Sunday, 24 September 2017

Socio-economic Transformation for More Resilient Farmers

Socio-economic Transformation for More Resilient Farmers


Today September 24, is celebrated as National Farmer’s Day. Farmers are one of vulnerable groups to disaster and climate change risks and threats who also are the targeted group of USAID APIK program. Our program works on improving farmers’ resilience through capacity building. Influencing and  implementing policies as well as to cooperate with a wider range of stakeholders are critical to strengthen farmers’ resilience. Here is an idea of USAID APIK staff, related to farmers’ resilience building effort.

Happy National Farmer’s Day!

Current weather and climate change have been affecting community groups who are dependent  on natural resources, such as  farmers. Unfortunately, national agricultural policy has not been responsive enough to encounter the problem.

In March 2017, during harvesting season, Central Bureau of Statistics announced that Farmer Exchange Rate (NTP) on food has dropped 0.38% compared to planting seasons in February and January. This situation was actually the result of agricultural policy that has not taken seasons into account wisely. As for farmers’ NTP dropped, these logics might explain:

First, government policy has accelerated planting time without resting the land, and instead invited the national army to ensure planting time. As a result, harvest time came earlier and fell during the rainy season. Unfortunately, the rainfall intensity in this period has increased.

Second, harvesting during rainy season made drying process difficult, as people are mostly dry harvest under the sun. As a result, the rice grain breaks while being ground, as the grinding machine owned by small-scale farmers utilized simple technology. The result was broken and partly ground rice hulls. Such product would be valued at low price, hence farmers’ grains were bought cheaply. These situations proved how agricultural policy has not taken climate factor into account thoroughly.

The United Nations of Development Programme (UNDP) estimated that climate and weather change would bring loss to farmers and rural communities, since the modification on rainfall, air temperature, and water supply occurred in vulnerable areas. These changes would threaten agricultural production and increase poverty rate in the rural area.

Moreover, UNDP stated that farming might be the major factor that increases poverty level due to climate change, due to the decline in smallholder production: no less than approximately 5% until 2030 and 30% until 2080.

Farmer Protection

Last year, the Minister of Environment and Forestry, Siti Nurbaya issued a ministry regulation Number 33/2016 concerning Guidelines for Preparing Action for Climate Change Adaptation. This regulation provides guidance for integrating specific programs such as food security, energy independence, health, settlements, infrastructure and small islands to consider the risk of climate change  adaptation.

This regulation focuses on mainstreaming climate change adaptation and action plans for other ministries and local governments related to the specific program above. However, there are other concerns that should be raised as it seems that this climate change adaptation guideline has not considered who farmers really are.

Are not our farmers mostly farm laborers? So even though they can adapt to climate change, they have not yet emerged from the structural poverty pitfall due to the absence of land ownership.

This is why integrating climate change adaptation for farmers into the implementation of Law Number 41/2009 concerning the Protection of Sustainable Food Agricultural Land and Law Number 19/2013 concerning the Protection and Empowerment of Farmers is important.

Both laws should be implemented along with climate change adaptation programs. Therefore, the Ministry of Agriculture should make a critical repositioning to protect and empower farmers over land that has been set as a sustainable food agriculture zone.

First, the sustainable agricultural land that has been set by the government is underneath millions of small and landless farmers. Therefore, there must be a basic design to transform these farmers into modern agricultural cooperatives groups instead of small holders.

Second, on this agricultural land, farmers get subsidies, such as fertilizer and seeds, which have not been based on organic farming. In addition, the format of our agricultural subsidies is actually indirect subsidy which benefits fertilizer and seed companies more than farmers. Gradually, this kind of subsidy system must be reformed to provide greater incentives for the change of farmer households into cooperative agricultural enterprises that work on organic agriculture.

Third, building an inclusive financial policy for farmers and rural communities so that it could stimulate these planned major changes. In addition to that, integrating agricultural climate change adaptation into overall rural development is also critical. Does not the enforcement of the Rural Law support spatial-based rural development?

Such regional view is essential to be combined with climate resilient agricultural development change. At the end, we can develop agriculture and villages that are socio-economically transformed while adapting to climate change impact.

(Author:  Suryani Amin, Community-Based Climate Change Adaptation Advisor USAID APIK)

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