Petani di Sogo, Jambi, terancam perusahaan sawit. Foto: Elviza Diana/ Mongabay Indonesia

Policy Measures Should Strengthen the Village Resistance Fighting Corona

by Iwan Nurdin * on April 13th, 2020

The Corona virus disaster causes economic crises all over the world. Moreover, this virus attacks the economic centres of the world, such as China, the United States, the European Union, Japan, and South Korea. The world is entering the crisis as the impact of the invasion of this little creature.

Some countries prevent the spread of virus with varying policies. The essence of this policy saves citizens from the layered crisis, i.e., both the virus and economic crisis.

Indonesia’s economic policy also combines these two things. That is by forming Covid-19 countermeasure task force and the economic stimulus package. Besides, social security as a ‘war’ cost to ensure that the affected people can fight the virus through various social restrictions in line with the prevention of virus spreading.

The President stated, prepares IDR 405, 7 trillion stimulus package, with consists of IDR 110 trillion for the social safety net. Indeed, this virus disaster has two big problems at once for the poor: susceptible to virus exposure and getting poorer.

This article is about to propose that the package of economic recovery policy and a social safety net should strengthen the resilience of villages in facing the crisis. Without it, a recovery and social security policy can be called the wrong target.

For farmers and fishermen, this crisis situation is not the same with 1998 although the U.S dollar has increased. At that time, the fisherman, plantation farmer, and export commodities were happy because of the dollar appreciation. A bucket of giant prawns had the same price as a motorcycle. There were also some ridiculous stories when pepper farmers, cloves and coffees that went to the river to take a bath were carrying a new car.

This situation will not be repeated nowadays. The whole world is in crisis, plantation commodities such as palm, pepper, cloves, and fishery products will not have the luxury of the selling price, because the demand of the world decreased. Moreover, the commodity price will be cheap if compared to the food price inflation, thereby incomes will drastically decrease.

Independent plantation farmers, smallholdings and plantation workers in the monoculture regions that during this time received food supplies and other ingredients from outside the region seem to be having great difficulties. Besides the weakening of supply, the price will also certainly soar.

Economic aid package and basic needs are affordable during the crisis that has been prepared by the government should be well-targeted to both this area.

On the coastal area, the fishermen and farmers folk will also face a heavy situation. Thus, there need to be alacrities. Fish are caught, but the majority of consumers switch to other protein sources with more affordable prices. That is a crisis. The old formula, people reduce the consumption of fish and switch to tempeh, eggs, or other cheaper. Keeping the fish export gap to stay stable will be tough in the middle of the world crisis.

Therefore, it is necessary to ensure that the food prices are cheap and affordable, also help to reduce the cost of production of fishermen and farmers. In short, should prepare a special economic package for fishermen.

What about rice farmers? Starting from this month, rice farmers will enter the harvest period, it is better for the government to increase the purchasing price of dried grain at the farmer level and immediately absorb the production at a good price. By raising the purchasing price of grain, it should not be equal to the rising price of rice. The government intervention for this issue is important. This package could drive the farmer’s economy in facing of crisis.

Agricultural workers and small farmers, have to expand the program of recipients of direct cash assistance (BLT) and family welfare to these groups during the crisis. At least, the Minister of Social Affairs should show the alacrity in making the new base of the recipient package of this social assistance for villagers.

After the harvest, the government should quickly know whether the food stock is enough or not. Therefore, world rice producers during this plague will probably hold their rice. The rising dollar will make the imported load heavier. However, sufficient food stock and affordable prices is a must.

The economic package for this kind of villagers will increase people’s trust that the government works not only against Corona. This policy also brings a message to the public to immediately together against the spread of virus.

In facing a virus disaster and economic crisis at the same time, typically the escalation of public dissatisfaction, its curve will rise and can lead to the political crisis. This situation might occur if the government did not fully appear in the fight against the disaster, closed, and misinformed the step and the work achievement to the public.

When trust decreases, this kind of circumstance in the grassroots are so easily burned.

The Village of Food Sovereign

The Corona disaster should give development awareness during this time should be reformed. Building a village is not making the village increasingly connected to the global production and consumption network as it has been done. Besides sucking the village, and transferring more wealth and capital to a handful of people, it also brings additional problems, such as disease epidemic, goes to the rural areas. This situation caused the village facing two layers of bad situations namely the sustainability of people’s lives and the destruction of the economy threatens.

Learning from this virus, the villages must be reconstituted as territorial integrity that is truly food sovereign. This virus crisis requires redesigning of rural land use, remodelling the monoculture rural landscape that is not environmentally friendly and susceptible to food insecurity to the villages’ sovereign based on farmer household. Inevitably, it is obligatory to make sure that farmers have enough land for farming.

This virus disaster is also reminding, that the layout and the land use of the village should not only understand the potential of natural disasters but also promoting land use that ensures a non-nature disaster such as this virus will be more easily to be prevented and be addressed.

* The author is the Chairman of FIAN Indonesia

The Description of Main: People’s food sovereignty. Staple food is not only rice. Sago house or Ain Bolon, a temporary house to harvest sago in the middle of the forest in Sorong. Photo: Lusia

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