"Now that was an honest day's work," exclaimed Atul Keshap, U.S. Senior Official for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), after digging compost holes in the courtyard of the SMP-23 Middle School, an "eco-preneur" school based in Surabaya, Indonesia. Mr. Keshap participated in a hands-on demonstration of how students produce one of their top-selling eco-products -- compost.
Mr. Keshap, in Surabaya for APEC senior official meetings April 15-19, was impressed with the student's "eco-preneur" activities and spoke about the importance for Indonesia's economic future of their vision connecting business and responsible environmental stewardship. Mr. Keshap noted that, as host for the 2013 APEC year, Indonesia was working to advance shared goals for responsible stewardship of natural resources and for lowering barriers to trade in order to help empower the region's citizens economically.
The school welcomed Mr. Keshap and the U.S. delegation with songs, dances, marching, a band, a tour, and of course the opportunity to try banana skin juice, another of the school's most popular products. Several students on the leadership council briefed Mr. Keshap on the school's waste management, organic fertilizer, and food production operations, as well as their marketing efforts including design of their own labels and launch of a Facebook page. The students explained that sale of their products would help fund school trips and other activities, and expressed their desire to be good citizens for the environment. The school, whose motto is, "Little by little we all can make a difference," is part of a growing network of "green" schools in East Java, this one partnering with Tunas Hijau, a non-governmental organization (NGO) led by an alumnus of the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP).
The U.S.-Indonesia relationship has deepened since the signing by Presidents Obama and Yudhoyono in November 2010 of the U.S.-Indonesia Comprehensive Partnership, a framework agreement to enhance consultation and cooperation on key bilateral, regional, and global issues. The partnership underscores the importance of Indonesia to the United States, as a democratic, secular, pluralistic state of almost 250 million people, and a fast growing near one trillion dollar economy. Partnership working groups cover an array of issues, including trade and investment, and climate and the environment, reflecting Indonesia's status as one of the most diverse eco-systems in the world.
Referring to Indonesia's leadership in the region and the world, Mr. Keshap encouraged the students to dream big. In noting Indonesia's focus on connectivity issues during its host year, Mr. Keshap noted that through their eco-preneur activities, the school's Facebook savvy students clearly demonstrated that they are globally aware citizens of the world. "These kids have enlightened views on the environment and it is clear that Indonesia has a bright future ahead of it and will continue to make a positive contribution to APEC, ASEAN, and other organizations where it is a leading member."
About the Author: Andrew Veveiros serves as a Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Surabaya, Indonesia.