The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted food systems in half of the world’s nations in only a few months’ time. It has awakened an awareness of the importance of food systems in our lives. What local solutions can be applied to survive this crisis? What initiatives are needed to improve the diversity of Indonesia’s food systems? How can we build healthier and locally sustainable food systems? How can local communities and authorities work together to protect the most vulnerable groups?
Tanoker, one of Hivos and IIED’s partners for the Sustainable Diets for All (SD4All) Program in Jember, East Java, created an innovation with three initiatives. Through close collaboration with the community, Tanoker initiated a healthy home garden idea, produced healthy tea, and facilitated online discussions on elderly health in Jember.
Hivos, through the SD4All Program, supports this initiative with a belief that this innovation builds a better food system and a more resilient community.
Healthy gardens for food and biodiversity resilience
By working with a mother’s school or Sekolah Bok-bok in Paluombo in Ledokombo Subdistrict, Tanoker motivates the women to optimize their house yards by planting various vegetables, fruits, and spices.
“We began constructing the home gardens in May 2020. We thought that it would be great if the community was able to provide their own food. This pandemic has economically paralyzed many people,” explained Director of Tanoker and person-in-charge for Tanoker’s SD4ALL Program, Farha Abdul Kadir Assegaf, who is better known as Ciciek.
Ciciek explains that Tanoker is currently promoting home gardens that combine benefits and aesthetics. She states that Tanoker is exploring flower species which can be consumed based on local practices. “Not only useful, but also beautiful,” Ciciek explains. “And in the future, we hope this can be a source of employment for the community.”
The fundamental idea of this strategy is food and family resilience – the link between ‘peace food’ (food that can bring about peace) and family resilience, and the link between ‘peace food’ and peace in the family. Managing a home garden together can contribute to family food safety and the unity of the many families impacted by the social, economic, and psychological burdens of this pandemic.
Tanoker hopes that this initiative can inspire the local government to enhance food and biodiversity resilience. “This can be a great model for other communities. This is one way to combat the negative impact of COVID-19.”
Producing healthy drinks
In addition to healthy gardens, Tanoker also produces healthy tea called Arab Tea. This tea is made from natural and fresh spices, and locally known as empon-empon. Empon-empon is a group of natural spices that include ginger, temulawak or curcuma zanthorrhiza, turmeric, and lemongrass. These spices are believed to help improve immunity.
According to an article in the Indonesian Cabinet Secretary website, the President of Indonesia Joko Widodo, has been drinking empon-empon brew since March 2020. He drinks this herbal drink three times a day, and even serves this beverage for his guests since the start of the pandemic. Additionally, Chairul Anwar Nidom, a professor at Airlangga University in Surabaya, East Java as well as Head of the Corona Vaccine Research and Development Team, suggests that the public drink empon-empon to improve their immunity.
Initially, the main objective of producing this herbal drink was to provide a healthy drink for medical workers and community workers facing COVID-19 on the frontline. This idea continued to grow from Tanoker’s kitchen lab to community groups. Tanoker motivated the public to make a change from instant beverages to healthy herbal drinks. Tanoker held a training to make herbal drinks. This herbal tea is now promoted through a number of Tanoker’s online platforms.
The development of a vegetable garden, edible flowers, and beautiful and healthy spices has become a strategy for the ‘new normal’. This ability is expected to become a new skill for the women and men participating in the school, which they can offer to others.
Helping the elderly stay healthy during the pandemic
Tanoker is known for its Sekolah Yang-eyang or elderly school in Jember District. This school has received compliments from Jember District as well as the East Java Provincial Government.
As a result of the elderly school, Jember District was recognized as an elderly-friendly district in East Java in 2019. This award from the East Java Governor was presented based on the activities and programs developed and implemented by Tanoker.
Amid the pandemic, the elderly school adapts to online activities. In early August, four older adults from the school participated as speakers in the webinar entitled “Make Your Life Unlimited”, attended by 30 students from Japan’s Kyushu International University. Youth and elderly in both countries exchanged stories about their language, culture, customs, and education. In this webinar, the elderly also shared messages on the importance of healthy foods.
Tanoker also facilitated an online group discussion dedicated to the elderly in Jember. The discussion provided critical information encouraging healthy lifestyle practices to survive during the pandemic.
What were the topics reviewed in the group discussion?
“We did numerous discussions about what must be done, how to stay productive without sacrificing their health, as well as types of food to eat to stay healthy. We also reminded them to stay at home, frequently wash their hands, avoid crowds, and other practical examples. We explained what COVID-19 is, along with its negative consequences,” Ciciek explains.
The pandemic does not stop the creativity
Tanoker believes that we should be able to explore creative methods based on local wisdom to help communities coping with the difficulties caused by the pandemic. It is within the framework of promoting and strengthening food resilience and biodiversity. In addition to the three innovations, Tanoker continues to promote local foods through their ‘Food of the Month’ activity. In this activity, the community makes new food creations from local ingredients.
The schools for mothers, fathers, and the elderly also continue implementing their activities. The mother’s school continues to facilitate the women who are increasingly vulnerable as a result of the pandemic. “During this pandemic, women are overburdened. More stressed. There is also a lot of domestic violence,” Ciciek says. To support this, Tanoker conducts online facilitation or home visits, though with a limited number of people.
Another activity is for the elderly to have fun doing TikTok competitions that are related to food resilience. It is a strategy to enhance immunity. Who would have thought that the elderly would like to use TikTok? Tanoker then collaborated with elderly organizations in Jember District (Abiyoso Gerontology Foundation and Karang Wera Jember Communications Forum) to facilitate the TikTok competition through messages on food resilience. “We try to create happiness by prioritizing a healthy lifestyle in the community. This pandemic has burdened many people. We must help them to keep up their spirits, so that they can maintain their immunity,” Ciciek adds.
(Bahasa version here)