Together we can do so much! Building New Partnership in Indonesia
by Anna Snider, ADMI Associate Director
“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” Hellen Keller’s words were never truer than in international research collaborations. International research is not possible without strong partnerships. My recent trip to Indonesia was all about strengthening existing partnerships and building new ones.
I began by returning to East Luwu, on the island of Sulawesi. I first visited this area in July when I collected data for our project Public-Private-Producer-Partnerships for Extension. I had a chance to talk again with the farmer group leaders, extension workers, village facilitators and Cocoa Doctor entrepreneurs that I met on my last trip. We shared lunch and discussed the research results at a Stakeholder Feedback Session. Participants were eager to give their perspective on my conclusions and hear how the research will be used.
On the second leg of the trip, I traveled to the island of Java and met up with Professor Paul McNamara, director of AgReach at the University of Illinois and co-PI of ADMI’s three current projects in Indonesia. In Bogor we met with partners at IPB University to discuss ongoing and upcoming collaborations. There is eagerness on both sides to conduct research, co-author articles, mentor students, and collaborate on policy seminars and conferences.
IPB graduate students and faculty gathered to hear a lecture from Professor McNamara titled Agricultural and Rural Extension in the Economic Transformation: Global Context and Extension Strengthening Examples. This lecture provoked a thoughtful discussion about agricultural extension in the Indonesian context and served to kick off ADMI’s new collaboration with IPB on Empowering Smallholders in Indonesia Through Strengthening Female Led Farmer Organizations. After the lecture, several IPB graduate students were eager to hear about opportunities to participate as research assistants in the project.
Another new ADMI project in Indonesia means new partnerships. We first heard about IPB researchers’ work on oil palm when faculty members from IPB visited the University of Illinois last March. This led to more discussions during my visit in July, and collaboration on a proposal to ADM Cares on gender equity in the oil palm industry. Now we have a fully funded project that will involve researchers and graduate students from both countries. IPB has three field laboratories and strong community connections in North Sumatra and East Kalimantan where we will conduct our research.
Our partnerships continue to grow even as I’m back in the US. Zoom, email and WhatsApp are essential tools to bridge the long distance, but there is no substitute for a handshake, a shared meal, and a conversation.