Sulie Abell, the founder of Sluvi Natural’s journey into skincare started off with her own struggle to cure eczema. Through her research, she handcrafted her own skincare products harvested from her village in Melugu, Simanggang, Sarawak.
But who knew, the lives of farmers composed of single mothers, elderly widowers, unemployed youth in her village were also set to go through a make-over.
Bidding Farewell To The Middlemen
Rural Malaysia is home to at least 7.3 million people. Farming and agricultural activities are their main source of income. Yet, many of them only earn a meagre income on a daily basis, with no chance to save for a rainy day.
Despite working for long hours and enduring blistering heat, their returns are low and uncertain. Often, their earnings are interrupted by middlemen.
We had a few bad experiences with the middleman. For example, we had overdue delayed payments, sometimes we didn’t get paid. – Janet Japar, farmer with Sluvi
Before Sluvi’s venture, half of the Melugu farmers earned less than RM200 per month from their output. Today, they are earning fourfold to sevenfold what they used to be earning.
We could gain around RM 900-RM 1500 per month, compared to the time before joining Sluvi. Sluvi paid the highest price for our natural resources. – Nancy Anol , a single mother farming with Sluvi
The farmers took the risk and decided to partner with Sluvi because they were earning a pittance for all the effort they put into the farm. Since then, they have seen higher margins of income and their lives have improved significantly.
We don’t have restrictions anymore to buy proper medical stuff and child care needs such as diapers and prescribed medicine. – Nancy Anol , a single mother farming with Sluvi
Their children can now dream of bigger things.
Before, I was reluctant to send my kid for tertiary education, even though they have the potential to go further. It was all about money. Now, I encourage them to further their studies, because I’ve started education saving for them. – Nancy Anol , a single mother farming with Sluvi
Work Opportunity For Women In Rural Areas
The women labour force participation in Malaysia is relatively low, at 55.2% compared to other developed countries. In the rural areas, many are saddled with caretaking duties, making it difficult for single mothers, such as Nancy, to juggle their roles.
The main challenge we have had was time management. Previously, I only sold natural resources from my backyard but now I would have to travel to other farms that I own to get a bigger volume of ingredients. – Nancy Anol , a single mother farming with Sluvi
Adapting To New Ways Of Farming
Initially, when Sulie approached the farmer, they were hesitant to promise or partner because of past bad experiences they had with middlemen.
She [referring to Sullie] came down to see us herself. She explained thoroughly how her team was going to help by showing infographic flyers. Sluvi bought all of our resources and paid us straight away, that part gave us the trust to deal with Sluvi. – Jim Rentap, farmer with Sluvi
Slowly but surely, Sulie managed to convince the farmers by her earnest effort in wanting to improve the farmer’s livelihoods. The farmers were empowered with a series of training and workshops to empower them further, ensuring that they are aligned with Sluvi’s values.
Sluvi conducted a series of workshops to teach us about farming techniques, business knowledge. With the knowledge, we are more motivated and confident as agropreneurs. Sluvi made us realise that we could capitalise our natural resources to have better income if we do it in the right way. – Nancy Anol , a single mother farming with Sluvi
At the same time, the farmers were given small grants by Sluvi to procure equipment that could increase their productivity. The social enterprise also assisted them in applying for government grants to push their agriculture venture further.
Involving Digitalisation In The Mix
Despite the reportedly improved household Internet penetration in Malaysia (90.1% in 2019), the digital gap is still very apparent especially for Malaysians living in remote areas. They live a life without the Internet – a life that is unimaginable to many of us in the cities.
To be honest, we didn’t even have an Internet connection and WhatsApp installed on the phone before. We knew the Internet existed, but were never made aware of the implications of having it, especially when running a business.
Thankfully, we were taught about how to use smartphones and related digital information. So when the lockdown was imposed, our work continued as usual with the help of video call and messaging apps. – Nancy Anol , a single mother farming with Sluvi
And at the same time, having access to the worldwide web helped them to gain more farming tips!
The Sense Of Pride
As Sluvi Natural’s business grew, so did the farmer’s sense of pride. Seeing the products online gave them an incredible sense of fulfilment.
We never thought our natural ingredients could be turned into handmade natural skincare products by Sluvi. It is a surreal experience especially when we found out that Sluvi products have flown overseas. – Nancy Anol , a single mother farming with Sluvi
Having experienced the income boost and the positive changes that came with partnering Sluvi, the farmers have the same aspirations for other farmers and have big hopes for Sluvi.
They [referring to Sluvi] could empower more farmers especially from the remote village and also create a better farming eco-system all over Sarawak. “ Nancy Anol
Recognising the leaps and bounds made possible by farming, they envisioned a future where they’ll become full-fledged agropreneurs, with their own agriculture-based business.
Explore our sources:
- J.Tan. (2021). Her natural skincare biz helped boost the income of B40 farmers in her village by 300%. VulcanPost. Link
- H. Adnan. (2019). Revitalising rural Malaysia. Institute Of Strategic And International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia. Link
- Department of Statistics Malaysia. (2021). Statistics on Women Empowerment in Selected Domains, Malaysia, 2021 (Full publication) Link
- Department of Statistics Malaysia. (April 2020). ICT Use and Access By Individuals and Households Survey Report, Malaysia, 2019.Link