Addressing Malnutrition in and Around Indonesia’s Vast Plantations
Despite Indonesia’s impressive economic growth, acute malnutrition remains a public health issue across Indonesia, with some places more severely affected than others. Stunting frequently occurs among children, and iron deficiency anemia is common among women of reproductive age.
The 2013 Basic Health Research (Riskesdas) by the Indonesian Health Ministry recorded that about 37 percent of Indonesian children were stunted, and more than 20 percent of women of reproductive age were malnourished. Inter-regional disparities (both within and outside Java and between urban and rural areas are significant and have persisted over time.
A stunted child’s cognitive abilities and future educational development are adversely affected. Many go on to earn low wages and become entrapped in a cycle of poverty and low social mobility.
To combat this, the Indonesian government launched a nationwide campaign in 2000 to eliminate poverty and hunger, reduce child mortality, and improve maternal health. Local governments worked to socialize food and nutrition topics to women and children to create awareness of the importance of healthy diets.
The Musim Mas Group which has built kindergartens for the children of its workers plantations, saw the potential to contribute toward this cause. At the group’s schools, children aged five to six are provided free meals, which usually consist of eggs, milk, and vegetables in school, to ensure they have access to good nutrition and a balanced diet.
Children under five years old living in the company area are also distributed free additional food through the integrated family planning service center, Pos Pelayanan Keluarga Berencana – Kesehatan Terpadu (Posyandu).
Additionally, the company provides an idle land allocation scheme in the plantations for the farmers to cultivate fruits and vegetables that can be planted to supplement their diets. These initiatives are implemented to address the issues of malnutrition and vitamin deficiency. The farmers are encouraged to grow vegetables and fruits with shorter gestation periods in their home yard and gardens to provide more regular yields and balance the typical carbohydrate-heavy dietary habits of most Indonesians.
Beyond its plantations, the group conducts a comprehensive smallholder farmer training program with over 35,000 thousand smallholder farmers trained to date. This includes several hubs where district officers can address a wider group of smallholders, regardless of whether or not they supply to Musim Mas. In addition to training on oil palm sustainability and helping them improve their yields, the curriculum covers personal nutrition as the group identified it as a need.
Musim Mas believes that the sustainable production of palm oil should also involve the well-being of the farmers, workers, and communities surrounding its production.