Empowering Local Economy Around Border Areas: A Non-Formal Virtual Discussion between Cooperatives in Indonesia and Timor-Leste

The COVID-19 crisis has affected lives and activities in many parts of the world, including on the borders between nations. On the areas between Indonesia and Timor-Leste, the movement of people and goods has been strictly limited to comply with the health safety protocols. With disruptions occurring on the supply chain of food and other basic necessities, an economic slowdown has emerged. As a close neighbour, Indonesia and Timor Leste are working together to tackle the arising economic issue. Under the MoU which was signed in 2010 between the Indonesian Ministry of Cooperatives & Small, Medium Entreprises (Kementerian Koperasi dan Usaha Kecil dan Menegah/KemenkopUKM) and Ministerio Economia e Disenvolvimento (MED) of Timor-Leste, both countries are committed to strengthening bilateral cooperation in the cooperative sector to deal with economic challenges amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

Recognising the importance of addressing this situation, a virtual informal discussion was held on 2 July 2020. Focusing on the topic "Filling-in the Value Chain & Enabling Environment for Strengthening the Economy on the Borderline in the New Normal Period of COVID-19," the discussion was commenced with a speech from Sahat Sitorus, the Ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia for Timor-Leste and attended by various stakeholders from the two countries, especially those engaged in the issue of cooperatives & MSMEs development and the border economy.

PRISMA's Provincial Manager for East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), Patrisius Usfomeny was also invited as one of the speakers. Patris shared some of the program's relevant experiences on working in maize, pigs, and poultry sector located in four districts of NTT near the border with Timor-Leste (Belu, Malaka, Timor Tengah Utara, and Kupang). He stated, "By applying the Market Systems Development (MSD) approach, PRISMA can stimulate the local economy through empowering the agriculture sector. We hope that this approach can improve the performance of potential commodity sectors around the border areas."

Other speakers who participated in this discussion included Luhur Pradjarto, the Advisor to the Minister for Inter-Institutional Relations of KemenkopUKM; Jacinta Dos Santos, Representative of the Ministry of Cooperative of Timor-Leste; Prof. Ignatius, LIPI Biology Research Center; and others. The virtual meeting will be followed up with a formal inter-ministerial meeting between Indonesia and Timor-Leste to discuss further cooperation. In addition, several thematic informal discussions will be organised to explore issues and ideas that will enrich the collaboration.