Indonesia is developing vast farm estates across the archipelago – an area more than 10 times the size of neighbouring Singapore – to counter the nation’s reliance on imported food, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said on Wednesday.
The project, which eventually will span nearly 800,000ha, is preparing the land to grow rice, cassava and corn for the world’s fourth-most populous country, Jokowi told a televised Cabinet meeting.
He said the project would “anticipate the world’s food crisis due to the Covid-19 pandemic . . . also to anticipate climate change as well as to curb our reliance to imported food”.
The early phase has already started in North Sumatra, as well as central Kalimantan, on the Indonesian part of Borneo island.
Eventually, it may be extended to three more regions on the world’s biggest archipelago – South Sumatra, Papua and East Nusa Tenggara.
The project has its critics, however. Earlier this month Greenpeace Indonesia warned that converting carbon-rich peatland into giant farmlands could cause an environmental catastrophe.
It said: “Since 2015, over a quarter of a million hectares of peatland forest have burned in Central Kalimantan.
“While the scientific community is urging us to protect all peatland to halt climate change, the government instead is backing a plan that looks set to turn this land into another carbon bomb.”