Jakarta – An alliance of civil society organizations has criticized the government of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo for failing to improve the livelihood of farmers in his first year in office.
The Alliance for Prosperous Villages (ADS), which consists of NGOs concerned with rural issues, said Thursday that Jokowi had taken the wrong path to ensuring food security because he had yet to address the protection of food producers.
"The President focuses so much on generating production that he fails to see the most important thing: the producers," said Tejo Wahyu Jatmiko, the national coordinator for ADS. "In fact, small-scale farmers and fishermen are far from being prosperous," he said.
The head of the People's Coalition for Food Sovereignty, a member of the ADS coalition, Said Abdullah, said that Jokowi's administration, in spite of his campaign pledge to protect the rights of farmers, had so far failed to live up to expectations.
He said that Jokowi was too focused on boosting agricultural production by subsidizing fertilizers and seeds or providing more modern farming equipment to farmers, which only dealt with the upstream side of the agriculture sector.
"The government wants to boost production, but has no idea whether the subsidies bring positive effects for the farmers," Said said.
In October last year, President Jokowi set an ambitious target to achieve food sovereignty in three years. He has provided 7,800 hand-held cultivators to farmers in 14 provinces across the country and promised to provide 65,931 more next year.
Said said such an approach failed to deal with downstream issues, such as market prices. "The prices of agricultural products only benefit the traders. The farmers earn very little," he said.
According to him, farmers usually earn Rp 30,000 (US$2.23) per day. "They deserve more. It should be Rp 100,000 per day, so in one month they could earn Rp 3 million," he said.
Said said that traders sometimes gave farmers only Rp 5,000 per kilogram of rice, despite selling it for much higher prices at market. According to the Informasi Pangan Jakarta website, rice prices ranged from Rp 17,000 to Rp 25,000 per kilogram in markets across Jakarta on Thursday.
Said suggested that the government should shift the subsidy to pricing to guarantee a fair income for farmers and reasonable prices for consumers.
Meanwhile, the secretary-general of the People's Coalition for Fisheries Justice Indonesia (KIARA), Abdul Halim, said the Jokowi administration had not done enough to improve the fisheries sector. He complained that the government was not addressing the real problems faced by fishermen.
"The government should protect or monitor fishermen's activities on the sea," Abdul said, adding that fishermen lost their lives at sea at a rate of two people per day. He also criticized the government for failing to stop reclamation in a number of coastal areas across the country.
Abdul said 70 percent of traditional fishing areas had been converted for housing, industrial and commercial purposes. "As a result, fishermen lose their livelihoods and switch occupations to garbage collection, driving ojek [motorcycle taxis] or opening bike washing businesses."
According to Abdul, if the number of fishermen continued to decrease, Indonesia would face a domestic fish shortage, which could lead the maritime country to more and more imports. (foy)