered in the area is allowing women to increase their incomes
  • In conjunction with UNDP-sponsored training in the making of organic fertilizers and pesticides, locals in Ogenetan village are improving their crop yields and their savings

At the training, Riswanto, a local economic development field assistant with UNDP, told Yulia that any villager who attended and wanted to start a business would be eligible to receive credit through a credit union. The first phase was the provision of credit of up to IDR 2.6 million (US$194) per person. Yulia joined the credit union and was provided with IDR 2 million (US$149). Along with money she made from selling her crops, she used the credit provided to build fishponds.

“I have so far harvested seven fish and have sold them at IDR 25,000 [US$1.87] apiece. I now manage to save between IDR 100,000 and IDR 500,000 a month through what I make by planting crops and selling fish. I put IDR 125,000 a month into the credit union,” Yulia said.

Ferdinand Leohansen Simatupang, a UNDP national project manager based in Papua, said the idea of credit unions came with the need to boost local economic development, specifically micro-entrepreneurial initiatives, and UNDP works in collaboration with local microfinance institutions that provide credit to members.

He said in an area like Boven Digoel, people did not require large plots of land to work.

“We wanted people to be self-sufficient. We wanted them to put in small amounts of money and then they can be provided with credit to fund their small businesses,” Leohansen said. “We hope that in the future they can benefit from the development of their micro-entrepreneurial abilities.”

He added that the project, part of UNDP’s People-Centred Development Programme, was about changing the way people thought about work in Boven Digoel, which, like many regions across Papua, has poor soil quality and is home to hundreds of shifting cultivators.

“We needed to push them to start thinking about how to begin a business, and we started this through collaboration with a credit union. We were very careful because we did not want people to be stuck with credit and not be able to pay it back,” Leohansen said.

He added that once the fertilizer and pesticide project picked up and people were using the knowledge to grow healthy crops, the challenge was to look beyond just the consumption of their own crops.

Twenty-five-year-old Yosinta Yawon from Sokanggo village in Boven Digoel, also benefited from the fertilizer-making training.

Yosinta said since August of last year she had been growing turnips, tomatoes and chilies. The mother of three said that she had harvested turnips up to 12 times that year. “The first five harvests I ate the turnips and so did my family. The turnips we got from the remainder of the harvests we sold to make ends meet,” she said.

“Now, my focus is growing chilies. So far I have had four harvests. I have made up to IDR 600,000 [US$44.81] per month from the chili alone.” 

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