Towards Stunting Recovery Through Food Security, How Far Has Indonesia Progressed?

IMF’s data in 2023, Indonesia occupies the first position as the country with the largest economy in Southeast Asia, with a projected value of US$1.4 trillion.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) report, an estimated 148.1 million or 22.3% of children under the age of five worldwide experienced stunting in 2022, and it is projected to increase by an additional 127 million stunted children globally by 2025. Stunting is a disruption in the growth and development of children resulting from chronic malnutrition, characterized by below-standard height and abnormal brain development compared to typical children.

As a developing country, Indonesia is also closely associated with this issue, even ranking among the countries with the highest prevalence of stunting (27th out of 154 countries with available stunting data). Despite the Ministry of Health Republic Indonesia releasing the results of the Indonesia Nutritional Status Survey (SSGI) during the National Working Meeting of National Population and Family Planning Board (BKKBN), indicating a decrease in the prevalence of stunting in Indonesia from 24.4% in 2021 to 21.6% in 2022, these figures still appear to exceed the WHO’s recommended threshold for stunting prevalence in a country, which is 20%. This implies that the Indonesian government still has a considerable task ahead in addressing this issue.

IMF’s data in 2023, Indonesia occupies the first position as the country with the largest economy in Southeast Asia, with a projected value of US$1.4 trillion. This is equivalent to 36.7% of the total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of ASEAN and 1.4% of the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The amount of government spending (APBN) to support the acceleration of stunting reduction is also no joke, amounting to IDR 34.15 trillion in 2022 and IDR 30.4 trillion in 2023.

The rapid economic growth in Indonesia over the past 20 years, however, does not seem to be proportionate to the issues at hand. One in five children under two years old in Indonesia experiences chronic malnutrition or stunting. Research from the Ministry of Finance, based on the World Bank’s Investing Early Years Brief in 2016, proves that stunting has hindered economic growth and workforce productivity, resulting in a 20% reduction in income for adult workers, exacerbating inequality, a 10% reduction in lifetime earnings, and contributing to intergenerational poverty. On the other hand, during the 2023 National Coordination Meeting (Rakornas 2023), the government assured that Indonesia’s stunting prevalence would decrease to 14% by 2024. How can Indonesia demonstrate this?

Stunting is the result of inadequate nutrition during the first 1000 days of life, and it is irreversible. In 2022, there were 2 million women getting married in a year. Out of these, 1.6 million became pregnant in the first year, and among them, 400 thousand experienced stunting. Nutrition comes from the food consumed, not only by the child itself but starting from the mother’s pregnancy until after childbirth. Because the failure to provide exclusive breastfeeding can also be one of the factors leading to stunting (Ministry of Health, 2018). The availability of nutrition is closely related to the availability of sufficient food, both in quantity and quality, safe, diverse, nutritious, evenly distributed, and affordable, as well as in line with the religious, belief, and cultural values of the community, for a healthy, active, and sustainable life (Government of Indonesia, 2012). In short, this is referred to as food security.

Indonesia’s strong economic position should have been a breath of fresh air for the formation and implementation of policies related to food. Therefore, the government needs to formulate food policy strategies to achieve a 40% reduction in stunting among toddlers, which is the first target among the six set in the global nutrition target for 2025. This reduction serves as a key indicator in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for Zero Hunger (WHO, 2014).

According to Presidential Regulation Number 72 of 2021 concerning the Acceleration of Stunting Reduction, efforts to reduce stunting must be done holistically and involve multiple stakeholders. There are 5 pillars in the National Strategy (Stranas) for Accelerating Stunting Reduction, and one of them is food security and nutrition. In Presidential Regulation 72/2021, there are several targets for food security and nutrition to support stunting reduction that must be achieved by 2024. The targets to be achieved include: 50% of at-risk stunting families utilizing backyard resources, 90% of at-risk stunting families consuming fish and animal protein, 90% of Fertile Age Couples (PUS) and the poor receiving social assistance, 75% of fortified food products followed up, 80% of infants under two years old receiving complementary feeding (MPASI), and 90% of malnourished toddlers receiving additional nutritional intake. One way to achieve this is through the implementation of Sustainable Food Gardens (P2L) and Community Food Barns (LPM).

The Ministry of Agriculture is undertaking 4 steps:

  1. Increasing production capacity through accelerating the planting of MT II rice in 2020 covering an area of 5.6 million hectares.
  2. Food diversification through the development of local wisdom-based local food, utilizing local foods such as cassava, corn, sago, bananas, and sorghum to increase farmers’ income.
  3. Encompassing the strengthening of food reserves and logistics systems through the Strengthening of Provincial Government Rice Reserves (CBPP), Strengthening of District/City Government Rice Reserves (CBPK), as well as strengthening the national food logistics system for supply and price stability.
  4. Development of Modern Agriculture through the development of smart farming and food estates.

Last but not least approach taken by Indonesia involves the enhancement of agricultural infrastructure. In the national context, agricultural and food development is crucial as it directly relates to the ability to meet the nutritional needs and ensure national food security for Indonesia’s 272 million people. The President Joko Widodo explained that one of the infrastructures built in Indonesia since 2015 is in the field of agriculture. It is recorded that 29 dams have been inaugurated, and this year, 38 more dams are expected to be completed, with a target of over 61 dams by 2024. Additionally, reservoirs and 4,500 irrigation networks have been constructed.

Optimal agricultural irrigation management is pursued through the rehabilitation of tertiary irrigation networks and the provision of water sources such as reservoirs, ditch dams, and piped or pumped irrigation. Another crucial aspect is the utilization of superior rice varieties, intensification and extensification, and diversification. One method involves the use of agricultural machinery (Alsintan), operated with or without motorized engines, for cultivation, maintenance, harvesting, post-harvest, and processing activities, as well as for livestock and animal health. Examples include tractors, rotavators, and single-furrow plows. The use of Alsintan aims to provide convenience and reduce production costs. For instance, the use of a combine harvester is known to reduce harvest losses by 10%. Moreover, the harvesting cost is lower, amounting to only Rp 1 million per hectare.

Nurul Kharista Sari
Nurul Kharista Sari
National Resilience Master's student at Gadjah Mada University.