Food insecurity is a complex problem. BRIA Indonesia takes into consideration the entire rice value chain in order to contribute to improved food security as well as economic development and addresses both agriculture and nutrition.

Agriculture

The agricultural sector plays a strategic role in the national economic development plan in Indonesia where rice is the most important crop in the country with a total planting area of 13 million hectares. Employment in the rice sector is one of the major sources of income in rural areas in Indonesia.

The Government of Indonesia has set incremental goals to reach the level of self-sufficiency by boosting rice production. This will be done by improving yields and intensifying the productivity of existing planting areas. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) has estimated that Indonesia will need 38% more rice in the next 25 years, which means that the average yield of 4.6 tons per hectare must rise to more than 6 tons per hectare to fill this gap assuming that the planting area remains the same.

Major challenges in Indonesian rice production include small cultivation plots of approximately 0.3 to 0.5 ha per farming household, decreasing land productivity due to prohibitive and excessive land intensification and overuse of agricultural inputs as well as a common lack of modern plant protection and sustainable crop management practice. In addition, rice farming has become less attractive to young employees due to deteriorating income structures. In addition, long rice supply chains involving a multitude of stakeholders from production to consumption make it difficult for farmers to access reliable market information and to produce higher quality rice according to (private) national and international quality standards. The goal set by the Indonesian Government of “five per cent growth per year” can be reached only with changes to the rice sector as a low-income and labor-intensive sector.

Nutrition

Asia is the malnutrition hotspot worldwide. 65% of those living in hunger and poverty and approximately 70% of the malnourished children in the world are in the Asia-Pacific region. Micronutrient Deficiencies hamper individual and collective development and lead to unsustainable livelihoods. Indonesian diets consist mainly of rice, usually accompanied by edible oil and insufficient amounts of other ingredients such as meat, fish and vegetables, leading to inadequate intake of micronutrients

Iron Deficiency Anaemia (IDA) is a serious health issue that compromises the cognitive development of young children and increases the risk for maternal death at birth. According to the Micro-nutrient Initiative (MI) in Indonesia, approximately 44% of pregnant women and 26% of children under the age of five are anaemic. Vitamin A is an essential micronutrient especially relevant for the eyesight and immune functions. Poor households, especially in urban areas, rely on cheap staple foods which are poor sources of vitamin A. According to the Micronutrient Initiative (MI), subclinical forms of vitamin A deficiency affect 14.6 % of children under five in Indonesia, which is considered a significant public health problem. A range of other nutrients is relevant in this context: Deficiencies in vitamin B1 and B3 often occur in populations with white rice as their main staple food. Rice is also a poor source of folic acid, a crucial B-vitamin for the development of the neural tube of the fetus. Zinc plays a major role in bone development and the immune system. Children with inadequate zinc intake to meet their needs for growth and development are likely to be short and suffer more often from diarrhoea, further compromising their growth.

Dietary diversification is always the ultimate objective but requires long-term behavior changes and is strongly related to availability of nutritious foods. Generally, BRIA promotes food fortification as a highly cost-effective measure. Food fortification has the potential to reach a broader target group through already existing market channels. It was rated as one of the most cost-effective investments into human development by some of the world’s leading economists in the Copenhagen Consensus 2008.