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‘Rice’ Up for Small Farmers – The Sunria Rice Story

‘Rice’ Up for Small Farmers

Rise up to end poverty. Here’s my story…

You may have heard about small farmers being trapped into the cycle of poverty, but I saw it with my own eyes.

Emily Sutanto

I started this social project soon after a family friend told me about the situation and the struggles of organic rice farmers in Indonesia. It was a sad story of how their lives have been dominated by ‘tengkulak’, or “loan sharks” middle men traders, who would loan to farmers at the beginning of planting season at a high interest rate. During the harvest, market price will fall, and the farmers would end up just breaking even, or even owing the tengkulak more money. This leads to farmers being trapped in poverty cycles for decades, and unable to break free.

I was intrigued enough to investigate the situation, and decided to visit the farmers to see the real situation myself. It was a visit that changed my life. I saw poverty and scarcity, and what it was like to live day-to-day. Despite all this, they welcomed me into their homes, extending hospitality richer than any others I have known. As the saying goes, what comes from the heart touches the heart, and it was then I knew that I had to help them live a better life.

Sunria helping farmers

I started to organize and train these rice farmers until they achieved international organic and fair trade certification — it’s a first for Indonesia. It was important that we pave the way to build a more sustainable environment, and protect basic human rights. Together, we revolutionized the rice chain through empowerment, so farmers are no longer undervalued, instead they are producers of high-quality finished products that they can be proud of. The first time we exported, which also happened to be the nation’s first for organic rice, there were tears of joy. I remembered, particularly, that one of the farmers told his son who was having his birthday, that this was the best birthday present a father could ever give to his son—a brighter future for his children and the inspiration that dreams can come true.

Soon after, the news of what I was doing with these rice farmers travelled to others. From different corners of Indonesia, farmers came to me in hope of changing their lives. I started helping more small-scale farmers, and our project began to grow. Sunria means “sun” and “joy” (ria means joy in Indonesian). We created Sunria to bring sunshine and smiles to the lives we changed through our actions. Sunria has just planted the seedlings of change. With nurturance and care, we hope that these seedlings will contribute to a better future for all of us.

Emily Sutanto,

Social Entrepreneur, Founder of Sunria

‘Rice’-ing to the Occasion

Happy Sunria farmers

Sunria works hand-in-hand with small-scale Indonesian rice farmers trapped in decades of poverty cycles, by introducing fair trade practices and empowering them to grow better rice in a more sustainable manner.

Using revolutionary organic SRI System of Rice Intensification method, Sunria farmers are now able to save 50% fresh water, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase biodiversity and soil fertility, and harvest up to 78% more paddy for their livelihoods.

Sunria Rice is changing the lives of humans, animals, and plants for a greener and healthier world!

Sunria Fair Trade Initiatives

Helping kids with Sunria

Sunria’s fair trade certified products guarantee that our producers are well taken care of. We recognized the interdependence between a product and its producers, and believe happier and more fulfilled farmers produce better products.

Sunria doesn’t only give premium prices, but also helps empower farmers so they can do more, so that farmers have the opportunity to earn value-added income. We have helped trained the rice farmers, so they can mill their own harvest, and understand how to carry out the different steps with care, so they can produce high-quality milled rice.

Working closely with the farmers and by adopting the Fair Trade principles, Sunria provides farmers and their communities a better life they truly deserve.

• Producers are paid fair prices
• Ensuring there is no child labor
• Good working conditions for producers
• Democratic decision-making
• Non-discrimination and gender equity
• Respect and preserve the environment
• Community Development


Sunria uses independent certification bodies with internationally accredited expertise that inspects the whole process for their rice production to ensure they meet the stringent organic regulations:


National Organic Program (NOP), USA

EU Organic Certification Logo

EU Organic Certification, European Union

Japanese Agriculture Standard Authority

Japanese Agriculture Standard, Japan

Fair for Life Certification Logo

Fair Trade Certified, IMOswiss AG


Sunria’s hard work and collaborative efforts are appreciated and recognized internationally.

  • Sustainability Award by Embassy of Republic of Indonesia, Brussels, 2015
  • Special Appreciation by Ministry of Agriculture for Excellent Partnership with Farmers, Indonesia, 2015
  • SOFI Silver Award for Best USDA Organic Product, USA, 2012
  • Cornell University USA Certificate of Excellence for Farmers, Consumers, and the Environment, USA, 2011
  • Presidential Award for Best Organic Farmer, Indonesia, 2011
  • Presidential Award for Best Farmer for Food Security, Indonesia, 2010

Hear it from Sunria farmers:

Usin profile pic


Love Conquers All

On my wedding day, I promised my wife, Mimin, that even though I was just a humble rice farmer, we would always have enough food on our table.

Unfortunately soon after our marriage, I had to sell our belongings to survive because the soil became sick, and our harvests decreased.

I decided to abandon chemicals, and embraced a more sustainable organic method, System of Rice Intensification (SRI), which made the soil more fertile. The harvests kept on increasing, and together with Sunria’s fair trade system, I am able to provide much more than enough food on our table.

I turned my wife’s dream into a reality by surprising her with the house she always wanted!

Hajjah profile pic

Hajah Yuyu

Women can have it all!

I believe that food is a nurturing way to share our love.

In the past, I thought I could boost my production by using chemicals, but instead, the soil lost its fertility and decreased my harvest. It made me worried, as it was harder to feed my children.

I decided to put my motherly instinct into good use, and adopt a more sustainable organic method, System of Rice Intensification (SRI), which nourished the soil back to health and increased my productions. Along with Sunria’s fair trade commitment, I was able to have savings, and fulfill my longtime dream of owning a small business.

Now, my little shop, popular for its handmade rice snacks, is a favorite spot for my grandchildren, and has become a place filled with love!

Hendra Profile Pic

Hendra Afandi

From Dark to a Bright Life

Two things that I am well known for is my “kribo” or “big curly hair”, and my passion for cultivating organic rice.

I am an advocate for sustainability, and I set up a mini field school in my village to help teach other farmers how to preserve the health of our soil using organic System of Rice Intensification (SRI).

Respecting Mother Nature, and being part of Sunria’s fair trade system has given me a better livelihood. I am now able to afford higher education for my oldest child, Fitri, who is the first in my family to study in a university.

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