Indonesian Farmers Ill-Equipped to Prevent Crop Failures Due to Climate Change
Fidelis E Satriastanti
A climate expert says the country is far from ready to deal with the harmful effects of climate change on crops, with droughts or floods likely to threaten food security down the road.
“Crops are very sensitive to weather changes. It cannot be too dry or too wet. Climate change will result in a gradual increase in the overall temperature, which would result in longer dry seasons and shorter rainy seasons,” said Rizaldi Boer, executive director of the Center for Climate Risk and Opportunity Management in Southeast Asia and the Pacific at the Bogor Agricultural University.
“As a result, if we plant crops in a particular area twice a year, when it’s an El Nino or La Nina year, the second planting usually fails,” Boer said. “That means we have not been handling it very well and we are still suffering from crop failures due to drought or floods.”
An Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report indicates that an increase of two degrees Celsius in average global temperatures above pre-industrial levels would have devastating affects on world agriculture.
“If we reach two degrees, then it could decrease 20 percent of rice production in tropical countries such as Indonesia by 2050,” he said, adding that the country is already expected to lose around 6 million metric tons of rice production due to land conversion alone. With the addition of climate-change effects, that loss could increase to 15 million tons, Boer said.
He said the Ministry of Agriculture should implement an integrated plan of action because one institution was not enough to handle the problem.
“In order for the farmers to be able to avoid crop failures, they would need to have better weather forecasts, which are normally issued by the BMKG,” he said, using the acronym for the country’s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency.
“However, the major problem is that nobody really knows how to use the data because there are few outreach officials who understand climate-change issues.”
He called for the establishment of a central institution that would shoulder the responsibility to disseminate key climate information to farmers.
“We cannot expect farmers to just understand weather forecasts. Meanwhile, human resources are still inadequate,” he said, adding that local government and media also have a major role in distributing information.
“The local governments could not just announce that farmers need to plant non-rice crops for the season without enough information,” he said. “We’re not just talking one or two hectares. We’re talking about hundreds of hectares. They’ll need to think about what is needed to be done with the seeds for other crops.”
Furthermore, he said the Ministry of Agriculture should develop new varieties of seeds with shorter harvest cycles or which require less water in order to meet two harvests each year.
“This will need major funding because more research is needed,” he said, adding that the current climate change talks should give more attention to ways of helping developing countries adapt to these effects.
Meanwhile, Ati Wasiati Hamid, the Ministry of Agriculture’s director of food crop protection, said the government was prepared to deal with climate change through harvest modules and outreach officials.