A humble vegetable has helped transform a community and given hope to young Indonesians with disabilities.

Alifi was a young man with physical disabilities who was unable to support himself, only occasionally spending his evenings working as a therapist in his neighbourhood, with no idea of what to do next.

His future was uncertain.

That was until he came across an initiative teaching food manufacturing skills – run by ExxonMobil and the nongovernment organisation SIKAS – that opened the door to a new future not only for him, but for his community.

The unique program taught Alifi to create a healthy, gluten-free flour using cassava modified through an enzymatic chemical process.

Cassava helped transform entire communities and change the future for young people with disabilities.

The vocational workshops focused on providing these skills to between 50 and 60 Indonesians with disabilities a year, as well as providing access to markets where they could sell their goods.

Following his training, Alifi was empowered to start his own business, with all of the cassava sourced from local farmers, supporting the region’s agricultural industry.

However, he said the most important aspect was using the skills he learned from the program to help other young Indonesians with disabilities.

Alifi himself now provides job opportunities to between 40 and 50 young Indonesians with physical disabilities to prepare cassava to make it into flour.

“While most of them have physical disabilities, that does not stop them being productive,” he said.

Disabled indonesian

The program is giving Indonesians with disabilities ongoing opportunities for employment.

These workers help process the cassava. They first wash it then need to soak the cassava for 12 to 15 hours before drying it and then peeling and slicing the vegetable into smaller pieces, which are then evaporated again, to make what is known as ‘modified cassava flour’ or ‘mocaf’ chips. These chips are then sold to factories in Sidoarjo, East Java and Pati, Central Java that pulverise it into flour.

Fifteen tonnes of raw cassava per week is used to make the 1.5 tonnes of mocaf chips produced every month.

Alifi is also giving back by hiring a full-time staff of about 10 people from his local neighbourhood.

Through the training of just Alifi, there has been enormous flow-on effects for his community and Indonesians with disabilities in the region, beyond just buying locally.

Following the success of his business over the last year, Alifi now plans to expand his operations by adding new food products and cassava derivatives, creating even more jobs.

Alifi’s business is expanding and has helped create new jobs across his community.

In the wake of achievements such as Alifi’s, ExxonMobil plans to continue supporting the program, which is one of many community-focused programs in the region aimed at improving underprivileged people’s economic inclusion.

“One of the priorities is economic development training for women and disabled communities which will be conducted in Dander Sub-District, Bojonegoro and Soko Sub-District in Tuban, East Java this year,” ExxonMobil  Cepu external affairs manager, Ichwan Arifin, said.

They added, “it is not just developing the skills of people with disabilities in entrepreneurship, but also market access opportunity and increasing community economic growth. We strongly support the values of inclusivity and productivity.”

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