This year, the World Food Day celebration promoted an ambitious vision: realizing a #ZeroHunger world by 2030, and became an opportunity to show a national commitment towards the realization of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number 2. Tackling the challenge of hunger and malnutrition in all its forms will be essential to achieve the SDGs as it acts as a catalyst in improving the outcomes of all 17 SDG indicators.
Yet, Indonesia’s hunger statistics are going in the wrong direction. Last year’s Global Hunger Index indicated that Indonesia was classified as a country with a serious level of hunger in ASEAN. As a result of chronic under-nutrition during the first vital 1,000 days of life, the stunting rate is alarming.
The Health Ministry’s Basic Health Survey, conducted in 2013, revealed that 37.2 percent of children under 5 were stunted. While more recent data indicates some improvements, stunting and malnutrition rates remain unacceptably high. Child stunting reduction is one of the key indicators in SDG number 2. Indonesia’s high rate of stunting signals that the achievement of SDG number 2 is under threat.
Food insecurity is among the key risk factors contributing to it. One out of three Indonesians does not have a healthy diet. A study by the World Food Program (WFP) showed that 36 percent of the population cannot afford the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommended level of energy, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals. The figure is lower in remote areas where the cost of food delivery affects the purchasing power of poor people.
Indonesia’s rice price is the highest among ASEAN member countries. Data from the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) in 2018 showed that the price of Indonesia’s staple food is 70 percent higher than that of Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam. Additionally, Jakarta holds its fortress as the most expensive capital in emerging Asia for fruit and vegetables.
The domestic food price inflation especially for rice, meat, vegetables and fruit, constrains the nutritional security of poor households because they are forced to reduce the amount and quality of the food they consume. Given that poorer Indonesian households spend a considerable amount of money on staples such as rice, price volatility seriously threatens their food and nutrition security.
Inadequate protein and energy intake, combined with a high share of expenditure on staples among lower and middle income groups indicate households struggle to maintain an adequate diet. Widespread protein and energy malnutrition is evident in stunted children.
Achieving the zero hunger goal will require better access to food. Locally grown foods are key to provide long-term food security for communities. Moreover, the diet based on local food can help to achieve practical dietary guidelines that promote healthy food choices. Today, there is a growing interest to promote locally available nutrient-dense foods as this option should be more sustainable and affordable.
The Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding of the WHO and the United Nations International Childrens’ Emergency Fund (UNICEF) emphasizes the use of locally available food.
Low-cost complementary food, prepared with locally available ingredients using suitable small-scale production technologies in community settings, can help meet the nutritional needs of older infants and young children. As Indonesia is rich in local and indigenous food, local foodbased complementary feeding is possible to adopt.
Locally grown food has brought a substantial change in the dietary habit of people in West Sumbawa regency. Moringa oleifera, popularly known as kelor, has proven to be highly nutritious but locals have yet to realize its potential.
A youth-led primary healthcare intervention program, Pencerah Nusantara (Light of the Archipelago), together with the Poto Tano Puskesmas (community health center) as the local primary healthcare service, optimizes kelor as local food-based complementary feeding in Posyandu (integrated health services posts). Its volunteers were trained to initiate food diversification made of kelor, which were made into nuggets, pudding, brownies and many other variants.
After a year of independent management, the administration aims to conserve kelor as a local heritage while selling its potential as nutritious locally grown food. Through the Regional Food and Nutrition Action Plan and a special bylaw issued last year, the program named Gemari Kelor was launched.
A study from Jember, East Java, discovered that local complementary feeding through Posyandu increases the understanding and skills of both mothers and volunteers in serving local food for weaning. As a result, they can achieve practical dietary guidelines with healthy food choices. Also, promoting local foodstuff as complementary feeding increases community participation and empowerment, and strengthens the Posyandu themselves in health promotion programs across Indonesia.
There is also growing evidence that local diets alone cannot always fulfill all the nutritional requirements of infants and young children. Therefore, additional interventions to fulfill micronutrients gap can and must be done.
Local food is abundantly available across Indonesia, and provides multiple benefits by ensuring a nutritious food supply essential to address under-nutrition. These will contribute to achieving the global goal to achieve zero hunger and all forms of malnutrition by 2030.
This article has been published in The Jakarta Post, November 23rd 2018.