menu bar

Creating impact through partnership

Posted: Feb 28, 2020 4 minute read Melissa Yeoh and Alwi Hafiz 0 Likes

In South East Asia, 65.8 million people don’t have food security, and 25.8 percent of children under five years are being stunted because of malnutrition and widening income inequalities.

These were just some of the statistics shared in the opening session of the Asian Venture Philanthropy Network (AVPN) Summit in Bali, and they underscore just how critical the issue of livelihoods is in South East Asia. Clearly more can be done.

GAR’s Alternative Livelihood Programme seeks to help villages improve food security and increase incomes, addressing these very issues, but we need people to work with us, if we are going to be able to scale our efforts.

With the theme “leveraging the power of networks”, the AVPN SEA Summit brought together over 400 participants representing investors, foundations, NGOs, service providers and corporations from across the world. This diverse group share the vision that meaningful partnerships can create deeper social impact by bringing together capital, expertise and access to beneficiaries. GAR co-sponsored the event as an impact partner – an opportunity to learn from others, seek out collaborators and of course, showcase our own experience.­­­

Key statistics presented at the AVPN SEA Summit
Key statistics presented at the AVPN SEA Summit.

The startling statistics discussed underscored the need for urgent action and served as the backdrop for the keynote panel discussion on ‘How to Drive Social Impact in South East Asia’.

How to Drive Social Impact in South East Asia
Speakers on the panel for ‘How to Drive Social Impact in South East Asia’.

Unmet social needs such as livelihoods, human capital development and women’s empowerment mean there is a need to integrate social impact into investment decisions.

Ayala Foundation President, Ruel Maranan, gave the inspiring example of how Ayala Group requires social impact to be one of the required returns in any new investment proposal by its business units. There was consensus on the need to do more and Amalia Widyasanti of Indonesia’s Ministry of National Development stressed that achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is a must, but the huge financing gap has to be filled by non-state actors.

Through his address, Indonesian Minister of Tourism and Creative Industries, Wishnutama Kusubandio, reinforced the importance of positive public-private partnerships and encouraged participants to initiate innovative collaborations through the event.

Gender Lens Investment took centre stage as the Sasakawa Peace Foundation launched the Gender Lens Incubation and Acceleration Toolkit, to help impact investors and supporting organisations develop female entrepreneurs. GAR sees opportunities in investing more in women in agriculture and rural livelihoods and in scaling and tailoring existing programmes to do so. There are opportunities for GAR to use this systematic approach to develop more women-led agricultural enterprises and to scale up existing programmes.

Social Investment and the Future of Sustainable Agriculture
Götz Martin (centre) and fellow speakers on the panel discussion for ‘Social Investment and the Future of Sustainable Agriculture’.

GAR took advantage of the expertise and interest at the summit to share its own experience in planning and implementing livelihood projects with communities in the panel discussion on ‘Social Investment and the Future of Sustainable Agriculture’.

Götz Martin, Head of Sustainability Implementation, GAR, explained how traditional agricultural systems like shifting cultivation are one cause of encroachment into forests. There is therefore a need to recognise that food security and income for communities are critical considerations when planning for forest conservation. Götz shared GAR’s experience in Participatory Conservation Planning (PCP), which involves the participation of communities, local authorities and experts to achieve a shared plan which incorporates conservation into communities’ livelihood needs. In this way, GAR hopes to contribute to the reduction of deforestation and food insecurity – two critical issues highlighted during the opening session of the summit.

GAR now runs livelihoods projects at different stages in 50 villages including organic farming and the cultivation of food and cash crops. When asked how to measure success, Götz shared the anecdote of 20 female employees resigning to focus on their farm plots, because they saw they could earn more doing so.

Some of the projects are now ready to scale up to become commercial enterprises owned by the community. GAR is helping to explore investments and establish networks to facilitate uptake and distribution of farmers’ produce.

Alternative Livelihoods is just one of GAR’s many programmes.  GAR runs over 60 projects covering issues ranging from community empowerment to peat and forest conservation. We believe partners can help us better implement and scale these projects.  If you are interested in learning more, investing or collaborating in any of these projects or programmes, please visit our Partnership Page.


Melissa Yeoh is part of the Partnership Team in GAR, specialising in international stakeholders’ engagement. She has over 12 years of experience in the palm oil industry, working on sustainability matters in both upstream and downstream roles such as trading, compliance, and mergers and acquisitions.
Melissa is a reader with the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Sustainable Leadership and has an MBA for International Business with the University of East London. She is professionally accredited with APINDO Indonesia’s Industrial Relations Certificate Programme.


As the Head of Partnerships in GAR, Alwi Hafiz facilitates mutually beneficial partnerships to better execute and scale GAR’s projects in the areas of conservation, community empowerment and smallholder support. He has previously held leadership roles at BSI Group and Hewlett-Packard.
Active in industry and community, Alwi currently serves as a Board Member of Mercy Relief, the Malay Heritage Foundation and Mendaki Social Enterprise Network. He was appointed Trustee Emeritus by the Nanyang Technological University in April 2018. Alwi also serves on the Community Advisory Panel of Honour Singapore.
fb twitter linkedin mail