The Tangled Reality of the Shrinking Land and Farmer Workforce

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Working in the agricultural sector is largely seen as laborious, low wage, powerless, and ultimately, a sign of poverty. These are among the reasons why Indonesian farmers’ number keeps declining since the past decades. While 65% of Indonesian workforce worked as farmers in 1976, only 28% remained in 2018. Not long, the nation will experience an agricultural labor shortage. 

Agricultural land is also shrinking to compromise infrastructure development. Many farmers sold their lands and converted them because they found it hard to earn enough money to meet their household needs. In West Java, 93% of agri-households only manage a small plot of less than 1000 m2. From this field, farmers could only generate an income of Rp 200,000 per month. This condition forces the farmers to seek other side jobs in different sectors. 

Although the younger generation seems reluctant to work in agriculture, some of them managed to develop tech-based initiatives to help farmers thrive. Start-ups like TaniHub and Sayurbox allow people to buy fresh products directly from farmers, while TaniFund enables individuals to lend money to farmers as a source of funds to expand their operations. Still, challenges persist in providing infrastructure investments from rural roads, electricity to cold chains. The government has realized the need to address the infrastructure challenge, as seen from the increased investment using the public budget. Many of these infrastructure development projects strive to expand irrigation coverage and promote advanced technologies to increase crop yields.

A similar situation occurs in the food estate, since the news about the progress implementation still focuses on the hard measure to build infrastructure. However, learning from the facts on the situation faced by many farmers elsewhere, land is not the only problem. More substantial efforts are needed to put the farmers’ welfare above all. All are to guarantee the longevity and sustainability of the food estate.

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