Farmers' self reliance the only means to develop sustainable food security

Antara | 8 December 2008

by Eliswan Azly

Jakarta, Dec 7 (ANTARA News) - Blessed with vast and fertile land, self-reliant farmers might be the only means to develop sustainable food security in Indonesia in the current global crisis.

The Indonesian government has given more attention to the self reliance and welfare of farmers in this world largest archipelagic country as a means for a smooth realization of the sustainable food security program.

"Farmers` self reliance is the only key to realize national food security. Without self reliance, it is difficult to achieve the goal," Agriculture Minister Anton Apriantono said on the sidelines of the commemoration of the 28th World Food Day anniversary in Bandung recently.

According to him, a close relation between food security and economic growth should be buttressed by appropriate and multidimensional policies in a bid to face the dynamism of world economy.

In addition, he added, a way to arrive at food security needs a mastery of agricultural sciences and technology in order to make food security have a multidimensional culture.

Food security however should also heed the condition of farmland in the regions, namely whether it is located on a plateau, coastal area, peatland, or swampy area.

Agrostological plants are reflected in a variety of food crops consumed by the people such as, sereals, wheat, banana, peanuts, carbohydrate sources and tubers

"Food security policy should however be based on local wisdom, without which many groups in the society will be highly depending on other countries," Anton said.

Furthermore, the minister reminded that the challenges in developing food security are also apparent in the quality of food and their rising prices.

In the context of food security, deputy for agriculture and fisheries to the coordinating minister for economic affairs Bayu Krisnamurthi earlier said that the government had given a priority to a regulation pertaining to the development of food estates to support Indonesia`s food security.

Known with its fertile land, Indonesia is still facing food scarcity. It is however inseparable from incompetence in utilizing the potentials of the highly fertile land, the shrinking of farmland, increasing urbanization and high dependence of people on imports, most of which were believed to be the cause of food scarcity.

According to him, the economic affairs coordinating ministry was drafting a regulation, 90 percent of which had been completed.

Initially, the food estates would be subject to a government regulation (PP) but the issuance of this government regulation may take too long, so it was eventually decided to provide a legal basis for their establishment under a regulation of the agriculture minister, he said.

Food estates needed to be regulated by the government in view of the great interest of investors in developing them. "So, the regulation will accommodate the interests of investors. A number of businessmen have expressed a wish to invest in this sector," Bayu said.

The food estates which would raise rice, maize, soybean, and cassava, will not only boost the country`s food production but also supply materials for the development of bio-energy, he said.

According to him, investments in food estates would be huge. Some investors would need almost 100,000 hectares of land for an estate, he said, adding that the estates would mainly be developed outside Java Island.

The regulation would cover among other things the maximum areas allotted to food estates and the time in which investors run the estates, he said, adding that the investors interested in developing food estates in Indonesia include those from the Middle East and some domestic companies such as Medco, Artha Graha, and Sinar Mas.

"They have expressed their interest, but no concrete follow up action has been taken," Bayu said.

The regulation on food estates is expected to be issued as soon as possible so that the development of the estates could be started next year.

Unless a strong structural food security breakthrough was made, Indonesia`s national security would be further eroded, in the form of socio-economic vulnerability, followed by socio-political concern, with ensuing security disturbances and a disrupted sense of national unity, Said Nizar, a legal expert at the Hasanudin University in Makassar, said in an emailed message recently.

The strategy of national security provides an overriding approach to a strong statesmanship covering religious, ideological, sociopolitical, socioeconomic, sociocultural, security, defense and ecological aspects that function reliably and in harmony in the interest of economic sovereignty.

Good statesmanship can maintain the balance of elements contributing to national security strategy if it has the supporting culture of national struggle to bolster the soft power premise rooted in the spirit and values of the 1945 struggle for independence, in order to resist soft war threats.

National food security could be a strategic target of the fourth-generation war, or soft war, designed to weaken a nation`s survival potential through systematically inducing dependence on food supply and on trade, creating a virtual trap through external loans, he said.

With such statesmanship of formal leadership and in informal management, it was never too late for Indonesia to face all challenges and threats, particularly those in the area of food security, to achieve prosperity by 2045. "The current global financial crisis is the right time to reorient ourselves toward strengthened nationalism to build statesmanship in the struggle for a resilient domestic food policy," he said.

In the meantime, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono during the national conference and expo on the role of women in household food security recently called on women to assist in the struggle for food self-reliance.

"I hope Indonesian women will continue their efforts to strengthen national food security as it will be very helpful for us to become a self-reliant in the food sector," the head of state said.

The Indonesian government predicts rice production will hit 60 million tons this year, 5.46 percent up from 57 million tons last year.

The government has pledged to increase its farming subsidy, including for seedlings, fertilizers, food credits and irrigation networks, to Rp 33 trillion (US$1.9billion) next year from Rp 29 trillion this year.

The president expected the efforts to plant, in particular trees producing edible fruits, such as breadfruits and coconut and voiced the need for a "back-to-nature" campaign to support food production as well as the need to take advantage of the country`s natural resources to resist a fallout from the U.S.-led global financial crisis.

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