The agriculture, forestry, and land-use change have contributed the lion share of Indonesia’s emissions. As we are pursuing net-zero emission prior to 2060, the transformation of Indonesia’s food system is more important than ever. To achieve the required emission reduction, the complex relationship within the food system should create a sustainable way to deliver food security and nutrition in such a way that the economic, social and environmental outlooks are not compromised. RPJMN 2020-2024 also suggested similar needs. It emphasized that the food system transformation should provide healthy and nutritious food to all people, and create food access that is inclusive, equitable, and sustainable, which will lead to a resilient food system.
One key approach for food system transformation considered by the government is food system regionalization. It will focus on each region’s comparative advantage in producing agricultural food products as the key to improve access and quality of food consumption. Therefore, this program will also include planning in the crops land availability, type, agricultural practices, and distribution.
Based on its concept, there are at least four main reasons why regionalization might work. First, since Indonesia is the largest archipelagic country in the world with rich biodiversity and diverse agricultural commodities, each region has its own locally available commodities to accommodate the food demand and supply of its local communities.
Second, with a decentralized government system, the district or city government can implement a localized food regionalization program and modify it accordingly.
Third, regionalization could reduce the burden of high logistics costs in the food supply chain, as Indonesia has higher logistics costs compared to other ASEAN countries. According to the Logistic Performance Index 2018 (World Bank), Indonesia ranked 46th, far lower than Thailand (32nd) and Malaysia (41st), with a cost estimation of roughly 23% of Indonesia’s GDP. A regionalization could eventually provide cheaper price food commodities to the local communities.
Fourth, the village transfer fund program, which is budgeted around IDR 65-68 trillion annually (MoF, 2020), gives a bigger potential for implementation at the lowest administration level with an immediate source of funding. The transfer fund program priority includes infrastructure development such as roads, agricultural access, irrigation, and pond, which will greatly support the success of the regionalization program.
However, regionalization measures may also mean that the current food system issues and challenges will need to be addressed at the regional level. The issues and challenges include the significant contribution of food and land use system to Indonesia’s GHG emissions, health problems such as malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies, agricultural commodities that focus on a small number of high economic return commodities and leads to a low diversification of available local food, and the silo focus of food system planning that neglects socio-economic, health, infrastructure, trade, and other important issues.
Considering the potential and the challenges, food regionalization objectives should improve accessibility, availability, and utilization of food. We could start by using the result of Pola Pangan Harapan (PPH) analysis per region. PPH is a diverse food composition based on the proportion of energy balance according to food groups to meet the needs of energy and nutrients, both in quantity and quality by taking into account aspects of acceptability, availability of food, economy, culture and religion (MoA, 2021). The data shows a high dependency on rice as the source of calorie intake in Indonesia (60.3%), low consumption of fruit and vegetables (4.9%) as well as nuts (2.7%). The regionalization program could encourage the cultivation of more diverse calorie intake food such as jewawut, sorghum, and sago in the eastern part of Indonesia, whereas corn and tubers could be the alternatives for the western part. The crops should also combine with the intake needed to combat malnutrition and integrated into spatial plans (RTRW) to ensure the availability of crops areas.
Furthermore, regionalization could cut the extensive chain of food distribution. There is a need to fill in the intermediary’s business that will shorten the long supply chain through advanced technology, such as start-ups that provide a seamless connection between farmers to the end buyer. The system might need time to mature, but in the long run, it will curtail the supply chain, increase farmers’ margin return, as well as reduce food loss.
The other important things are also to improve the supply and demand for more diversified food based on the region's land suitability. Since Indonesians consume rice massively and eat fewer vegetables and fruits as well as nuts, we could use Ministry of Health’s “Isi Piringku” campaign to encourage people to diversify their plate towards healthy and nutritious food.
To support the regionalization program, we should emphasize food diversification that is locally available. We could tag in with the government’s direct transfer subsidy program such as Program Keluarga Harapan (PKH) to ensure the minimum nutrition adequacy women can access through locally available food in their region. On the supply side, we could use the village transfer fund as the engine to increase farmers’ appetite to diversify the food crops. For example, assistance of technological advancement for farmers that cultivate locally suitable food commodities other than rice.
Lastly, it is important to encourage farmers to implement more sustainable agricultural practices. Some problematic parts are in the input process such as high chemical pesticides usage, overuse of fertilizer and water leakage as the result of broken irrigation. We could start from government program such as Climate Smart Agricultural Practices program that help reducing water usage leakage from irrigation system. Intensification is also important to avoid more deforestation that will increase carbon emissions.
A food system regionalization surely needs a lot of planning and evaluation, but we could start from the success determinants and challenges. We should focus on providing the best combination of policy options in delivering healthy and nutritious food for all by tapping into government’s programs that are already in place. This could shorten the long adjustment time to implement new approach and increase the learning curve efficiency.