Hypocrisy in Indonesian Food Production-Related Program

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Larastiti, in a journal entitled “Sonor and the bias of ‘cetak sawah’ on peatland, started the discussion with an explanation of sonor or shifting field practice. The government considers that the practice of shifting cultivation is unsustainable because it is accompanied by land burning for its preparation. During the dry season, land burning can trigger big fires. This research was conducted in Talang Village, Ogan Komering Ilir Regency, South Sumatra Province. Sonor has actually become a long tradition of the community. On the other hand, the government assesses that sonor activities must be stopped after the big fires in 2015. As a result, farmers re-think about farming because it requires a large amount of capital.

As a solution, in early 2016, the Government of South Sumatra proposed ‘cetak sawah’ or rice field development project as a substitute for sonor. However, the planning and implementation of this program were not transparent and careless to the point many consider the government appears to pretend to care about the fate of the community. In practice, ‘cetak sawah’ has actually marginalized local smallholder farmers, especially women.

In an ideal world, this program – which aims to improve food security and farmers’ welfare – should be implemented with a farmer-centric approach. The field facts show that the military has carried out this ‘cetak sawah’ and planting program. This practice eventually became unsustainable because they are abandoned after being harvested with expected results. The fields got degraded and became the location of fires at a later date.

In the end, ‘cetak sawah’ as a long-term solution offered by the government only became a sweet yet empty promise to the community. Farmers of Talang Village have actually realized the weaknesses of the Sonor system, but they did not receive sufficient support from existing stakeholders to overcome this challenge. This is why many programs to increase food security through the addition of food production centers are unsuccessful  because the programs ignore local farmers. Likewise in the implementation of food estate in Central Kalimantan this 2020, a valuable lesson from this research is the necessity to involve local farmers as an integral part of the development and implementation plan.

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