By Saptana; Wahyuning K. Sejati; Rusastra, I Wayan

The empowerment of poor and food-insecure people in rural areas has a strategic value in enhancing food security and developing the Indonesian society. The increase in the number of poor people by 11.25 per cent (during the period of February 2005 to March 2006), and the high number of poor people (39.05 million) in Indonesia for 2006 require special attention. The Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS) aimed at increasing food security at household and national level through the improvement of agricultural production, employment and income which together would have an impact on the access to food.

With regard to this particular programme, it is possible to identify four factors that would stimulate development (Johnson, 1986), namely: (a) control over and access to resources, particularly land and water; (b) capacity and competency of human resources; (c) technological know-how (seedlings, culture, harvest, post-harvest and product processing technology); and (d) local institutions such as farmers' groups, rural credit and rural government.

In addition, it is important to distinguish five elements that constitute the rural social system i.e. (a) education to train and improve the capacity of the people through human resources development; (b) economic activities for survival and development; (c) power applied in management, supervision and social dynamics; (d) social structure represented by stakeholders as players or recipients of the costs and benefits of the said programme; and (e) religion to enhance moral standards and ethics to live as a group that can generate a spirit of togetherness (Slamet, 2008).

The Food Security Agency of the Ministry of Agriculture in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) implemented a Special Programme for Food Security. The objective of the programme was the empowerment of poor people, using a multi-sectoral and participatory approach. The programme has been relatively successful, but it needs further improvements to accelerate sustainable rural development. There is also a possibility to replicate this programme in other regions either through government intervention or through a normal diffusion process.

The objectives of this articles are: (1) to review the implementation of the SPFS programme in the field; (2) to analyse the results and impact of the SPFS programme; and (3) to formulate policy recommendations to improve the programme for the benefit of food security and poverty alleviation in rural areas.

Research methodology
The research of the SPFS programme was conducted in Banjar, West Java, and included four sample villages: Muktisari, Bojongkatong, Kujangsari and Waringinsari, all in Langensari sub-district. The villages are known for their success in the development of farming, livestock and fisheries. The respondents in the research were concerned institutions, key informants and programme recipients. Data and information were collected through a review of implementation reports, discussions with the programme planner and implementer and focus group discussions.

The SPFS programme implementation
For five years since 2002, Government of Indonesia allocated a total of US$ 2.5 million to the SPFS programme, in addition to in-kind contributions worth US$ 0.8 million. Activities were conducted through people's empowerment, particularly in the food-insecure areas. People were encouraged to better understand the fundamental problems behind their food security and the means to solve the problem. The SPFS played the role of facilitator in this search for solutions.

SPFS activities undertaken in the villages of Banjar were:

  • maintenance and repair of the irrigation infrastructure as well as supplementation of the water supply through a pumping system to expand the irrigated farm land and thereby increase the rice productivity;
  • to accelerate the growth in food production (paddy), livestock (Etawah-Crossbreed goats, cows' fattening) and fisheries (freshwater fish: gurame, nila and lele) through technical and management support ;
  • the identification of socio-economic constraints on the production, marketing and processing of farm produce;
  • the development of a production system that can be accepted technically, economically and socially in each region;
  • the development of an agriculture investment programmes that can ensure food security and nutrition.

The perception of member farmers and non-member farmers of the introduction and implementation of the programme was positive. The level of participation from the initial stage until the end of the programme was very high, although some farmers left the programme, mostly during introduction phase. The activity that had a significant impact on the success of SPFS programme was the 'Field School' which provides knowledge and skills to farmers for on-farm, off-farm and non-farm activities.

The review of the implementation of Field School led to the following conclusions:

  • the activities covered by the Field School were quite comprehensive and included micro credit, livestock, irrigation, fisheries, farm diversification, health and nutrition;
  • the activities of the Field School considered not yet successful were horticulture, post-harvest management and processing, product marketing, entrepreneurship and partnership;
  • the trainers were competent and had experience and good communication and interaction skills;
  • the non-poor households in the target group gave support by serving as initiators and motivators;
  • the training method used by the Field School system was considered appropriate and acceptable for adults;
  • the most useful and positive impact of SPFS programme was the development of a productive economy in rural areas that could increase the availability of and the access to food for the people.

The management of farmers' group was essential in empowering the poor and food-insecure people. From consolidation perspective, the vertical integration of farmers group with respect to input market and output market need to be improved. The formation of the group and the capacity development was based on existing local institutions and the election for administrative positions was done in a democratic way with high competency and professionalism.

Group management was conducted transparently with good accountability. Group administration showed high cohesiveness and solidarity among members and the respective group had adequate experience and knowledge on agribusiness activities. Farmers group were formed according to their place of residence, and members had the freedom to decide the business they would like to run. The objectives and priorities of the activities were determined in a participatory way, based on principles of efficiency and equality.

Field School and institutional enhancement
Activities of the Field School to empower the group and its members included:

  • the improvement of human resources in technical and management skills needed to run a business;
  • the strengthening of the motivation of individual members to escape from poverty and food-insecurity;
  • the generation of confidence in their ability to help themselves out of poverty and food-insecurity;
  • the generation of awareness on the importance of a diversified, balanced, nutritious and safe food consumption pattern;
  • the change of mindset for different aspects of life, particularly in decision making, social togetherness and running a business.

There were several institutional enhancements under the SPFS programme. These included: the empowerment of farmers' group, improvement of the rural financial institution, the food barn and the co-operative unit. The group met regularly and there was a transparency and accountability in group management. Other positive impacts included the establishment of a participatory mutual assistance programme and other social activities. In addition, there was a saving and loan scheme meant to generate productive economic activity.

The result and impact of SPFS programme
During the period 2002-2007, the household income of SPFS participants increased by 7.0 per cent per year, from IDR 3.77 millions to IDR 5.81 millions, because of the successful implementation of several activities by farmer groups such as the improvement of the irrigation system, the input factor aid support, the use of hand tractors, and related programmes to improve on-farm activities.

As a result of the improvement of the irrigation system and the water pump, farmers could cultivate 137 hectares of farmland in phase 1 and 153 hectares of farmland in phase 2. On this land, they could harvest paddy twice and secondary crops once, while previously this was only once for both crops. There was also an increase in the productivity of dried unhusked paddy from 4.4 tons to 5.5 tons per hectare, and of major secondary crops (maize, soybean, ground-nut and mungbean); Furthermore, there was an increase in crop intensification of paddy and farm diversification that began to include horticulture products. The members of the groups contributed to an intensification of the maintenance of irrigation system. Finally, water pumping became available for areas that had frequently suffered from drought in the past, especially during dry season.

The input factor aid increased the adoption of new agricultural technology, and as a result farmers could avoid pre-harvest selling (ijon), while primary input factors (seeds and fertilizers) became available in the correct type, amount, time, place and price. The price was similar to the highest retail price of subsidized fertilizers. Loans were repaid after harvesting at an interest rate of 1 per cent per month. The final impact of all these measures was an increase in the productivity of paddy from 4.6 tons to 5.5 tons per hectare.

The use of hand tractor had a positive impact, as it accelerated and improved land preparation. This enabled farmers to do the planting on time. Another positive impact was that farmers could start planting, while at the same time reduce pests and plant diseases. This lowered cultivation costs. With a tractor rotation system for 14 planting seasons, the number and availability of tractors increased over time.

The introduction of the Etawah Goat Crossbreed (PE's goat or high breed goat) resulted in an increase of the goat population from 360 to 737. The supply of organic fertilizers for farmers and farmland fertility was improved substantially. This form of livestock development can increase the economic scale of goat farming, increase milk production to meet consumption needs and concurrently raise the household income. All of those were strengthening and widening household and rural economy.

The impact of cow fattening can be shown by the following indicators: (a) the additional weight gain of 0.7 kg per head per day; (b) availability of organic fertilizer for farmers; (c) profit for breeders from cow fattening and trade; (d) increased farm size due to population gain of 46 cows; (e) increased household participation in cow raising; (f) the growth of the farmers saving group; (g) diffusion in the fattening technology outside the farmers group; and (h) savings from profit to strengthen the farmers group. Besides livestock, the carp fish culture was a promising business that could promote farm and agricultural diversification.

The general achievement of SPFS programme
Overall, the SPFS programme raised household income from IDR 3.77 million per year at the beginning of the programme in 2002, to IDR 5.81 million per year at the end of the programme in 2007. This improved food security and alleviated poverty in the rural areas. The household income structure was dominated by the agricultural sector (59.2 per cent), while off-farm income amounts to 7.4 per cent and non-farm activities contributes 33.4 per cent of the household income. Within the agricultural sector, the contribution from rice farming reached 55-60 per cent. The non-farm activities commonly practiced were farm produce processing, handicraft, trade and transportation services. There are good business prospects for high-value commodities and agribusiness, using local raw material.

The positive impact provided by the SPFS programme included (a) the ability of individual members to apply the guidance on technical and farm management; (b) the improvements in livelihood and mindset; (c) the increase in productivity of on-farm, off-farm and non-farm activities; (d) the increase in income and expenditure on food and non-food items (education, health); and (f) the replication of the SPFS programme in another villages, especially rice intensification, PE goat raising and carp fish culture.

Conclusions and policy implications
The increase in household income is basically due to the improvement of the capacity and better employment opportunities of the programme beneficiaries. Of the five components of the social system of rural communities, the most deficient components were education and economic activity. The Field School for poor and food-insecure people was able to improve productivity (farm, off-farm and non-farm) through education. The supply of capital contributed to the development of various productive economic activities.

The SPFS programme applied two approaches for people's empowerment: the introduction of new technology and institutional arrangements related to farm and agribusiness. However, the impact of the introduction of new technology through technical guidance was rather weak in the implementation stage. The establishment of a vertical business network was not successful and as a result the added value received by farmers remained low and unstable.

In addition, the programme should avoid a 'one-policy-fit-all' approach when replicating the programme. It is essential that the programme is adjusted for different conditions of natural and human resources, of technological know-how, of physical infrastructure and of regional institutions.

Based on the field experience, improvements need to be made to the SPFS programme to alleviate poverty and improve food security. These improvements include: (a) a re-orientation of Field School from a commodity orientation to an agribusiness orientation; (b) the adoption of knowledge and technology-based innovation based on recent research outcomes; (c) the development of high-value agricultural products; (d) capacity enhancement of qualified human resources with managerial skill; (e) enhancement of entrepreneurship; (f) development of leadership from local traditional to a modern one; (g) the comprehensive improvement of agribusiness institutional arrangement; (h) improvement of local agro-ecosystem for sustainable agricultural development.

(References available upon request)