Starvation in granary.850px
With plenty of resources, starvation shouldn’t be Indonesia’s middle name. Mismanagement continues to be one of the biggest issues. Globally, up to 40% of fisheries’ catch end up as bycatch and wasted (WWF, 2009). Photo credit: Aulia Rahman
I often sit down with my 2-year-old boy accompanying him watching the Baby TV channel. One of his favorite shows is Hungry Henry, which is about a squirrel-like character, or some kind of, err, I have no idea what Henry is, but one thing is for sure – just like the title, Henry is always hungry and he always yells “Henry is hungry!” But Hungry Henry cannot always get what he wants, the kitchen is always running out of food.

The scene continues to a supermarket where Henry should be able to buy the ingredients that have been missing from the restaurant. The supermarket cannot help because it is sold out. This continues along the food supply chain, until Henry reaches the end of the line and finally gets what he wants, usually from the producer or a farmer.
Starvation in granary 2.850px
Paddy terraces have always made for a beautiful landscape photo, but many threats exist including land use change, landslide from deforestation, generational preferences for working in the industrial sector, awful irrigation management, and government policy to count heavily on free trade. As a result, food security remains a major problem, even for farmers. Photo credit: Aulia Rahman

In contrast
I have just come back from a series of Akvo FLOW training workshops in Pati, Central Java and Sidikalang, North Sumatra. SHEEP (Society for Health, Education, Environment, and Peace) and PETRASA (Yayasan Pengembangan Ekonomi dan Teknologi Rakyat Selaras Alam / Foundation of economic and appropriate technology development based sustainable environment) attended the training, respectively. Both are local NGOs that work in partnership with ICCO, and one of their main goals is to continue the HFIAS (Household Food Insecurity Access Scale) survey using Akvo FLOW.  Unlike in the Hungry Henry TV show, most areas that both of these organisations focus on are having serious issues with food security, although not all of them. Farmers that actually produce raw material for food consumption shouldn’t be food insecure, but in fact they’re the ones who have limited access to food.

One of the questions in the HFIAS survey asks how often the respondents go to sleep with an empty stomach, and the following answers are options: “sering” or often; “kadang-kadang” or occasionally; and “jarang” or seldom. You can see the result of the mapping here. I can’t imagine how hard it is asking respondents this question – a sensitive question, to be sure. But during talks with the training participants, enumerators likely have some kind of friendly method to deal with these potentially awkward situations. For me, it would be very hard asking; for them it is a hard task that needs to be done for a better future. But then I remember, as hard as it is, the HFIAS survey is such an important baseline survey for policy makers to make decisions based on which areas need urgent action and how to overcome the problem in the future.

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Above: Akvo FLOW training in Sidikalang, North Sumatra. May 2014. This meeting room used to be a granary. The participants were eager to get started and were enthusiastic about the ability to adopt ICT for sustainable development, even in a really remote area. Photo credit: Aulia Rahman
Meanwhile, this is something to think about:  in some parts of the world, communities may waste their food. According to a recent study by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) called “Food Wastage Footprint: Impacts on Natural Resources,” the total wastage for the edible part of food is 1.3 billion tonnes per year. The estimated carbon footprint of food produced and not eaten is 3.3 billion tones of CO2 equivalent. If food wastage were a country, then it would have been the third biggest greenhouse gases emitter after the US and China. How do you measure 1 ton of CO2? Imagine the space that 10 baby elephants would take up – about the size of a 10m wide, 25m long, and 2m deep swimming pool.

Monitoring all of this would be a lot of hard work if it were being done by paper, but not by using recent technology. Mapping and tracing a commodity and its related activity by using advanced technology like GPS, mapping QR/barcodes, instant reporting, and attaching relevant photos and videos, are now easily done in the field thanks to the internet-based smartphone technology like FLOW. And because the smartphone interface is getting more and more simplified yet powerful, people from many different backgrounds and age groups will easily be able to use it. Thus, the data that has been collected should be shared accordingly to comply with the value of open government data towards sustainable development.

Improving food security
We have an idiom here that says: “Tikus Mati di Lumbung Padi,” which more or less means “A dead rat in a granary.” It sums up the current situation in some parts of Indonesia. Hungry Henry teaches a great lesson –  that everything, at least everything that has been on your dining table, expends natural resources, which has an impact whether it is managed well or mismanaged. Hopefully this good data will enhance the improvement of development in Indonesia, and other parts of the world as well.

Aulia Rahman is a consultant for Akvo in Indonesia. He provides support to our partners locally while also helping us to develop new partnerships in the region.