The Plant Mordant Project works with communities supplying Symplocos leaves in the Indonesian province of Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT). A quarter of the rural population of NTT lives below the poverty line, and 10% of women are weavers. The Bebali Foundation has been working with NTT’s weaving communities since 2003 and has established or supports thirty women’s weavers’ cooperatives with 700 members across the province. As weaving traditions remain in areas where there are no better economic options, these groups tend to be in the poorest or most remote areas.
The remote forest communities where Symplocos grows are equally underpowered economically. Their main cash crops are candlenut (Aleurites moluccana) and coffee. Candelnut sells for USD 2.00 per kilogram, or the equivalent of USD 2.50 per day for the work of collecting the fallen nuts, cracking the nuts, and separating the nuts from the shells. Coffee sells for USD 3.15 per kilogram, but the income per day is much lower than for candlenut once the labor of planting, tending, harvesting, cleaning, and drying are accounted for.