Tackling food insecurity in rural Indonesia — a global issue

“I didn’t know that vegetables were so important or how to grow them,” said the 25-year-old farmer from Idas, West Kalimantan, Borneo. “Now I’ll do it.”

Along with 50 of her neighbors in this village in the rolling hills of northwestern Borneo, she had the opportunity to attend a training course on vegetable seeds and how to grow tomatoes, cucumbers and peanuts to keep her family from getting sick. received. disease.

Evidence, not intuition

Aidas was one of only four villages out of 160 in the district targeted for government intervention, thanks to data-driven policy making. We use a rigorous, data-driven methodology developed by the United Nations’ World Food Program (United Nations WFP), the district’s food security department issued an advisory to all local governments to focus their efforts on these settlements.

This supported the government’s aim to provide targeted support to prevent stunting, a chronic condition.

“Without research and hard data, even the best attempts to reduce food security vulnerabilities are a dead end,” said Noor Affandi, head of the Food Security Agency in the regional capital, Singaur. Ta. “To properly target interventions and create policies that truly make a difference, we need to work from evidence rather than intuition.”

Much of that evidence is provided through the Food Security and Vulnerability Atlas.joint development United Nations WFP This atlas visualizes key food security data for all 514 cities and districts in Indonesia, a vast country of 280 million people.

The report gives each subdistrict and village one of six priority classes of vulnerability based on indicators such as access to water, area of ​​agricultural land per capita, and access to health facilities. .

The composite index takes these various indicators into account and uses them to automatically identify villages and areas susceptible to food insecurity.

In 2019, Aidas was placed in the Priority 1, or “highly food insecure” category. Since then, the dirt road connecting to the area’s main road has been partially repaired to facilitate villagers’ access to markets and improve their overall economic situation.

Seeds are being distributed to families to help them change their diets along with pepper plants to diversify their income from relying solely on rubber and palm oil. The few families that did not have clean water are now connected to the village water system.

result? IDAS is no longer considered to be critically food insecure.

thank you science

“It’s a big step forward,” Affandi said proudly with a big smile. “It’s not because of us. It’s because of science.”

His approach to data-driven policymaking is seen as a pilot to emulate, especially in poorer regions of the country such as East Nusa Tenggara province and its capital Kupang.

The Executive Order, created in 2022 by the Kupang District Government, the Regional District Development Planning Agency and the United Nations WFP, will require all local governments, including health, agriculture and social assistance personnel, to ensure food security in order to cover food. and the use of vulnerability atlases. and social support. The state has more than 309 subdistricts, of which 37% were found to be vulnerable to food insecurity in 2021.

In East Nusa Tenggara, more than 20 percent of the population lives below the poverty line and nearly 40 percent of children under the age of five are stunted. Stunting prevents children from reaching their full cognitive and physical potential.

Nationally, just over 20 percent of children under the age of five will be stunted by 2022.

“By using the Atlas in our planning, we can narrow our focus accordingly and target food insecurity interventions,” said Maarten Rahakbau, Director of the Kupang District Regional Development Planning Office. .

to-do list

Progress is visible, but there is still much work to be done.

“WFP is supporting the National Food Agency to work with other cities and districts to mandate the use of the Food Security and Vulnerability Atlas,” said Jennifer Rosenzweig, WFP Acting Country Director in Indonesia. . Kupang District will systematically deliver aid to those most vulnerable to food insecurity across the country. ”

For Cornelia Icha, who only eats what she and her relatives can grow, vegetables are a big change in her diet.

She and her husband’s basic income comes from selling milky latex extracted from about 200 rubber trees. This earns her about 60,000 Indonesian rupiah (about $4) per day, supplemented by income from odd jobs and the occasional sale of peanuts.

“We are not poor,” she said. “But since I started growing vegetables, I’ve never been able to eat as many vegetables as I do now.”

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