Launch of the book 'Agriculture Beyond Food: Experiences from Indonesia'

Dilemma’s of the green economy

27 November 2014

The use of plants for biomass has expanded enormously, but these applications may also threaten sustainability. The NWO-KNAW research programme Agriculture Beyond Food studies developments and potential dilemmas in the field of green economy in Indonesia. At a concluding symposium in Jakarta on 27 November, the book ' Agriculture Beyond Food: experiences from Indonesia', is offered to the Indonesian Deputy Minister of Research, Technology and Higher Education, Agus Hoetman, by NWO-WOTRO Director Renée van Kessel.

From left to right: Enny Sudarmonowati (Deputy Chairman of LIPI for Life Sciences and Indonesian programme coordinator of AbF) Renée van Kessel (Director of NWO-WOTRO Science for Global Development), Agus Hoetman (Deputy Minister for Science and Technology Network at the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education), Wouter Plomp (Deputy Ambassador of the Netherlands to Indonesia). Credits: Sikko Visscher (KNAW)From left to right: Enny Sudarmonowati, Renée van Kessel, Agus Hoetman and Wouter Plomp. Credits: Sikko Visscher (KNAW)

The increasing importance of agriculture for other purposes than food has conflicting consequences. Research within the scientific research programme Agriculture Beyond Food (ABF) shows that the cultivation of oil palm is an important impetus to economic growth in Indonesia. This expansion takes place increasingly at the expense of rice fields, which is at odds to the need for local food security. At the same time, the intensification comes with deforestation and expansion in the ecologically vulnerable peatlands which results in negative effects for sustainability.

One of the challenges is to realise the benefits of sustainability on a small-scale level as well, for example by making use of waste products to generate energy. Not only technological solutions are needed to accomplish this, but also a consistent and long-term policy. Like many other developing countries, Indonesia faces the challenge to benefit from biomass production, without jeopardising food security, biodiversity and socio-economic development. To meet this challenge, technical, social, economic and legal scientists worked together and took into account the whole context of the green economy.

Research results

Oil palm seeding, West Kalimantan. Credits: Yayan Indriatmoko (CIFOR)

One of the main conclusions in the book 'Agriculture Beyond Food: experiences from Indonesia' is that Jatropha does not seem to live up to its promise. Amongst others, this is caused by disappointing yields and counterproductive incentives from the Government, such as fossil fuel subsidies. Besides, Jathropa is a relatively young crop. To fully benefit from Jathropa, it must be genetically developed. This makes Jatropha riskier than for instance oil palm.

The cultivation of palm oil is more lucrative, both for large entrepreneurs as for local farmers. This is partly because palm oil can be sold both on food-market and on the non-food market. So palm oil producers can sell their products on the market that generates the highest yields. The negative impact on the environment, such as peat bogs and forests and on the production of rice, is substantial however. It is best when oil palm is grown on marginal land, which would not be used for agricultural purposes anyway. However, such land is also not always as marginal, for example because it has a function as flood buffer or for local use such as gathering food, firewood and fodder. For that reason the focus in future research should be on the optimisation instead of the maximization of yields.

Agriculture Beyond Food also focuses on mobile technologies to locally produce biodiesel. Research has shown that these kind of innovations have a lot impact on the lives of local farmers and therefore should be developed in a process of co-creation. An example is the use of ethanol from locally fermented biomass, instead of the generally used methanol. A second scientific breakthrough is the use of the remaining residue for biodiesel synthesis and as cattle feed, that increases the economic benefit for the local population.

Agriculture Beyond Food research programme

The Agriculture Beyond Food research programme stimulates long term cooperation between research groups from Indonesia and Netherlands on the potential benefits of biomass and the social, economic and policy impact. It connects to the NWO theme sustainable Earth and the Scientific Programme Indonesia-Netherlands (SPIN) of the KNAW. Agriculture Beyond Food is divided into three clusters: the introduction of Jatropha as an alternative biofuel, mobile technologies for biodiesel production, and the effects of an increasing production of palm oil. Agriculture Beyond Food started in 2008, and a total of 2.5 million euros is available for the research. The programme is financed by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO-WOTRO), the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), and is carried out in collaboration with the Indonesian Ministry of Research, Technology and Higher Education (formerly RISTEK).


Cover ABF book


Source: NWO