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Jakarta Post

A better, fairer, more sustainable food system

  • Rina Agustina, Felia Salim and Sri Adiningsih


Jakarta   /   Fri, November 22, 2019   /   03:51 pm
A better, fairer, more sustainable food system To ensure the country’s long-term food security, as well as its agricultural growth, will require the wise stewardship of Indonesia’s natural resources and biodiversity: its forests, woodlands, grasslands, wetlands, and rivers all have a critical role to play. (JP/Zul Trio Anggono)

Over the past two years, a number of Indonesian organizations, academics and individuals have worked together to try to imagine a better food and land use system for our country.

We have come together as the Indonesian platform of a global initiative, the Food and Land Use Coalition, which has similar country platforms at work in the United Kingdom, the Nordic countries, Australia, Colombia, Ethiopia, China and India.

During this period, we have worked with one another and with colleagues in other countries to conceive what a healthier, more nutritious, more sustainable food and land use system might look like, both for Indonesia and for the world.

In Indonesia, we have discussed the issues with over 100 experts — ministers, civil servants, local governments, United Nations agencies, NGOs, civil servants, private sector representatives, academics and farmers — in a series of workshops.

Our reflections have been brought together in the Food and Land Use Coalition’s global report, Growing Better, which was launched in Jakarta on Tuesday, Nov. 19, as well as in a draft,“Action Agenda for a New Food and Land Use Economy for Indonesia”, which has a number of specific recommendations pertaining to our country.

Over the coming months, we will be sharing some of these ideas with Indonesia’s new ministers, as well as with chief executive officers, governors and leaders from all walks of Indonesian life committed to delivering a better, fairer, more socially and environmentally sustainable food and land use system.

The following four reflections are among the most important lessons we have learned from our work to date.

• There is a powerful economic case for a better food and land use system in Indonesia. The economic impact of undernutrition coupled with overweight and obesity — the so-called double burden — on our country is significant. President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has rightly said that putting an end to stunting and all forms of malnutrition, in particular in children, is an abiding priority for the nation.

As a result of this political will, over the past decade, the Indonesian government has made significant progress in reducing stunting.

The importance of stunting is due to its long-term consequences on health, especially the risk of obesity and non-communicable diseases and other human development outcomes, wherein food and dietary quality are among the key drivers.

Imagine the positive impacts that would accrue to Indonesian society if every Indonesian had access to a healthy diet and a variety of nutritious foods.

The quest for an end to all forms of malnutrition in Indonesia will require a major effort by the Indonesian government and the whole of Indonesian society.

• The same pattern of the high burden of malnutrition and non-communicable diseases is also evident in the growing problem of pressures from the agricultural system on the environment. We have come to a situation in which the food system is one of the largest forces of change on planet Earth.

Food is the single strongest contributor to optimizing human health and escalating environmental sustainability on Earth. Therefore, we need to take an “earth system approach” to defining a sustainable food system in Indonesia.

To ensure the country’s long-term food security, as well as its agricultural growth, will require the wise stewardship of Indonesia’s natural resources and biodiversity: its forests, woodlands, grasslands, wetlands, and rivers all have a critical role to play.

Ecosystem protection and restoration do not impede economic growth and improvements in well-being, but are rather an essential prerequisite for this growth. At the same time, we need to support Indonesia’s farmers — including the 17.5 million Indonesians who depend on the palm oil sector — to gain better incomes and pursue more sustainable practices.

• In recent years, Indonesia has pursued one of the most celebrated global reforms of its gasoline subsidy to the benefit of the country’s public finances as well as its lower-income citizens.

In our view, similar reforms to its fiscal incentives and subsidies to reward better agriculture and nutrition outcomes would be a major contribution to the establishment of a better food and land use system.

Imagine an Indonesia which provided public support and a level playing field for the nutrient-dense, healthy food our population so urgently needs.

• Finally, we believe a systemic change in Indonesia’s food and land use system will require a multi-sectoral approach that includes the financial sector.

We observe the changing landscape of the financial sector: Indonesia's Financial Services Authority (OJK) introduction of sustainable finance is in tune with a growing number of banks incorporating environmental, social and governance considerations, including human development and risk mitigation, under an earth systems approach.

We also observe impact investors with an interest in food and land use growing exponentially, with public and private funding sources — as well as blended finance — serving as a catalyst to attract commercial funding sources to participate in this sector and together to move forward systems change.

These four ideas are among many we set out in the work of the Food and Land Use Coalition, Indonesia, which aims to support other intersectoral initiatives on preventive health, food and land use.

These include the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement for the first 1,000 days of life, the People's Healthy Lifestyle Movement or Germas, and joint action with health care providers to increase public awareness and to complement the rollout of the national universal health coverage.

We invite all Indonesians with an interest in these issues to review our Action Agenda — available on the Indonesia page of the Food and Land Use Coalition website — and to contribute their best ideas to one of the most pressing issues for our country in the years ahead.

Let us work together for a better, fairer, more sustainable food system for Indonesia.


Rina Agustina is chair of Human Nutrition Research Center IMERI and head of the doctorate study program in nutrition, Department of Nutrition, School of Medicine, University of Indonesia (UI) and member of the EAT-Lancet Commission; Felia Salim is member of the Board of Directors of Indonesian Eximbank and boards of &Green FUND and GAIN, and chair of the Executive Board of Kemitraan; Sri Adiningsih is professor of economics at Gadjah Mada University (UGM) and former chair of the Presidential Advisory Council. The three are ambassadors of the Food and Land Use Coalition, Indonesia.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.