World Food Day: a time to think about what is on our plates

October 16, 2015

How often do we reflect on the food on our table and how it was produced? What systems brought it to us? Can we be sure it is safe and healthy? World Food Day is a good opportunity for us to seriously reflect on the food we eat everywhere in the world, and especially in Indonesia.

As in other countries, the current food system is contributing to climate change, ecosystem degradation and biodiversity loss. On the consumption side, Indonesia’s growing urban population is an enormous challenge. The increasing affluence of our cities has led to higher consumption of meat, dairy products, oil, salt and sugar. This has caused an unprecedented increase in diabetes and gout, with obesity affecting even young children. At the same time in many rural areas, food security and stunting remain critical concerns. The ‘double burden’ of overweight and malnutrition – seen in other countries as well – will be one of Indonesia’s most difficult policy challenges going forwards.

Hivos believes a major change is needed in both food production and food consumption. Therefore, we are working towards the goal of ‘More Choiceby increasing the supply of and access to affordable and healthy food; food produced in a diverse, resilient and fair way to bring positive environmental returns and economic opportunities for producers.

This entails work with local partners to help smallholder farmers adopt environmentally sustainable agricultural best practices, adapt to climate change, diversify their incomes with new products, organise themselves, and access finance.

The Hivos Southeast Asia Hub engages with coffee producers in South Sumatra, coconut sugar producers in Java, white pepper producers in Bangka, and pig producers in Flores. As part of Hivos’ organisation-wide Renewable Energy programme, we also support a network of 14,000 biogas users to use the biogas waste product ‘bioslurry’ as organic fertiliser for horticulture. In 2016, our portfolio will expand to indigenous foods, traditional ‘climate smart’ farming systems, innovative livestock fodders and productive landscapes.

Parallel to ‘More Choice’, is the goal of ‘More Voice. This citizen-centred programme, beginning in 2016 in partnership with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and IIED, will encourage Indonesians to demand local alternatives to our current food systems. In urban areas, we will strengthen local organisations to influence market and government policies and practices to promote healthy, safe, affordable, diverse and sustainable food for all.

We piloted our ‘More Voice’ track with a ‘Food Change Lab’ in Bandung in September 2015. Participants included civil society, government, food vendors, local police, architects, urban planners, engineers, artists and students.

The Food Change Lab is a Hivos-IIED initiative carried out in Zambia, Indonesia and Uganda. It provides a space for disruptive thinking to tackle complex ideas on “what should be on our plates”. Participants can prototype innovative interventions to solve problems they see as associated with their local food systems. In Bandung, the lab focused on the urban poor and the role of street vendors in their food supply. 

More of these activities, and advocacy efforts, will comprise the ‘Sustainable Diets 4 All’ programme in 2016 in Southeast Asia (and other regions where Hivos is active).

Partners interested in co-creating and implementing our sustainable food and diets agenda in Southeast Asia are invited to contact us using the ‘Want to know more?’ box in the right sidebar.