Sebastian Partogi, Jakarta – Institutional problems have hampered sustainable food systems in Indonesia, making it hard for the country to provide adequate nutrition for people across the archipelago, experts have found.
A lack of integration between ministries and related stakeholders has made it difficult to distribute food to remote areas of the country, regardless of the supplies provided by the government through local production and imports.
Drajat Martianto, the team leader of a food systems study conducted by IPB University, the National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said the lack of coordination and collaboration among stakeholders and ministries would pose a challenge to the country in transforming its food systems, a crucial part of the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
"Government policies still focus on improving the production and availability of strategic foods, which can maintain price stability and lower inflation only, but the need for vegetables, fruits and affordable sources of animal protein is still not a priority for them," he said.
One of the hurdles, he said, was that the Food Resilience Agency (BKP) was coordinated by Bappenas only, noting that it would be better to involve the Office of the Coordinating Economic Minister and the State-Owned Enterprises Ministry.
The joint study, which analyzed a number of laws and regulations on food systems at the national and subnational levels, was presented during a Jakpost Up Close webinar on Wednesday.
Titled "Transforming food systems for affordable healthy diets: Global and national strategy", the webinar was held in collaboration with Bappenas, the FAO, the International Fund For Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Program (WFP). It featured speakers from the FAO headquarters in Rome, as well as governmental representatives from Norway and Argentina.
Food systems development is a complex issue involving many elements of the value chain, including the government, producers, farmers and consumers.
"Agrifood systems are the world's largest economic system, involving employment, livelihoods, planetary impact [...]. We actually don't lack solutions, we just don't know how these pieces fit together," said FAO chief economist Maximo Torero.
Indonesia may be able to look to Norway for best practices on food systems.
"In 2019, we included an action plan on the food system in our foreign and development policy. No less than seven governmental ministers are involved in this," said Lise Albrechtsen, the Norwegian government's special representative on climate adaptation and food security.
"We strive to break down the silos between different areas, addressing a wide range of factors, including climate change and infrastructure, since food security affects political stability and community resilience as well," she continued.
Transforming food systems also requires diplomacy and cooperation between nations, as it involves the global political and economic balance of power.
"For instance, in World Trade Organization (WTO) agricultural negotiations, we can see national policies seeking to support their agricultural sectors and how this conflicts with the desire of their trading partners for more open markets within these countries," said Jamie Morrison, FAO food systems and food safety division director.
Argentinian Foreign Affairs Ministry undersecretary for multilateral and bilateral economic negotiations Carola Ramon-Berjano said that once again, developed countries were unwilling to engage in impending food security issues.
"It's time for like-minded countries like Indonesia and Argentina to step up our operations, especially in a dialogic framework, to achieve important [food security] results," she said.
Morrison said the upcoming UN Food Systems Summit in September would stimulate dialogue between nations to identify food systems solutions that worked for them based on their local contexts.
A recent joint report by the FAO, the IFAD, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the WFP and the WHO, showed that more than 1.5 billion people worldwide could not afford a diet that met required levels of nutrients.
Indonesia has been affected by the same issue. The Health Ministry's 2018 Basic Health Survey (Riskesdas) found that 27.7 percent of Indonesian children under the age of 5 were stunted. President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has declared stunting a critical issue in Indonesia.