Jakarta. Business leaders, government officials, tech entrepreneurs, executives from non-government organizations and local farmers gathered in Jakarta for a two-day forum to discuss on innovative ways to boost sustainable food production and improve welfare of smallholder farmers in the Asean region, organizer of the forum said in a statement on Wednesday (15/03).
The 4th Responsible Business Forum on Food and Agriculture (RBF) took place in Jakarta on March 14-15 at the Grand Hyatt. The forum, whose central theme was "Securing Asia's Food & Nutrition Future," was organized by Global Initiatives, an organization that promotes partnership solutions to global challenges, encourages leadership and has a proven commitment to sustainability.
The Indonesian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, or Kadin, the Partnership for Indonesia’s Sustainable Agriculture (PISAgro) and the Indonesian Business Council for Sustainable Development (IBCSD) also helped out with organizing the forum.
PISAgro is a collaborative platform between the Indonesian government, public and private sector to support agriculture productivity and sustainability and help the country achieve its food security goals.
High-profile businessman Franky Widjaja, the chairman and chief executive officer of palm oil giant Golden Agri-Resources, is PISAgro cochairman.
IBCSD is an association of companies operating in Indonesia. The organization is led by chief executive officers who share a commitment to promote sustainable development.
"Addressing food security problems in Asia is imperative if the region wants to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals," Shinta Kamdani, Kadin's vice chairwoman and president of the IBCSD, said.
According to data from the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), getting a daily meal is still a struggle for 795 million of the world's population. Asia accounts for over 60 percent of this number.
"Business leaders have the power to create the systemic change needed to enable food security," Shinta said. "We've invited companies, both multinationals and locals, to share their best practices. That’s why we believe this forum is very important," she added.
One of the UN's so-called Sustainable Development Goals 2 (SDG 2) is ending world hunger by 2030. Efforts to that end have been targeted at the poor and people in vulnerable situations including infants, ensuring they always have sufficient access to basic foodstuffs.
"We can only end global hunger collectively. And we have to target everyone, no one should be left behind," Bambang Brodjonegoro, Indonesia's Minister for National Development Planning, said in his opening speech.
The forum was attended by representatives from some Asean governments, including Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, the Philippines and Laos.
The region's main players in aquaculture and fisheries, cocoa, coffee, dairy, grains, palm oil and rice also gathered to formulate recommendations for regulators.
Golden Agri-Resources chairman and chief executive Franky Widjaja said the business community is aware that farmers' welfare plays an important role in maintaining food security.
"There are around 520 million smallholder farmers in the world, 45 million of them in Indonesia. They have to be on center stage of the discussion. We need happy farmers to produce the food we need," he said.
"We can talk in this forum, but action is more important," he added.
Franky's concerns was echoed by an executive from multinational food company Nestlé.
"Why is Asia not feeding itself? Is it the lack of land? Is it the lack of human capital? Or is it the lack of organizational capability? These are the challenges," Nestlé Indonesia President Director Dharnesh Gordhon said.
Forum participants also took the time to discuss land rights issues, forest fires and other sources of long-standing conflicts between large corporations and smallholder farmers in Indonesia.
Other high-profile participants in the forum include Kundhavi Kadiresan, FAO Assistant Director General and its Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific; Subandi Sardjoko, Indonesia's National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas) Deputy Ministery; Kamel Chida, a deputy director at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Tanjuddin bin Abdul Rahman, Malaysia's deputy minister of agriculture.
Among the multinational and local companies participating in the forum were Nestlé, Cargill, Syngenta, Monsanto, Friesland Campina, Sampoerna, Louis Dreyfus Company, Mars and Musim Mas.