In November 2021, TJF presented their research in the International Conference on Environmental Resources Management in Global Region (ICERM). The study discussed ways that can be applied to mainstream the sustainable use of suboptimal lands to support food security in Indonesia.

The presentation started with an intriguing question, like, do you know what other countries are competing for other than oil or gold? The answer is, in fact, the thing that many of us often take for granted. It is: food.

The picture at the start of this blog is the global land grabbing map. For those who are not familiar, land grabbing means a phenomenon where a country, usually a rich one, acquires lands in developing countries to produce food and other commodities to meet their domestic demand. In this map, we can see countries like South Korea, China, and Saudi Arabia are grabbing lands in many parts of the world, including in Indonesia. This happened because some countries are lacking agricultural lands to the point they have to grab land somewhere else to meet their domestic demands.

One of the bottlenecks that drive global food competition is decreasing arable land. It also happens in Indonesia. According to a study, the country needs at least 10 million hectares of crops to achieve food self-sufficiency in 2045. Honestly, it is challenging to attain considering the alarming rate of land conversion for housing and infrastructure, especially in arable land areas. While the conversion rate has reached 96,500 ha/year, the government can only generate new arable lands of 20,000-30,000 ha/year.  Other than strictly controlling the land conversion, this staggering gap can also be met by sustainably utilizing the suboptimal lands.

However, sustainable cultivation of suboptimal land has been largely neglected in the policy context and the national food security plan. The major bottlenecks include no agricultural work plan that specifically prioritizes sustainable practice in suboptimal land. Inadequate fiscal instrument like incentive and capital assistance. Overlapping land status and permits along with different sectorial agendas in utilizing the land area. Also, ineffective empowerment programs for farmers.

There are four main determining sectors to effectively influence the decision-making process: policies and regulations, investment, land-use planning, and farmers’ development. The mainstreaming effort should be implemented to incorporate the suboptimal lands into the development agenda. TJF is looking forward in engaging relevant partners to support the mainstreaming strategies and advocate the policy options provided in this study.