A. Junaidi, The Jakarta Post, Yogyakarta
Partini stands in front of her stall at Kota Gede traditional market, waiting for shoppers to buy her merchandise.
"I've been selling staple foods here for 20 years. Less and less people come here. They prefer to go to supermarkets, which are cleaner," the 56-year-old said.
Kota Gede market is among 200 markets in Yogyakarta that participated on Oct. 25 in the clean and healthy market competition held by the province's traditional market traders association in cooperation with the Danamon Care Foundation.
Association chairwoman GKR Pembayun hopes the competition is a first step toward building traders' awareness of environmental, social and sanitation issues.
"We hope to bring back the good old days by improving the cleanliness of traditional markets," said Pembayun -- who is also the eldest daughter of Yogyakarta Sultan Hamenkubuwono X -- after handing over prizes to the traders who won the competition recently.
During the ceremony, hundreds of traders raised their hands and shouted a slogan in Javanese Pasarku resik, rejekine apik (My market is clean, business is fine).
But behind this catchy slogan, it requires hard work to improve the level of service in traditional markets.
Over the past few years, traditional market traders have struggled to deal with the demands of modern retail procurement. According to a survey conducted by AC Nielsen, the growth rate of modern markets increased by 31.4 percent in 2004, while the growth rate of traditional markets decreased by 8.1 percent.
Though traditional markets are often thought of as dirty, muddy and smelly, they are still favored by many consumers because of the high quality and variety of fresh produce they offer.
Currently, there are 13,450 traditional markets across the country with about 13 million vendors, 80-90 percent of whom are women.
"Upgrading the markets improves the work conditions of the traders, who are largely women. This also improves the position of women in the family," Pembayun said.
Pembayun, who is also the president of the Yogyakarta branch of the Credit Market Bank (BPR), said she would provide non-collateral loans for traders.
"Based on our experience, we have no problems with loans to female customers. The percentage of non-performing loans is almost zero," she said.
Pembayun also cited the success of Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus and his Grameen Bank, which hands out microcredit, giving tiny loans to poor Bangladeshi women who do not qualify for loans from conventional banks.
Many studies on sustainable development show the interrelations between environmental issues, politics and the empowerment of women.
Danamon Care Foundation executive director Risa Bhinekawati said making traditional markets cleaner and healthier would directly advantage the traders.
"The livelihoods of more than 25 percent of the Indonesian population depend on traditional markets," Risa said after the market competition in Yogyakarta recently.
Besides providing the prizes for the competition, the foundation repaired market facilities such as toilets and gates, as well as donating garbage carts and brooms.
Garbage has long flowed anywhere and everywhere in traditional markets, due to problems with the waste collection system. However, experts have suggested 80 percent of the garbage could in fact be processed into organic fertilizer.
In the near future, the foundation will donate a simple garbage processing machine to a traditional market in Bantul, Yogyakarta.
It plans to donate 60 garbage processing machines to traditional markets across the country. Recipients are required to sign an agreement stating they will allocate part of the money they make from selling fertilizer to buy another machine to be donated to a nearby market.
Garbage, earlier a cost for the market management, will be turned into profit. Cleaning up traditional markets is expected to create a snowball effect: attracting more shoppers and improving traders' welfare.