One man making a big difference: Adi Kharisma
January 2, 2008
by Michele Cempaka/Bali (edited)
Adi Kharisma began producing ubi, a purple sweet potato in January 2006. His motivation to produce this nutritious potato took hold when many people in his family started dying from cancer. What started as a personal search to find the key to a healthy, long life, has now turned into an amazing vision for a sustainable food source for Indonesia.
Adi is currently the owner of three Sela Boga outlets. Sela Boga means “food.”
In the beginning of his ubi project, Adi focused on the purple ubi because it is a natural anti-oxidant. He then turned to producing seedlings for yellow and orange ubi, rich in beta-carotene and good for the eyes. Many Indonesians are deficient in vitamin A resulting in a high occurrence of cataracts.
Adi also discovered that combining a dish of 70 percent rice with 30 percent ubi greatly enriched people’s diet as well as stretched Indonesia’s rice supply. Rice is in short supply in Indonesia mostly due to over-development and increased population.
It was not easy for Adi when he initially came up with the idea to get farmers to grow ubi. At first he was met with much resistance from the local farmers who didn’t want to be bothered with the time consuming process of growing the seedlings. Ubi seedlings take 45 months before they are ready to be planted. Adi also had to convince the farmers that they could only use the tuber of the purple ubi twice, because if used more than that it would lose its nutritional value.
Adi couldn’t convince the farmers to grow their own seedlings, so he started growing them himself. He then gave away the seedlings to the farmers. In return, they gave Adi 1/3 of their yield as payment.
A ubi crop takes very little maintenance and is actually environmentally friendly. It only needs to be flooded with water once a month. With the issues of water shortages that are occurring in Bali, ubi is a viable alternative to other more labor intensive crops.
Adi’s ubi products became popular after 10 local TV stations featured them early last year. His ubi brownies are made from ubi powder and fresh cocoa beans and the ice cream is prepared from either a soy or coconut milk base. Adi’s products are all totally natural; there are absolutely no artificial colors or preservatives.
“Ubi is a gluten-free antioxidant with high fiber, beta-carotene, probiotics and a low glycemic index,” says Adi. “The yellow and orange ubi are also rich in melatonin, a natural hormone that helps people sleep better. Also, some people have stomach problems when they eat yogurt or other dairy products rich in probiotics, but with ubi it’s like a trigger to build the probiotics in our system,” Adi explained.
Adi says his vision is not 100 percent business; he is also very concerned with nutrition in Indonesia. In line with this, he launched a program in December that focuses on training local women to grow their own food products. They sell what they grow and earn money to support their families.
There are currently 10 women in Bali growing wing beans. After the wing beans are harvested they will be combined with 50 percent soy beans to create soy products for resale. In January, the program will be extended using the same model of 10 women working together to create a sustainable, economically viable food source.
Adi is also working with the East Bali Poverty Project to help farmers from remote and impoverished villages grow ubi.
“My vision is to improve the nutrition for the children in Indonesia,” said Adi.