Stirring up for success after the volcano with a light-meal business

By utilizing local commodities, Marjiati br Sembiring Meliala has risen from a disaster to a business woman. She cooks for success to support her family and to contribute to the welfare of her communities.

The disaster and business lost she had been experiencing do not prevent Marjati br Sembiring Meliala, 42 years old, to share her new skills in light-meals production and business to other women in the affected areas of the Mt. Sinabung in Karo District, North Sumatra. She has been actively taught other women groups how to produce vegetable sticks using local natural resources such as purple potatoes, broccolis, corns, carrots, pumpkins and so forth.

“By sharing the skills, I hope that more woman groups can establish a light-meals business utilizing their own local commodity. I am not afraid of the competition as I believe the market opportunities for this business are sufficient for all of us and I hope that they can rebuild their lives after the disaster and support their families,” she said, enthusiastically.

Marjiati and her husband had lost their orange field and fertilizer business in Gunpinto Village due to the eruption of Mt. Sinabung in 2010. They even had to evacuate from their village for a while before being allowed to come back.

“I like cooking and I welcomed the opportunity offered by the ILO to join the light-meals training for 20 days. Together with other 19 participants, we learnt how to make sticks using potatoes and purple potatoes,” she said.

The ILO through its Sinabung Recovery Support Programme” (SIRESUP) provided a series of trainings, combining skills, entrepreneurship, financial education, marketing trainings as well as after training support. Ended in March 2016, this joint ILO-FAO-UNDP Programme was supported by New Zealand’s International Aid and Development Agency.

With the cooking equipment provided by the ILO as the after training support, Marjiati started to experiment various stick flavours utilizing other commodities in her village. She tirelessly tested and tried out different compositions of flour, eggs, vegetables and other ingredients to finally get the right compositions and recipes.

“So far I have around eight flavours using local commodities. Despite selling the vegetables as they are, by transforming them into a product with added values like this, I can earn more,” she explained.

Orders have now poured not only from surrounding areas like Kabanjahe and Brastagi, but also from the capital city of Jakarta due to mouth-to-mouth promotion. Her products named Sinabung have been sold in cafes, hotels, restaurants as well as the handicraft centre in Brastagi, a well-known tourism site in Karo District.

As a result, she now has dedicated herself to her light-meals production business. After finishing her daily household tasks, she would spend six hours or more to produce different flavours of sticks. She is now having three young assistances who work for 4-5 hours per day with a wage of Rp. 50.000 per hour.

She can now earn Rp. 3-4 million per month that she spends to help her husband, Martin Sitepu, supporting their family and sending their only daughter to a high school in Medan, the provincial capital of North Sumatra.

“I never thought I would be a business woman like today. Farming was used to be my whole life and the source of livelihoods that we only knew how to do. I wish that I can further expand my business and be able to buy more modern equipment so that I can fulfil the poured orders and expand my business,” she continued.

Her latest production is sticks from coffee skins. She was disturbed seeing piles of coffee skins thrown away as waste. When browsing the internet, she learnt that coffee skins was used as a light-meals in Europe.


“Sticks from the coffee skins are my new invention and customers love them. It is now the most demanded flavour and I always run out of them. I am happy that I can turn waste into something useful. Now, I am looking for new flavours to explore utilizing local commodities in Karo District that would benefit us all,” she said while continuing making doughs for her sticks (*)


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