I saw the tsunami impact on my city of Meulaboh (Aceh).

The city was hit by a tsunami in 2004. 80 per cent of the infrastructure was destroyed. I saw lots of people who lost their family and their loved ones.

I am working as a lecturer at the Teuku Umar University in Meulaboh, West Aceh, Indonesia.

Along with my students and my colleagues, we established the Moringa project.

We help youth and students to become entrepreneurs through the Moringa project.

With this project we have already helped one hundred students and young people to become millennial farmers and to create their tea product from the Moringa tree.

Southern Cross University has expanded my understanding on how I can work together with stakeholders, it changed my mind to be more positive and I hope the Moringa project will benefit the society and help youth and students to establish their start-up business for the future.

Aceh is the westernmost province of Indonesia. Located in the north of Sumatra island, it is home to about 500,000 people, 80 per cent of them belonging to the indigenous Acehnese ethnic group.

The Aceh Province is also known because it was the closest point of land to the epicentre of the devastating tsunami in 2004. That catastrophe was a turning point for Said Achmad Kabiru Rafiie, who has been awarded the International Alumnus of the Year 2022 thanks to his Moringa project.

“Meulaboh, my hometown, was badly affected by the tsunami in 2004. I was an undergraduate student when the disaster happened. I know and saw everything because I was just there. That’s the main reason why I decided to come back to the place where I was born, to try and help my people out,” said Said.

Said is currently the Head of the Entrepreneurship Centre at Teuku Umar University. Along with his students and a colleague, he launched the Moringa project in 2021. Through this initiative, young people are turning into entrepreneurs using moringa, a local tree with multiple health benefits – it is often called ‘the miracle tree.’

“It was a team idea. The fact that we needed to do something to help the community was a recurrent topic at the Entrepreneurship Centre. We came up with the moringa idea. The first step was to figure out how to grow the moringa. Then we planted the trees and after that we came up with the moringa tea idea. In Indonesia we use moringa as a vegetable, for cooking, but not for tea, so the idea was quite innovative.”

So far, the Moringa project has helped about a hundred students and community members by successfully securing and cultivating a hectare of moringa. Due to its success, Said and his team are already looking to expand their efforts by securing ten hectares of land and building lasting partnerships with the private sector.

“Once the product was established, we looked for someone to lead the business part of the project and we engaged with a business association. At the moment, we are in the commercialising phase.”

Said’s relationship with Southern Cross University started back in 2013 when he studied an MBA at the Gold Coast campus.

“During my time in Australia, I gained valuable insights not only from the academic and knowledge perspective but also in terms of friendship, connections. Southern Cross has provided me with a very good experience and learning when it comes to making an impact in the community.”

Many things happened since 2013. After spending some time in Jakarta, Said returned to his origins, joined the local university and launched the Moringa project.

The project is the result of those learnings, and although there is still much to do, the roots of the miracle tree are already well attached to the ground.

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