Food security challenges at the peak of El Niño

Jakarta – The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) predicts the peak of El Niño-induced drought in October 2023. This condition challenges national food security, especially in the southern equatorial regions such as Java and Bali.

According to BMKG, El Niño is a phenomenon of warming sea surface temperature (SST) above normal conditions in the central Pacific Ocean. This warming of the SST increases the potential for cloud growth in the central Pacific Ocean and reduces rainfall in the Indonesian region. This El Niño phenomenon triggers drought conditions for Indonesia in general. For this year, BMKG predicts the peak between August and September.

Food researcher at the School of Life Sciences and Technology at the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB), Angga Dwiartama, in a media discussion entitled “World Food Day: Reflection on Indonesia’s Food Security Amidst the Threat of Drought from El Niño”, in response to the impact of drought due to the climate crisis, recently, said that El-Niño impacts food production in Java, Sumatra, Lampung and South Sulawesi.

He said the lack of production land and people’s lack of access to land is one of the factors that exacerbate the impact of El Niño, such as a decrease in food production caused by the drought, since monoculture-intensive farming systems are highly dependent on water availability. Thus, farmers are highly vulnerable to drought with a high risk of crop failure.

Nugroho Hasan, CEO of, a consultant for community empowerment and sustainable agriculture, said that despite the drought caused by the El-Niño phenomenon, his organisation collaborates with the academic community of Universitas Sebelas Maret (UNS) on sustainable agriculture. approaches farmers in Boyolali and Klaten areas, Central Java by providing training on the use of technology, as well as assisting the downstream of harvested food products.

“There are several things that we have done, such as building diesel suction wells, conducting an organic farming movement through fertiliser training and organic farming methods, as well as cooperation in using drones to fertilise crops. All of these things we do to survive the drought during this El Niño period,” he explained.

Local food development

Director of Food Availability at the National Food Agency (Bapanas), Budi Waryanto, said that since 2021-2022, his agency has anticipated four factors that threaten food security, namely the uncertainty of the global situation due to geopolitical threats, climate change, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, and food disruption, including the current El-Niño. Currently, Bapanas is focusing on food provision nationally, dominated by rice, with a consumption percentage of 90%.

Regarding local food, Emil Kleden, Director of Yayasan Masyarakat Kehutanan Lestari (YMKL), highlighted the increasing pressure on the sustainability of local food, especially in Papua. Most Papuans have switched from sago and sweet potato as staple foods to rice.

The perception that rice is “more sophisticated” food than sago, and when eating rice, there is a perception of “class elevation”. This resulted in the demand decrease for sago and other tubers. “Sago reserves requires wet soil. Sago stocks cannot last long if stored in dry soil. In addition, the conversion of sago forests for other needs, further threatens the sustainability of local food from Indigenous Papuans due to reduced production land for sago,” he said.

Kleden said every year in the last 40 years, Papua and West Papua there are areas that experience famine due to extreme weather, winter, drought, and crop failure. (Hartatik)

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