Food security has become a big issue in various countries, including Indonesia. Many regions are affected by the volatility of the food supply. West Papua is not exempted from this problem despite its rich natural resources. The food vulnerability in some of its areas happens due to certain causes. But there are ways to improve it.
Possible Causes of Food Insecurity
As stated, Papua has a lot of natural resources to rely on. Thus, many people find it baffling that the region faces the risk of food shortage. Here are some reasons why this situation can happen:
The shift in consumption pattern
There is a gradual but significant shift in consumption patterns among people in the area. In the past, people used to consume local ingredients like sweet potatoes and sago. However, due to exposure from other cultures in Indonesia, more people have begun to consume rice as the staple food.
Rice is not a local ingredient of West Papua. It takes a lot of effort to maintain rice fields on the island. Thus, the region cannot self-supply its rice consumption. It causes a shortage of rice in some places.
Conversion of fields into settlements
Food comes from the agriculture and farming sectors. These sectors require land to grow crops and raise farm animals. Unfortunately, the size of available open land to develop fields and farms is very limited. This is because the land is converted into human settlement.
The presence of more people in the region makes food provision tougher as well. There is a low supply of food ingredients because the agriculture and farming sectors are unable to thrive. At the same time, the demand for food supply increases because more people are migrating to the area.
The underdeveloped infrastructure in this province, without doubt, contributes to food insecurity. Those who live in big cities with adequate infrastructure will have an easier access to food supply than citizens who live in rural areas. It is because the province is very large.
The transportation system in the region is not good. Thus, it may take days to send food supplies to rural towns. The delivery time may take longer if the weather is bad because traveling can be dangerous in that situation.
Inconsistent climate condition
West Papua also suffers from the impact of climate change. The weather becomes very inconsistent. Anomalies in the climate also cause certain places to have prolonged dry seasons, while others may experience flooding.
The agriculture sector is impacted greatly by the volatile climate. Many farmers are unable to reap their crops because they are destroyed by floods or drought. When the fields cannot provide crops, food shortages happen.
Malnutrition: The Impact of Food Insecurity
There are many impacts of food insecurity. In this province, malnutrition has become a main concern. Malnutrition occurs because people cannot obtain nutritious food in their day-to-day life or have to ration food because there is only a few available for them.
Malnutrition can lead to many problems. The region faces stunting problems among children. These children don’t receive adequate nutrition as they grow up. Stunting does not only affect the child’s physique but also their cognitive capacity. There are also increased health risks in later life.
Beyond stunting, malnutrition possesses a greater threat to society in general. It increases the cost of public healthcare, lowers productivity, and slows down economic growth. Impoverished society won’t achieve welfare easily in such situations.
Recommended Action Plan in West Papua
Researchers have come up with recommendations to improve food security in the region. The recommended actions include:
Human resource enhancement
The government needs to enhance the capacity of human resources in the area of food security. For example, there is a need to train farmers about agriculture management and science. It was found that the lack of knowledge in rice field management is a major contributor to unsuccessful crops.
The bureaucracy system in the region also needs to be reformed. The government needs to run in a more streamlined manner to support the food security program. It does not only relate to the agriculture and farming sectors. The process also encompasses infrastructure development.
Improvement of conservation
To achieve food security in West Papua, the environment should be maintained well. Conservation will increase the balance in the ecosystem. This effort takes time, but the impact will be long-lasting. Although the government has set up many conservation efforts, more needs to be done.
The government has not placed agriculture and farming industries as their top priority for economic growth. This priority list needs to be rearranged if the government wants to secure food supply for its citizens. It is important to put more economic resources to help these two sectors develop in this region.
Food security in West Papua is a multilayered issue. When tackling the problem, the government needs to see beyond the directly related sectors. However, it is a difficult path that needs to be taken to make sure that the region can catch up with modern times.