Supporting smallholders is essential if we are to achieve food and nutrition security within the ASEAN region – that was one of the key messages from Responsible Business Forum (RBF) Jakarta held earlier this month.
Smallholders have long been a focus area in terms of productivity and income improvements but their important role in food and nutrition security for Indonesia and the region was highlighted from the opening moments of the conference.
Speaking at the opening of RBF Jakarta 2017, GAR’s Chairman and CEO, Franky Widjaja reminded us of the crucial role of smallholder farmers:”It is important to place farmers, particularly smallholders, at the centre stage. Communities that are going hungry, that have extremely low household incomes, that are struggling to make ends meet, will not be in a position to protect the environment around them.”
Ensuring programmes are in place that enable smallholders to grow more and better quality food on the same area of land without increasing pressure on the environment is required. Franky Widjaja outlined several successful programmes already in place. For example, the Innovative financing programme provides access to affordable financing and establishes better discipline through training of Good Agricultural Practices. Mr Widjaja also complemented the Indonesian government on developing a micro-lending programme (Kredit Usaha Rakyat – KUR Tani) to support more smallholders in replanting.
In turn, Agus Purnomo, GAR’s Managing Director of Sustainability, highlighted the need for a paradigm shift on water management: “We need to change the paradigm in dealing with water and fire; communities need to be involved in dealing with fire issues and fire prevention, and companies need to go beyond the concession boundaries. One good way to achieve this is through education programmes for children on fire, and water.”
He explained how GAR’s Desa Makmur Peduli Api programme, a community-based fire prevention and suppression effort deployed in 17 villages has been successful. And he reported that the Global Agri-business Alliance will take the lead to develop an industry approach on good water stewardship.
Participants from government, NGOs, private sectors, and traders, shared and discussed how access to finance, technology, knowledge, and markets can secure the people’s food and nutrition requirements in ASEAN. This challenge is particularly relevant in Indonesia, where a third of children under the age of five suffer from stunted growth. The conference concluded with a list of priority recommendations and a call for collaboration between participants to act on them.
Like all conferences of this type the key question is who will now take forward the recommendations from RBF Jakarta 2017? Perhaps the Partnership for Indonesia Sustainable Agriculture (PISAgro), as Indonesia’s leading agricultural association and one in which GAR is active, can lead and adopt these recommendations into their working groups’ action plans? Then for next year’s RBF, we can look forward to even more impressive and interesting series of speeches and panel discussions based on real outcomes from this year’s event.
Overall, this year’s RBF was very successful with more than 600 participants and covering interesting topics about nutrition and a discussion on labour/gender which was spot-on. As a first time attendee, recognising the need for even greater collaboration between private sectors and government to support smallholders will inform and inspire my work in the coming year.