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Meet Magdalena Tukan, East Flores entrepreneur who sells sorghum to fund children's literacy program

Hendrikus Sura

The Jakarta Post

East Flores, East Nusa Tenggara  /  Sun, June 9, 2019  /  03:11 pm
Meet Magdalena Tukan, East Flores entrepreneur who sells sorghum to fund children's literacy program

Cookies made of sorghum. (JP/Hendrikus Sura)

For Magdalena Eda Tukan, who graduated from Trisakti University’s School of Engineering in Jakarta four years ago, returning to her home town in East Flores, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) after trying her luck in the nation’s capital city has been a life-long dream. 

Unlike many university graduates her age who aspire to succeed in a bustling metropolis like Jakarta, Magdalena chose to use her experience and knowledge to improve living conditions in her remote home town.

“I believe there’s more important work to be done here. I hope my work will have a positive impact on Flores,” she told The Jakarta Post. 

The work in question is improving children’s education on the island where she was born. 

As soon as she arrived in East Flores, she joined the local Simpasio Institut, which focuses on archiving historically significant documents in the region. The Simpasio Institut was founded 30 years ago by her father, Bernad Tukan, from whom she inherited her concern for education. 

Known for his penchant for collecting historical and cultural documents, Bernad formed the Simpasio Institut as an archival foundation that aids the island of Flores to plan and organize various educational programs for the public. 

Read also: Helena Nanung, a female sorghum farming pioneer from E. Nusa Tenggara

One of the Simpasio Institut’s well-known contributions to the public is the Children’s Literacy Movement. Adamant about realizing her dream to improve her home town, Magdalena decided to continue the movement after her father retired because of deteriorating health. 

She enlisted the help of her friends to set up a space at her house, which doubled as the office of the Simpasio Institut, where children would be able to express their creativity through literature. 

Children listen to teachers at the Simpasio Institut.Children listen to teachers at the Simpasio Institut. (JP/Hendrikus Sura)

Through her work, Magdalena said she was thrilled to find that local residents were enthusiastic about literature. Because of its increasing popularity, the movement would later expand to other parts of East Flores, improving literacy among indigenous children in the process. 

When her non-profit project met a financial stumbling block, Magdalena came up with a plan to produce and sell food based on sorghum grain, which is a staple food in Flores. 

She named her culinary side project Mukosarbo Kitchen and it offers various sorghum grain-based snacks including cakes, cookies and other munchies. 

Magdalena chose sorghum grain as the main ingredient because she thought it provided more nutrients than the average factory-produced flour. In addition, she said cakes and cookies made from sorghum grain would last much longer than those made from regular flour. 

Madgalena Eda TukanMadgalena Eda Tukan (JP/Hendrikus Sura)

Mukosarbo Kitchen's products eventually became popular outside of Flores, as Magdalena was often overwhelmed by orders from the neighboring Kupang and even Yogyakarta in Central Java.

Among the most demanded products from Mukosarbo Kitchen are sorghum porridge, pisang kribo (frizzy banana) and cake kelor (moringa). 

The success of Mukosarbo Kitchen caught the attention of East Flores Regent Antonius Hajon, who commended Magdalena for promoting sorghum grain as a nutritious food source.

“I will stop at nothing to continue my father’s mission to improve children’s education on Flores and in other nearby regions,” Magdalena said. (rfa/kes)