No rice please, we're Indonesians

Indonesia is one of the world's biggest producers - and consumers - of rice, but in the interests of public health and food sustainability the government has launched an ambitious drive to wean people off their beloved staple.

For ordinary Indonesians like Andi Santoso, a 23-year-old student, the thought of going without rice for a day, as the government is proposing, is almost unthinkable.

"I eat rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner," he said, a little bemused. "If I don't eat rice, I feel like I haven't eaten. What else can I eat?"

Welfare Ministry secretary-general Indroyono Soesilo says the answer is simple, even if it sounds crazy to a nation that produces more than 40 million tonnes of rice a year and consumes around 33 million tonnes.

He likens the push to alternative sources of nutrition to asking a smoker to give up cigarettes.

"We urge Indonesians to kick their habit of eating rice. We need to diversify our diets. Many Indonesians still think that if they don't eat rice, they don't eat well," he said.

"Indonesia produces 66 kinds of other carbohydrates, such as corn, sago, cassava, sweet potato, potato and others. These all can replace rice for two out of three meals a day, for example.

"We urge Indonesians to diversify their eating habits from childhood."

With 240 million hungry mouths to feed, Indonesia is the world's fourth most populous country. The average Indonesian consumes more than 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of rice a year, more than the Japanese and Chinese.

Improving farming techniques and a post-colonial food security drive have seen the country go from being the world's biggest rice importer in the 1960s to being self-sufficient now.

But while rice is plentiful and cheap, the government is worried that the nation is becoming too dependent on a single crop.

The grain that springs from paddy fields across Indonesia is vulnerable to shifting global weather patterns, such as this year's unseasonal rains linked to cooler sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific, known as the La Nina effect.

Other concerns include population growth and the shrinking availability of arable land due to factors like urbanisation and rising sea levels from global warming, which the government fears could slash Indonesia's rice production.

But for millions of poor Indonesians, rice is not just a food staple, it's a livelihood that sustains life and deserves worship as a gift from the gods.

"Rice is life. It gives jobs and food," explained Djati Kusuma, the "king" of Cigugur, a village in the middle of Java island where the annual Seren Taun festival celebrates Dewi Sri, the goddess of rice.

For three days the villagers gather "to ask for her protection in order to avert disaster and to get an abundant harvest", he told AFP at the festival last month.

No one in Cigugur appears to be thinking of growing anything different on the verdant green paddy fields that flourish in the rich volcanic soil around the village.

The people in Java's rice-growing villages see the grain as something noble, occupying an elevated seat in the agricultural hierarchy compared to roots like cassava, which is associated with poverty.

Industrial growers however are rapidly seeing the potential of crops like cassava and sago for their dual uses as food and biofuel.

A September report by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the US-based Asia Society said Asian countries need to sharply increase and better manage rice stocks to improve food security in a region where 65 percent of the world's hungry live.

Asia's rice-producing areas are home to nearly 560 million extremely poor people, who live on less than 1.25 dollars a day. About 90 percent of rice is grown in the region, on more than 200 million farms.

Rice is the staple food for more than three billion people, about half the world's population.

 

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Sport
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
football
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
News
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Travel
travel
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

    £600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

    Commercial Litigation Associate

    Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

    Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

    £65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

    Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

    £40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

    Day In a Page

    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform