Lembongan Community Market blossoms during COVID challenges
2020 will certainly go down in history as a year we will never forget. However amongst the fog of challenges and times of crisis it has delivered, there are also the moments of hope and immense admiration for sense of community we have seen. The Lembongan locals have been incredible in how they have shown resilience, ability to re-invent their skill sets and unite as a community. Thanks to the vision of expat and The Coconut Hut owner, Sophie Eves, the Lembongan Community Market was created and has proven to be the perfect platform for so many to showcase their fresh produce, locally made products and unique services.
We recently chatted with Sophie to find out more about how the concept came to fruition.
TLT: As the founder of LCM, what was your motivation to set up the market?
Sophie: One of the primary considerations in establishing the market was to provide an income for the locals who had lost their jobs due to the virtual shutdown of the island. In addition, we are dependent upon fresh fruit and vegetable supplies coming in from Bali and Penida and with restricted travel in place the supplies became very limited. Although we do have some small grocery stores on the island that have fresh produce, if you don’t speak the language it can be a little challenging and I knew there were quite a few tourists that had chosen to sit out the pandemic here. A few resourceful locals had begun a shopping service where their family members in Bali would purchase your requests and put them on the boats to send over, but again if you were a tourist here it was difficult to know who to contact and what products were available.
After being in lockdown for 6 weeks and feeling so isolated from our community, I also felt the need to create something social that also had purpose. In Australia I used to love perusing markets with a latte in hand, and bumping into old friends and new and realised it’s exactly what I could recreate here on the island. I approached my friend Aura from Island Fresh, who supplies produce to my restaurant, and asked if she would be interested in setting up a stall for a market and explained my vision. From there we teamed up and approached other businesses, and friends, and people that were unemployed and asked what they could produce to sell – and our first market was born on 26th July 2020.
TLT: COVID has put a hold on tourism in Lembongan which accounts for 90% of the island’s economy and people’s income. How have you seen the local community take up this challenge and first hand seen their ability to adapt to adversity?
Sophie: The local people are incredibly resourceful, and so when the pandemic hit I wasn’t surprised to see so many turn their hands to many different projects. It was very humbling to see previously well-paid, well employed people, now baking cakes and biscuits, making headbands, scrunchies, handbags – finding ways to keep themselves occupied and earn a little income. Empty blocks of land have been transformed into vegetable gardens, and seaweed farming is back on the island which is incredibly hard work for a small return. The locals have seemed to adapt well to our current situation and smile everyday, grateful to be here on our paradise island.
TLT: The markets have a huge range of stall holders, what can visitors expect to experience when they attend?
Sophie: We have fantastic fresh organic fruit & vegetables, as well as herbs such as fresh rosemary, thyme, and oregano to name a few. We also have homewares, natural bamboo products, coconut bowls & kitchenware, fresh cold press juices, traditional jamu and even bonsai coconut palms. You can have your oracle cards read, purchase doggy treats, and of course you can buy beautiful batik print face masks! All items sold at the market are either local fresh produce, handmade items, or locally sourced products, keeping the money on the island.
TLT: We have been attending the markets and showcasing them on our stories to our Instagram and facebook followers with such positive responses, so many people are asking if the markets are here to stay once tourism returns?
Sophie: The markets are definitely here to stay. It has been the most amazingly positive experience to come out of such a challenging time, for all involved. Locals and expats working alongside each other and supporting one another, is something I love seeing the most. I have made some wonderful new friendships out of the market, and I have been so proud to see the ingenuity of the local people asking the customers what they would like to shop for and if they don’t have it, they find it for the next market. It’s mostly women who have the stalls, and it is a great excuse for us all to catch up over coffee and chat about new products or recipes, or just how our week has been.
TLT: Congratulations on creating an opportunity for the Lembongan community to unite and showcase their products, do you see this as a model that can grow to become a tourist attraction in its own right in the future, effectively giving many people a second income stream aside from their mainstream tourism based work?
Sophie: Absolutely. The market has already expanded, and will continue to do so with more and more people coming up with creative ideas on what to sell. It has created a lifeline for many who lost their jobs as a result of COVID, and when tourism comes back I believe it will remain because it has become such a positive, social, community event. It truly has become something special that we all look forward to, every fortnight.
Here are some faces you may know that are stall holders at Lembongan Community Market