Jakarta. Nearly 20 million Indonesians, of a total population of 250 million, go to bed hungry every night, according to a regional overview of food insecurity in Asia and the Pacific, issued by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
The total number of hungry people in Southeast Asia has reached 60 million, meaning a third live in Indonesia, according to the overview.
Despite reaching the MDG-1 hunger reduction target and halving number of hungry people to 7.6 percent in the past 25 years — thanks to rapid economic growth and appropriate policies in the food and agricultural sectors — Indonesia is still facing an uphill battle in fighting undernutrition, especially among children under the age of 5.
The most recent data, from 2013, shows the prevalence of stunting in children under 5 in Indonesia is close to 37 percent, the FAO said, explaining that this statistic implies inadequate access to diverse and nutritious foods.
“There is clearly more work to be done. Our priority is to create a ‘Zero Hunger generation,’ and at the same time ensure that Indonesian people, especially children, have sufficient nutrition for an active and healthy life,” said Mark Smulders, the FAO representative in Indonesia.
Anthea Webb, the World Food Program representative in Indonesia, said that Indonesia’s success in halving hunger was a positive sign that the proposed Sustainable Development Goal, to end hunger and achieve food security by 2030, is possible.
“We are proud to work with Indonesians for a day when everyone’s nutrition is improved and agriculture is sustainable.”
Equitable access to food
Efforts have been made in Indonesia to strengthen the enabling environment to improve food security and nutrition, observers have said.
The Food Law (No. 18/2012) institutionalized sufficient food as a human right and defined the state’s obligations to ensure the availability and affordability of sufficient, safe and nutritionally balanced food for all people at all times.
However, challenges remain in the way the Food Law is applied, especially at the local level.
For many years, the Indonesian government’s food policies have aimed at achieving national food self-sufficiency, particularly with regard to rice as well as with other commodities, such as corn and soybeans. This was in response to the Asian economic crisis of 1997-98, and after the food price crisis of 2007-08.
The challenge facing Indonesia today, and Southeast Asia as a whole, is not only to produce more food from an increasingly limited resource base, but also to ensure more equitable access to food. This needs to be done while addressing a variety of threats, such as climate change and erratic weather patterns, and it needs to be done while consciously investing in rural areas.
“Almost half of Indonesia’s population live in rural areas — and agriculture and fishing are the mainstay of their livelihoods. Investing in rural areas will sustainably reduce hunger and boost economic growth,” says Ronald Hartman, country program manager at the International Fund for Agricultural Development.
“IFAD is working with the government to support rural women and men to increase productivity and develop new market opportunities for smallholder farmers and fishers. The recently completed Rural Empowerment and Agricultural Development Project has shown that this approach can work.”
Sustainable development agenda
As Indonesia works toward the economic development of a large population across a vast archipelago, a number of challenges, such as urbanization, natural resource degradation and climate change, require collective efforts for steady progress to be achieved, the FAO says.
“A number of policy commitments and institutional and technological innovations aimed at the eradication of hunger and malnutrition, combined with effective social protection measures, are needed to meet these challenges,” it says.
The organization added that such efforts would need to be done within an overall framework of sustainable economic growth that is more equitably shared and environmentally sustainable.
“FAO calls on all sectors and development partners to accelerate actions through the Zero Hunger Challenge and other relevant food security and nutrition initiatives, focusing on supporting resource-poor family farms and the most vulnerable and disadvantaged groups in society,” country representative Smulders said.
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