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Govt needs long-term policies to face El Nino, expert says

Tempo - July 25, 2023

Riani Sanusi Putri, Jakarta – Researcher at Center for Indonesian Policy Studies (CIPS) Mukhammad Faisol Amir said that the measures taken by the Indonesian government to combat the effect of El Nino needed to be appreciated. However, so far the measure was always reactive, and a long-term policy is necessary.

Faisol said that strengthening the food stock through government food and rice reserves is an adequate solution each year. However, "The solution does not target the root cause of Indonesia's food challenges when facing El Nino," he said in a statement received by Tempo, on Monday, July 24, 2023.

According to him, several fundamental agricultural problems in Indonesia are caused by the unpreparedness of irrigation infrastructure. Additionally, even though the majority of farmers understand the El Nino cycle and anticipate the effect by adapting the planting times, the solution only works to prevent the drought resulting from El Nino.

CIPS believed that farmers still require assistance from the government, such as farming technology and drought-resistant seeds. Meanwhile, the government needs to focus on the irrigation infrastructure since many farmers don't have proper irrigation systems and instead depend on rainwater. Utilizing a proper irrigation system could prevent a massive harvest failure. This measure is taken by other Southeast Asia countries such as Cambodia and Thailand to prevent the decline of agriculture production due to El Nino. World Bank also recommended this measure as a solution to face El Nino.

Furthermore, drought-resistant seeds ought to be accessible to all farmers, considering how El Nino-induced drought occurred every 4-7 years. "The safety net for farmers needs to be broadened," he said.

To minimalized the risk of loss resulting from a harvest failure, Faisol said the government needs to optimize the warehouse receipt system (WRS). WRS is one of the systems allowing farmers to store their harvest in a warehouse, receiving a receipt as proof of ownership. WRS also allows farmers to sell their harvest at higher prices outside of harvest season. The system will help boost access to finance for farmers, farmers' unions, and cooperatives. The receipt could also be used as security at the bank of other financial agencies.

Lastly, Faisol stated that combating the effect of El Nino requires the synergy of all parties, from producers to the government. Therefore, he emphasized that government needs to collaborate with the farmers and deliver the appropriate assistance. He also urged that the solution be implemented sooner than later since El Nino will keep happening in the future. Especially since the government still doesn't have any long-term plan of action against El Nino.

Faisol hoped that the government could soon transform into a sustainable food system. He also asked the government to focus on maximizing land utilization and productivity. "Since food system transformation requires time and adaptation, especially for the farmers, it will need the government's attention," he concluded.

Source: https://en.tempo.co/read/1751905/govt-needs-long-term-policies-to-face-el-nino-expert-say