A simple flower is improving the lives of Bali’s poorest, writes Karin Vogt
Just three years ago, it was one man’s vision to bring the extremely dry, desert-like mountain slopes of Muntigunung in northeast Bali to life by growing wild hibiscus. The idea was to provide the very poor local farmers in the area with an additional opportunity to generate income for their families by growing, harvesting and processing these beautiful flowers into tea for the Bali market.
Little did the founder of the Swiss-based organisation Future for Children at that time know about the tremendous potential of the amazing Rosella, a highly popular and trendy product the wellness island of Bali had been waiting for.
Future for Children was founded in 2004 with the purpose of financing projects to support sustainable development in the destitute region of Muntigunung, Karangasem, home to many begging women and children who regularly come to the streets of Bali’s south for money.
In cooperation with Yayasan Dian Desa in Yogyakarta, the most well-reputed development organisation in Indonesia, the two partner organisations mainly focus on securing water supply for over 5,500 people in 35 villages in this poorest part of the island.
While water is the true foundation for societal development, the locals need employment opportunities and economic prospects in order to improve their living and health conditions and to secure a better future for their children. The organisations’ second strategic priority therefore is livelihood development. Once a village has sustainable water supply, villagers are trained in either handicrafts or in planting, growing and harvesting products that exist in the area or are easy to grow. Yayasan Dian Desa established the Muntigunung Community Social Enterprise under which products harvested and processed by former beggars are being marketed and sold throughout Bali.
Thanks to the tremendous support of the Bali Hotels Association and many of its key members, the awareness of Muntigunung Community Social Enterprise and its products is growing fast, securing jobs. Sales surpluses flow back into the villages and are reinvested to increase production and provide income for even more people.
Hibiscus sabdariffa L., also known as Rosella, Rozelle, Red Rorrel, Oseille Rouge, Karkade and Kazeru, is one of nature’s most bountiful gifts, teeming with nutrition, flavour and beauty. Originally from Africa, this bush-type plant loves extremely dry and hot conditions. Muntigunung is therefore an ideal growing location. There, the flowers contain a high concentration of vitamins and nutrients.
Rosella has been recognised for its numerous health benefits. As a folk remedy it is used for diuretic purposes, for cleansing and purifying the body and skin and for heart ailments. It is believed by some to have an aphrodisiac effect.
Rosella is rich in substances that promote good health, including vitamins A, B1, B2, C, and D. The vitamin C content is 260 – 280 milligrams per 100 grams, which is three times that of a blackberry, and nine times that of a citrus orange.
The Journal of Ethnopharmacology, an academic publication dealing with medicinal-plant use, reported that consumption of Rosella tempers blood pressure. The flavonoids present in the Rosella flower reduce viscosity of blood, improve circulation and increase oxygen content in the blood, researchers say, essentially reducing the heart’s workload. These benefits have been confirmed by research conducted by the Del Sur Biomedical Research Centre in Mexico.
The reasons for Rosella consumption range from traditional to medicinal to cosmetic in countries around the world. Bali, on a broader scale, is discovering the secrets of the tasty Rosella just now. Already 28 of the leading hotels in Bali offer Rosella-based welcome drinks. Some hotels sell Rosella tea and Rosella sweets, nicely packed in locally woven lontar palm-leaf gift baskets, in their boutiques. Others offer mini-bar size portions of the dried and naturally sweetened Rosella flowers in rooms.
In 2010, 60 tons of flowers were harvested in Muntigunung. Almost 100 people were employed fulltime during the two and a half months’ harvesting and processing season. Within the next few weeks, another crop will be ready.
How to Brew, Serve and Enjoy:
Rosella tea is easy and quick to brew (approx 15 flowers for 1 litre of hot water). Drink it chilled and add some mango juice to enjoy a deliciously healthy refreshment. Rosella flowers from Muntigunung undergo a long drying process using solar dryers and therefore maintain the impressive original, coral-like red colour. Rosella tea and other rosella-based products – Rosella sweets and Rosella flowers in syrup – are available at Bali Buddha and selected member hotels of the Bali Hotels Association. Selamat minum.
Karin Vogt is a board member of the Future for Children.