Ubi: Bali

Adi Kharisma began producing ubi, a purple sweet potato in January 2006. His motivation to produce this nutritious potato took hold when many people in his family started dying from cancer. What started as a personal search to find the key to a healthy long life, has now turned into an amazing vision for a sustainable food source for Indonesia.

Adi is currently the owner of three Sela Boga outlets located at Robinson’s, Tiara Dewata Grosir and on Teuku Umar near Imam Bonjol in Denpasar. Sela Boga meansfood” Michele Cempaka writes.

In the beginning of his ubi project, Adi focused on the purple ubi because it is a natural anti-oxidant. He began producing seedlings for yellow and orange ubi, soon afterward, because he found them to be rich in beta-carotene which is excellent for the eyes.

Many Indonesians are lacking in vitamin A which has resulted in a high occurrence of cataracts.

He discovered that by combining 70 percent of rice with 30 percent ubi greatly enriches people’s diets as well as stretches Indonesia’s rice supply which is quickly dwindling due to over-development and increased population.

By 2030 it is predicted that Indonesia’s already sizable population of 230 million will have grown to 425 million.

With the average rice consumption for a family of six at 180kg per year, if we multiply that by 230 million people that’s a colossal amount of rice.

How then will we meet the demands of 425 million people in just 22 years’ time? It looks like Adi may have a viable solution which is both affordable and nutritious.

It was not an easy road for Adi when he initially came up with the idea to get farmers to grow ubi. At first he was met with much resistance from the local farmers who didn’t want to be bothered with the time consuming process of growing the seedlings which takes a total of 45 months before they are ready to be planted.

Also, Adi had to convince the farmers that they could only use the tuber of the purple ubi twice, because if used more than that it would lose its nutritional value.

Adi couldn’t convince the farmers to grow their own seedlings, so he started growing them himself and gave them the seedlings which later would become ubi. In return, they give him a 1/3 of what they yield as payment. An ubi crop takes very little maintenance and is actually an environmentally friendly crop, as it only needs to be flooded with water once a month. With the issues of water shortages that are occurring in Bali, this crop seems to be a viable alternative well worth considering.

Adi’s products suddenly became popular after 10 local TV stations featured them in early 2007. His restaurant Sela Boga offers a variety of delicious ubi products such as their very popular purple and yellow nasi campur.

His ubi brownies are made from ubi powder and fresh cocoa beans and the ice cream is prepared from either a soy or coconut milk base. The great thing about Adi’s products is that they are all totally natural; there are absolutely no artificial colors or preservatives.

“Ubi is a gluten-free antioxidant with high fiber, beta-carotene, probiotics and a low glycemic index,” said Adi.

The yellow and orange ubi are also rich in Melatonin, which is a natural hormone that aids people in sleeping well.often have stomach problems when they eat yogurt or other dairy products rich in probiotics, but with ubi it’s like a trigger to build the probiotics in our system,” Adi explained.

Adi says his vision is not 100 percent business because he is very concerned with nutrition in Indonesia. In line with this, he has just launched a program in early December which focuses on training local women to grow their own food products which they can then sell to earn money to support their families. This program will eventually spread out over several Balinese regencies.

Currently there are 10 women in Pelaga just north of Badung in Bali who are growing wing beans. After the wing beans are harvested they will be combined with 50 percent soy beans to create soy products for resale.

In January, the program will extend to Canggu with the same model of 10 women working together to create a sustainable food source which is also economically viable. Adi is also working with the East Bali Poverty Project where many farmers from remote and impoverished villages are already growing ubi.

“My vision is to improve the nutrition for the children in Indonesia,” said Adi.