By Arlenea Halyda and Nathaniel Alvino, Content Writer Intern at Project Child Indonesia
Have you ever heard about food security? Based on the definition given by the United Nations’ Committee on World Food Security, it refers to the objective where all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their food preferences and dietary needs for an active and healthy life. In recent decades, food security is facing multiple complex challenges not limited to climate change, growing population, rising food prices, as well as environmental stressors.
Even though global economic portfolios are expected to be positive this year, food security remains a major issue due to economic inequality. Along with the unaffordability of food among vulnerable populations, unhealthy diets – which are often linked with social and cultural aspects – also leads to the higher level of malnutrition, stunting, and wasting. These conditions are experienced particularly by countries across the globe. The danger might become initially apparent to the group of developing countries, including Indonesia – where the majority rely a lot on rice as the only main diet. Thus, food security should be a focus for local policymakers and the citizens in the coming years.
On the other hand, we cannot talk about food security without mentioning the provider of the food itself: Indonesia’s agriculture sector.
As a nation known for its fertile soil, agriculture is vital for the Indonesian economy. Indonesia’s abundance of natural resources is an invaluable country’s asset, given how diverse and rich it is. Moreover, according to the United Nations World Food Program (WFP), around 31% of working Indonesians rely on agriculture as their primary source of income. Such an astounding workforce is the foundation of Indonesia being the third-largest importer of rice and other horticultural products, which also crowned Indonesia as the fastest-growing among middle-income countries, regarding supporting the agricultural sector. With such an incredible force of agriculture, it’s apparent that the condition of Indonesia’s food security lies in the agricultural industry, which caters to the food supply chain. But with the rising threat of COVID-19, how does the agricultural sector fare?
Pretty well, actually. According to a study conducted by LPEM FEB UI, the agriculture market in Indonesia is more resilient to COVID-19, as the negative risk of the virus didn’t affect much of the agricultural labor supply (Ikhsan and Virananda, 2021). This claim is supported by Indonesian Coordinator Minister for Economic Affairs, Airlangga Hartanto’s statement, “Indonesia has maintained stable growth during the pandemic.”
But why is the COVID-19 is still a threat to Indonesia’s food security, if the agricultural sector is hardly negatively affected?
Turns out, COVID-19 has impacted Indonesia’s food security through other means.
The virus bears concerns to the employment and poverty issues, as well as food availability, commodities, and nutrition. According to the LPEM FEB UI study mentioned before, the pandemic also can interfere with the food distribution process due to the lockdown and social distancing that are being implemented to prevent the virus from spreading. It also affects the purchasing power of many households across Indonesia, which can directly disrupt Indonesia’s economy, should the citizen’s purchasing power decline.
Furthermore, a joint study conducted by the UN WFP and the Indonesian government shows that the spread of COVID-19 also presents obstacles in the supply chain of nutritious food supplies that are more prone to perish, due to the limited availability of facilities and logistics. Food insecurity and shortages are also likely to occur, or even worse, among households whose economic and financial conditions are negatively affected by the virus.
These challenges posed by COVID-19 are a threat to the welfare of Indonesia’s food security.
Thus, what can we do, as citizens, to help ease the difficulty our country faces?
Someone once said that every significant change always starts with simple steps. To contribute in maintaining the food security and its interrelated issues, especially in the national scope, there are some simple daily actions as well as reminders that we as citizens could put in practice:
- Do not throw away food
Make sure that you are always being considerate with your eating portion, so that you don’t have left-over foods off your plate. Keep in mind that not all of the people have privileged access to food security. Eating with a mindful portion is not only signifying the concern to those who are less fortunate, but also appreciating the ones who have taken part in the distribution and preparation of food on your table.
- Supporting small farmers
The growing urbanization, city expansion, as well as the shift of paradigm on farming (which makes the occupation to be less desirable) also take part in the growing danger of food insecurity. The wage inequality plays a role in pushing people, especially the younger generation, to dismiss the occupation of farmers – while in fact, farmers play a very crucial role in the food distribution chain. Thus, supporting farmers, especially the small vulnerable ones, by keeping to buy their products at the local markets would indeed take account in keeping on track the continuity of this occupation.
- Getting involved in the education on food security
The challenge on food security also surrounds the limitation of awareness on the issue itself. It might intertwine with the fact that the knowledge, which is distributed through education, to tackle this issue is not still profound to all elements. Thus, education becomes very crucial in this case. It might be initiated simply through the internet or social media platforms to further spread awareness to the multitudes on how easy yet important it is for one to take part in food security.
Hmmm, so, have you contributed actively to sustain and advocate food security? As agriculture becomes a less desirable field in our fast-changing world and the traditional farmers turn older, the role of youth becomes very crucial for the continuation and availability of food supply, along with the innovation in agriculture. The actions are not only focused to maintain food security in Indonesia, but also other regions across the globe. Remember, it is never too late to create a new change starting today!
The State of Indonesian Food Security and Nutrition. 2020. Retrieved from https://www.futuredirections.org.au/publication/the-state-of-indonesian-food-security-and-nutrition/ at 12.00 PM, Saturday, August 8th, 2021
Food Security. 2020. Retrieved from https://www.ifpri.org/topic/food-security#:~:text=Food%20security%2C%20as%20defined%20by,an%20active%20and%20healthy%20life at 11.30 AM, Saturday, August 8th, 2021
Future Directions International. 2021. The State of Indonesian Food Security and Nutrition – Future Directions International. [online] Available at: <https://www.futuredirections.org.au/publication/the-state-of-indonesian-food-security-and-nutrition/> [Accessed 5 August 2021].
Lembaga Penyelidikan Ekonomi dan Masyarakat – Fakultas Ekonomi dan Bisnis – Universitas Indonesia. 2021. How COVID-19 Affects Food Security in Indonesia. [online] Available at: <https://www.lpem.org/id/how-covid-19-affects-food-security-in-indonesia/> [Accessed 5 August 2021].
En.vietnamplus.vn. 2021. Indonesia’s agriculture remains resilient amid COVID-19 pandemic | World | Vietnam+ (VietnamPlus). [online] Available at: <https://en.vietnamplus.vn/indonesias-agriculture-remains-resilient-amid-covid19-pandemic/205730.amp> [Accessed 5 August 2021].
Wfp.org. 2021. COVID-19 Economic and Food Security Implications for Indonesia – 4th Edition December 2020 | World Food Programme. [online] Available at: <https://www.wfp.org/publications/covid-19-economic-and-food-security-implications-indonesia-4th-edition-december-2020> [Accessed 5 August 2021].