Agroforestry traditions of Indonesia can help confront food shortages

Indonesia’s Ministry of Agriculture predicts that climate change will shrink the area under rice, leading to a shortage of the staple. Agroforests can help fill the gap and restore a healthy environment, say scientists at the National Agroforestry Seminar, according to Elis Nurhayati


Scientists gathered at the Indonesian National Agroforestry Seminar in Malang, East Java, 21 May 2013, argued that large numbers of the nation’s population who are living in situations vulnerable to a changing climate can reduce their vulnerability through greater use of agroforestry.

agroforest, Indonesia

Typical agroforestry landscape in Indonesia

Indonesia is the fourth largest democracy on Earth but its economy is still mostly based on agriculture and natural resources. The nation needs to adapt its agricultural knowledge and skills—particularly in agroforestry—if its millions of farmers are to cope successfully to the challenges brought about by climate change.

The changes could be severe. Research results from the Indonesian Ministry of Agriculture in 2011, reported at the seminar, predicted that by 2050 the rice-growing area would have shrunk substantially, especially on Java, Bali and Sulawesi islands, resulting in shortages of the staple food throughout the archipelago. But increasing the amount of agroforests could help reduce the impact of climate change and boost food supply.

‘Agroforestry is relatively safe from the risk of crop failure, more resistant to market fluctuations and more resilient to the impacts of climate change than other systems,’ said Meine van Noordwijk, chief science adviser at the World Agroforestry Centre. ‘Agroforests are buffers against biophysical, economic and social pressures. They can ensure the sustainability of the livelihoods of farmers within the framework of a green economy’.

Indonesia is well placed to take advantage of the benefits of agroforestry, according to Professor Kurniatun Hairiah of Brawijaya University: ‘Agrarian society in Indonesia has intuitively known and practised agroforestry. Agroforestry has been proven to effectively improve livelihoods while at the same time preserving the environment and the beauty of the landscape. It’s therefore no wonder that the practice, which is commonly known in Indonesian as a ‘mixed tree garden’, has long been applied in many areas of the nation, under different names in different languages: campursari in East Java; kitren in Central Java; talun in West Java; repong resin in West Lampung; dusun in Maluku and Papua; lembo in Borneo and parak in West Sumatra’.

The seminar was held to share research results that would give further encouragement to the Government to adopt more policies that supported the development of agroforestry and to celebrate the anniversaries of the four institutions that collaborated to host the seminar: Agroforestry Technology Research Institute of the Forestry Research and Development Agency of the Ministry of Forestry; Agriculture Faculty of Brawijaya University; World Agroforestry Centre Indonesia Program; and the Indonesian Agroforestry Society. Around 300 people participated, including researchers, development practitioners, educators, professors, students, NGO activists and representatives of various government agencies from central and regional levels.

‘This seminar is a result of our reflections, looking back at 20 years of the Centre’s work in Indonesia and 100 years of the Forestry Research and Development Agency, which was established in 1913 by the Dutch Government’, said van Noordwijk.

It was also the second anniversary of the Agroforestry Technology Research Institute and the first for the Indonesian Agroforestry Society.


Edited by Robert Finlayson

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This work links to the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry


Rob Finlayson

Robert Finlayson is the Southeast Asia program's regional communications specialist. As well as writing stories for the Centre's website, he devises and supervises strategies for projects and the countries in the Southeast Asia region, including scripting and producing videos, supervising editors and translators and also assisting with resource mobilization.

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