Accepted Paper:

Grassroots solutions to structural problems: the case of farmers cooperatives in Java, Indonesia  


Thomas Reuter (University of Melbourne)
Graeme MacRae (Massey University Auckland)

Paper short abstract:

The world faces a food supply and distribution crisis, notably import dependent countries like Indonesia. Case studies of grassroots initiatives are presented that provide hope as they successfully address issues of sustainability, productivity and distribution to benefit both farmers and consumers.

Paper long abstract:

The world faces a twofold food crisis - supply will be insufficient soon due to deteriorating environmental conditions and this supply is not evenly distributed due to escalating economic inequality. In Indonesia the food problem is essentially a rice problem, as 1,25 million tons need to be imported annually from the Mekong Delta, which is itself under threat. Most domestic rice is grown by small farmers who struggle to make a living from farming, partly because government interventions depress prices. For poor consumers all over Indonesia, fluctuations in the price of rice in the market is a real issue.

The mainstream approach, shared by the agricultural research complex, corporations, international organisations and agencies, and the Indonesian government, is that the problem is deficits of capital, technology and market access and the solution is more of each. The alternative approach, shared by small-farmers organisations, NGOs and ethnographic researchers, tend toward solutions grounded in local knowledge, traditional farming, and local systems of distribution and consumption. The radical disjuncture between these two approaches leads their proponents to talk past each other.

Since the 1990s, there have been initiatives encouraging farmers to convert to organic production to reduce production costs and add market value. Many succeeded in reducing production costs and some increased production, but most were less successful in marketing.

We've been looking for initiatives working across the gap of understanding, and addressing marketing and distributions issues as well. This paper will introduce briefly two cases in Java that provide reason for hope.

Panel WIM-WHF08
Social science and the climate crisis: finding sources of hope