Today, Indonesia faces a critical window of opportunity to influence the future trajectory of the population’s health and its impact towards the environment. In 2019, the final stage of the country’s National Long Term Development Plan (2005-2025) will commence, and become the last five-year window to achieve the country’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) target of delivering a nutritious and sufficient diet to all households.
Following on from its commitment to improving the status of nutrition in Indonesia, the Indonesian Ministry of Health partnered with the EAT Foundation and the Center for Indonesia’s Strategic Development Initiatives (CISDI) to hold the inaugural EAT Asia Pacific Food Forum on October 31st and November 1st 2018 in Jakarta. The Forum was attended by 800 delegates from 30 countries, who co-designed possible solutions towards realising a sustainable food system in Indonesia, and responding to the world’s challenge of sustainably feeding 9 billion people by 2050.
As part of the forum, the National Institute for Health Research and Development together with CISDI, also co-hosted a Competence Forum on Setting Research Priorities on Asia Pacific Food Systems. The competence forum discussed the setting of research priorities which strongly emphasized the need for up-to-date, evidence-based, and continuous innovation to address the challenge of universal food security. The participants of the competence forum managed to identify research agendas with a focus on five components of food systems such as food production, food industry and retail, nutrition and diets, food environment and consumer behavior.
Extensive research from the EAT Foundation has found that while Indonesia is a middle-income country, its dietary patterns still remain far more typical of a low-income country. There is an extreme dependence on a single staple, low meat consumption, and the incidence of obesity is beginning to increase. Despite its wealth, Indonesia is at an early stage of the nutrition transition, but has a unique opportunity to take a different pathway away from the double burden of malnutrition that is becoming a serious societal issue in many lower and middle-income countries.
On the 15th of February 2018, the EAT Foundation and Ministry of Health of the Republic of Indonesia, together with CISDI, co-hosted a multi-stakeholder roundtable discussion to advance national food system transformation. The event was held in the Faculty of Medicine, Universitas Indonesia and was moderated by the founder of CISDI, Diah Saminarsih, who is now a WHO Advisor on Gender and Youth in the Office of Director-General.
The roundtable discussion explored the challenges and opportunities for shifting to a pathway that supports healthy and sustainable dietary patterns in Indonesia. CISDI believes that changes to Indonesian diets – supported by robust policies that unify key government ministries, and by innovative collaborations with the food industry and private sector – will be integral to overcoming the evolving challenge of malnutrition, while also protecting Indonesia’s unique ecosystems.
As the discussion involved a diverse set of stakeholders, it also gathered valuable insights not only from the Ministry of Health, but also from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Agriculture, and Ministry of Finance in regards to food security and its inter-linkages with the environment and health, food diversification, and macro policies on food staple development.
Through the rich and diverse perspectives of the participants, the discussion was able to attain several views on the roles of food system transformation in Indonesia through cross-sector governance in policymaking. The Indonesian Ministry of National Development Planning (BAPPENAS) highlighted the importance of informed policy decisions, especially in the context of SDGs. This is supported by the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) 2017 in UN Headquarters, New York, which also emphasized the importance of including multidimensional approach and working across sectors inclusively.
Encouraging all stakeholders to be part of the dialogue, it is worth noting that collaboration with the food industry should also be viewed as an opportunity. With support from other stakeholders to transfer knowledge, expertise, and perform oversight, the industry can reformulate the production process that incorporates measures to reduce sugar, salt and fat – as one of the example of incorporating the values of healthy food in its’ processes.
To conclude, CISDI believes that mainstreaming the existing dietary guidelines across government, regulating food policy at a cross-sectoral level, and scaling up innovations at all levels are essential steps towards attaining a sustainable food system in Indonesia that can support nutritious diets. Strong and effective partnerships will be a vital strategic step toward accelerating the achievement of the SDGs and transforming Indonesian food system into a healthy, sustainable one.