Food Sovereignty in the Era of Changing Climate

The current global politic trend seems to push aside climate change discourse. Populist economy, cramp ‘nationalism’, and the rise of right wings in developed countries have managed to belittle climate change talks in the world’s politic climate.

International and national measures must be strengthened and improved to reduce the rate and impacts of climate change caused by unsustainable lifestyle and system. Moreover, the real impacts of climate change have surpassed country’s boundary as it is affecting many communities. Indigenous peoples, small-scale farmers, and traditional fisherfolk are suffering the most though they are the lowest emitter and have been securing food stocks and guarding ecology for decades. Crops failure, decreasing land productivity, reduced harvest and catch, new types of pest are events that are often related to climate change.

With the majority of population in Indonesia is small-scale farmers, indigenous peoples, and traditional fisherfolk, there is a need for strategic, holistic, and national scale steps to reduce climate change impacts towards those communities.

The upcoming World Food Day commemorated every year on October  brings us to look closer into agriculture and food sovereignty in Indonesia. In the legal term, food sovereignty is the objective of Law No. 18 Year 2012 and is a country’s right to independently decide food policies that can ensure their peoples’ rights to food, and give rights to the people to decide the food system that appropriate with the local resources.

Currently, local food from the farmers, indigenous communities, and traditional farmers are under huge pressure due to climate change, unfair trading, and modernized agriculture system with neglecting local wisdom. It is no wonder that our country is still dragging its feet to fulfill needs on national food stock.

Though tends to decreased, import on food stock is still relatively high. From January to June 2017, the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) recorded food import reached US$ 1.078 billion. This dependency put Indonesia ranked in 71 out of 113 countries in the Global Food Security Index. While other Southeast Asia countries are in higher position with Vietnam ranked in 57, Thailand ranked in 51, and Malaysia in 35 based on Global Food Security  Index  2016.

Food Sovereignty

Food sovereignty is a necessity, not only to reduce climate change impacts, but also because its potential and power as local adaptation and mitigation actions for disaster prone areas with unique geographical characteristic and landscape. This approach  prevents landscape changes on land, coastal, and small islands that are currently towards to monoculture plantation and agriculture.

Domestic challenge for food sovereignty is the development of national agriculture, plantation, and forestry which oriented to monoculture system with big scale  business model.

The government have realized this oversight. Jokowi administration applies moratorium on palm oil plantation and peatland permits, added with redistribution program of 4.5 million hectares of land and 12.7 million hectares of social forest for the communities. This is a huge step to prevent injustice due to outdated orientation on big scale monoculture business. It is also has positive correlation to boost stronger food sovereignty.

The next step is to integrate climate factor towards food sovereignty. It includes developing of local variety and application of climate adaptive farming technology. It is an important tool to help farmers to increase their quantity and quality of production, and better understanding on early signs of climate change. Therefore, it is a priority to bring education and technology research that are grounded with the communities’ needs.

The third step is to develop communities economic institution. There are keys critical regulations but implemented in sectoral approach, such as Law on Food, Law on Farmers Protection and Empowerment, and Village Law. It is critical to summarize implementation of those laws into Government Regulation to realize production economy of farmers and fishers into modern, sustainable, and cooperative or business entity format.

Collective action to integrate those regulations is one of the strategies and national action plan to translate climate change resilient into daily life without neglecting sustainable and community-based economic growth. It is time to turn food sovereignty idea into reality. Because the clock is ticking in this era of changing climate.

Written by: Community-based Climate Change Adaptation Advisor, Suryani Amin.

This opinion article is a personal opinion of the writer. 

This article is also covered in Indonesian environment news website, Mongabay.