Food Estate Programs Doing More Harm than Good?

Slothino blog food estate program indonesia potential threat to environment

Indonesia houses the third largest area of rainforests in the world. Its rich biodiversity, however, is constantly under threat from the local agroindustry. And once again, a massive environmental problem looms large on the horizon. Initially campaigned as a solution to a lingering issue, the government food estate programs have turned into the exact opposite. While not solving the country’s long-standing insecurity, the food estate programs have also turned into a potential environmental disaster. In fact, some have argued that the food estate program further accentuated Indonesia’s food insecurity. Far from being a solution, it has aggravated the problem while also creating a new one.

Sustainable development has been talked about for a long time. However, actually attaining this goal is much more difficult. It’s a fact that Indonesia needs to address its food insecurity problem. On the other hand, this must be done the right way. First, the food estate program could be considered a façade, as its production is aimed at exporting commodities rather than feeding local communities. On top of that, it has advanced into protected forest areas, turning into a massive environmental problem.

Slothino is an eco-conscious casino brand, bringing you the best casino bonuses and games while also raising awareness about important environmental issues. Now, let’s take a look into what is the Indonesia government food estate program and how it’s threatening the local rainforest.

What are the Indonesian Food Estate Programs?

As mentioned earlier, Indonesia has a long-standing food insecurity problem. As the fourth most populous country in the world, with over 270 million people, the task sure isn’t easy. Solving the country’s lingering food insecurity issues has been an ambitious goal for Indonesian politicians. According to President Joko Widodo, COVID-19 aggravated the country’s food insecurity problems. Combined with the potential food shortage created by the pandemic, the situation could become much worse for Indonesia. The new food estate program, announced by President Widodo and spearheaded by Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, isn’t the first attempt at tackling the problem.

In the 1990s, then-president Suharto tried to implement an ambitious project to convert 1.4 million hectare of peatland into farmland. The project, however, was a complete failure. Not suited for agriculture, the peatland did not provide crops with enough nutrients. And to make matters worse, the project also drained portions of the peatlands, while digging thousands of miles of canals and waterways. As a result, the damaged peatlands now suffer with fires during the dry season and flooding during the rainy season.

The new project, which started in September 2020, will cover 770,000 hectares, of which 148,000 will be dedicated to rice alone. Indonesia is one of the world’s top importers of wheat and rice. If the project succeeds in its initial stages, it could expand to cover 1,4 million hectares by 2025.

How do Food Estate Programs threaten the environment?

What do the new food estate programs have to do with environmental destruction? Much like the first failed attempt, the new program could lead to some catastrophic results. In fact, some of the farmland from the 1990s One Millions Hectare Peatland Project will be used for the new food estates. However, the former peatland has already been damaged beyond repair and isn’t suited for all crops.

But that’s only a small part of the problem. The food estate program has come under severe criticism from scientists and environmental activists. Currently, the Indonesian government has announced plans for three provincies – Central Kalimantan, Papua and North Sumatra. And here is where the environmental as well as social problems begin.

There is not enough land available for the program. As a result, the government will allow protected forest zones to be converted into zones for food security. In other words, the new food estates will most likely destroy thousands of hectares of rainforest. The damage, as the previous program has shown, will last much longer. This will also threaten local communities that rely on the forest for subsistence.

One major issue with food estate programs is the interest behind it. Solving food insecurity problems is merely a façade. Large corporations could easily benefit and profit from the food estates’ production. As an example, most of the usable land cleared for the 1990s peatlands project has been converted into palm tree plantations.

There is absolutely no denying that Indonesia’s food insecurity problem must be solved. However, the issue must be dealt with appropriately. Rushing forward with the food estate program isn’t a solution – in fact, it could make matters even worse. For now, the picture looks quite grim. All signs point towards the program going forward. The consequences could last for much longer.

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