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Food security and support for communities in times of a global pandemic

Posted: May 05, 2020 3 minute read Alwi Hafiz

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, crowds, long queues and empty shelves in supermarkets highlight natural anxieties about the availability of food in urban communities. Such anxieties are understandable given the threat of disruption in food supplies.

“Restrictions on movement within and across countries can hinder food-related logistic services, disrupt entire food supply chains and affect the availability of food. Impacts on the movement of agricultural labour and on the supply of inputs will soon pose critical challenges to food production, thus jeopardising food security for all people, and hit especially hard people living in the poorest countries.” – Joint statement by FAO, IFAD, the World Bank and WFP, 21 Apr 2020. 

While the pandemic has now triggered anxieties about food availability even in wealthy economies, the issue of food insecurity has long been a daily reality for over 820 million people in the world, who suffer from hunger. (Source: FAO – The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2019).

The issue of food is central to GAR. We are in the business of growing and supplying an important food ingredient – palm oil. In these times, our priority is to ensure a constant undisrupted supply of palm oil by maintaining responsible and safe operations. Food security for local communities is also a major consideration for GAR in areas where we operate. Our continued operations help to ensure that anxieties about work and income in these communities are eased.

However, we believe that our responsibility to communities goes beyond providing employment opportunities.

working on farming plots
The Dayak community in Menapar, Indonesia, working on their farming plots before the COVID-19 outbreak.

Food resilience in supply disruptions
For a few years now, GAR has been helping communities better plan, fund and grow food and other crops as part of our Alternative Livelihood and Integrated Ecological Farming Programmes. Against the backdrop of current events, the importance of enabling communities to improve their own food security through producing food locally is more evident than ever. Food secure communities are more resilient against supply disruptions.

The availability of whole foods, such as grains, fruits and vegetables plays a critical role in improving nutrition. In addition, growing cash crops generate additional incomes and potentially spurs further economic development and prosperity in the communities.

To date, this programme has helped more than 40 communities across Indonesia improve their agricultural practices and grow crops ranging from organic vegetables to coffee.

Our Alternative Livelihood
Our Alternative Livelihood programmes across Indonesia so far.

GAR typically assists communities in funding pilot plots and providing planting materials. We also help train local farmers in good agricultural practices and provide ongoing support including access to experts in modern agriculture.  In some cases, where communities have successfully grown cash crops or enough food crops to have sustained surpluses for sale, GAR trains community members in the fundamentals of managing small businesses and links these emerging community enterprises to buyers of their produce and sources of financing.

The main objective is to enable these enterprises to become independent and self-sustaining, to help improve the resilience of these communities. The current pandemic has only emphasised the importance of farming and food production especially in the context of more remote communities, where local production becomes important lifelines when supply chains are broken.

Access to healthcare is another critical need highlighted by the pandemic. GAR operates more than 150 clinics across Indonesia and most of these are in areas where the nearest healthcare facilities are many hours away.  Run by dedicated medical professionals, the importance of these clinics to help communities stay healthy and curb the spread of COVID-19 cannot be understated.

GAR collaborates with a wide range of stakeholders to carry out our social and community programmes across all our plantations, which deliver SDGs such as providing education, infrastructure and as described above, ensuring health and well-being.  We continue to explore ways to help the communities where we operate. To us, the COVID-19 crisis has underlined the importance of these efforts. If you would like to know more or want to be a part of this, please visit

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