The Jakarta Post
Despite the arrival of the rainy season in many parts of the archipelago, it is expected that millions of people in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) and Central Sulawesi will soon face a food crisis due to a prolonged drought in the two regions.
Deputy NTT Governor Benny Litelnoni said that, despite heavy rainfall in many other parts of the country, all 22 regions in the province had only recorded low rainfall and that this rain had not been enough to recover from last year's prolonged dry season.
Most local farmers are yet to begin planting and the province, according to Benny, is at risk of food shortage.
'We received reports of drought from all 22 regions and have deployed a team to make inventories. After that, we will immediately take appropriate measures,' Benny told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.
The NTT provincial administration extended the drought emergency period in the region from Dec. 31 to Jan. 31, Benny added.
In anticipation of the low rainfall, Benny said that he had also called on farmers, through relevant agencies, to grow short-term crops.
'Amid the current water crisis, short-term crops should be grown as an effort to maintain family food reliance,' Benny said, adding that the prolonged dry season in NTT had been partly triggered by the El NiÃ±o weather phenomenon.
NTT, home to 5.3 million people, requires approximately 300,000 tons of rice per year for local consumption.
As of this week, the NTT branch of State Logistics Agency (Bulog) had 46,000 tons of rice in storage.
The director of non-government group Gerbang Mas, in South Timor Tengah (TTS) regency, Konrad Mariaman, said that a food crisis was imminent following the prolonged dry season.
'The government should immediately take anticipatory measures. A food crisis would have a severe impact on malnutrition,' he noted, adding that rain had yet to fall in a number of southern areas in the regency, such as Kuanfatu, Kolbano, Kualin and South Amanuban districts.
In Central Sulawesi, tens of hectares of rice fields in Parigi Moutong regency are also at risk of being abandoned due to a water shortage in irrigation channels as a result of drought.
Most farmers in Petapa subdistrict, Central Parigi, for instance, stopped cultivating their rice fields after harvest two months ago.
'Usually, both the rainy season and planting season begin in January, but we could not grow due to a lack of water,' said local farmer Moh. Yusran.
Petapa subdistrict chief Yushar said most rice fields in his area were rain-dependent. As a result, during drought, farmers are forced to remain idle.
The subdistrict administration, he added, had been making an effort to overcome the problem by building an irrigation system with village funds and assistance from the regency administration.
Data from the Parigi Moutong regional administration shows that, in the regency, the total rice field area reaches more than 31,000 hectares. With each hectare producing between 7 and 8 tons of dried paddy, Parigi Moutong was once able to produce 224,000 tons of dried paddy, equivalent to 134.500 tons of rice,
Meanwhile, in North Sulawesi, more than 700 residents in Miangas district, Talaud Islands regency, have been struggling with food scarcity because the country's northernmost region has not been served by a pioneer ship since last month.
Miangas district chief Steven Edwin Maarisit acknowledged that food supplies were thinning. 'The food stocks will only last for the next couple of weeks,' said Maarisit.
North Sulawesi Transportation Agency head Joy Oroh said that the situation was caused by a shift in the schedule of pioneer ship operations. 'We are still waiting for the implementation of the newly-issued Presidential Decree [regarding pioneer ships]. We hope that four ships will be in operation by the end of the week,' Joy said.
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