Sunday, February 25, 2024 | 05:14 WIB

Accelerating the adoption of agricultural technology

Jakarta, IO – The impact of an extreme drought caused by El Niño has tended to compromise Indonesia’s staple food production. Generally, people have to bear with skyrocketing prices of rice, paying up to IDR 15,000/kg, as a result of a plunge in food production. The swelling food prices contribute to the rate of inflation and declining purchasing power. 

On October 16, 2023, Statistics Indonesia officially released its rice and corn production data, using the area sampling frame method, showing a decline and stagnation in food production and productivity over the last two years. Since mid-2023, El Niño has increased the burden of or become an accelerator for the decline in staple food production. 

Rice production is estimated to have dropped by 1.12 million tons (2.05%), from 54.75 million tons of dry unhusked rice in 2022 to 53.63 million tons in 2023. Paddy harvested area fell by 256 thousand hectares (2.45%), from 10.45 million hectares in 2022 to 10.20 in 2023. 

Rice productivity has been almost stagnant for the last two years, as practically no new technology has been developed or adopted by farmers. Indonesia again became dependent on imported rice, reaching a record high over the last five years of around 2.5 million tons in 2023. 

Likewise, corn production is estimated to have fallen by 2.8 million tons (12.52%), from 22.36 million tons of dry-shelled corn (28% moisture content) in 2022 to 19.56 million tons in 2023. Corn production has been the mainstay of the animal feed industry, since it constitutes 60% of all animal feed components. The decline in corn production and soaring feed prices have afflicted smaller farms, which are still recovering from shrinking demand, following the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This article discusses acceleration strategies for the adoption of agricultural technology, particularly new adaptive varieties of plants. One strategy to accelerate adoption is by strengthening the function of agricultural training, including training institutions, personnel, financing, administration and necessary policy support. 

Adoption of agricultural technology 

Indonesian farmers’ adoption of new agricultural technology is dismaying. Although researchers have successfully produced a number of superior rice varieties resistant to drought and food, most farmers still grow the 23-year-old Ciherang variety, introduced in 2000. This rice mega variety is grown by 29.87% of Indonesian farmers, the highest figure, while Mekonga, released in 2004, is the choice of 12.60% of farmers. 

Flood-resistant varieties such as Inpari 32 (irrigation rice inbred 32), released in 2013, are grown by 7.47% of farmers, while 6.31% still grow the older rice variety, IR 64, which is almost 40 years old. The Inpari 30 variety is grown by 6.31% of farmers, while 4.12% opt for the Situ Bagendit. 

The low rate of technology adoption is closely related to the effectiveness of the agricultural training system – strategically, organizationally and operationally. Training implementation should be upgraded and adjusted to the dynamics of technological development, environmental changes and the value system in society. 

Up to now, educational implementation has been tracking Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Training System Law 16/2006. However, since the enactment of Regional Government Law 23/2014, agricultural training institutions have faded from relevance. 

Agricultural training works under the Agriculture Office or a similar office in the region. The instructors are part of the official administration system, but are more often seen in official programs instead of performing their functional duties. 

Hence, the Government issued Presidential Regulation 35/2022 on strengthening the function of agricultural training, complemented by Agriculture Ministerial Regulation 27/2023 on the implementation of Presidential Decree 35/202. 

Unfortunately, the implementation of the two regulations proved ineffective, impeded by the complexity of training institutional problems. Many agricultural training programs and operational activities could not be delivered effectively at provincial and district/city levels. 

In addition to strengthening basic administrative units and agricultural training centers at the sub-district level, an option for strengthening agricultural training institutions is to increase the success rate of agricultural training in supporting national strategic programs, such as increasing staple food production and productivity. 

An agricultural training movement that can be implemented immediately includes empowering agricultural instructors in learning, mentoring and supervising processes of farmers’ businesses, farmer institutions and farmer economic institutions. 

An independent training movement should be championed to increase the effectiveness of independent agricultural instructors, comprising experienced farmers and local community leaders. Formally, the competency of independent agricultural instructors should be improved, through collaboration with the National Profession Standardization Agency (BNSP), universities, reputable research institutions and others. 

The independent training movement must also ensure the effectiveness of the operational programs, such as independent agricultural and rural training centers (P4S), village training stations, agricultural economic institutions and farmer group associations.

Policy recommendations 

The following are recommendations for expediting or accelerating the adoption of agricultural technology. First, the Government needs to immediately conduct farmer mapping, including their characteristics, priority crops currently cultivated and planned, while updating the agricultural training system. 

The Government also needs to map all agricultural instructors, including independent instructors and private instructors, and play an active role in improving the training success rate to support national strategic programs. 

Second, the Government should prioritize the direct role of agricultural instructors as the spearhead in accelerating the adoption of agricultural technology, by increasing instructors’ capacity as learners and developing farmers to be more skillful and expert in their field. 

Third, collaborative training should be initiated, to provide space and opportunities for independent instructors to develop and implement market-led extensions. Independent instructors, drawn from successful farmers, are generally more experienced in enhancing the quality of agricultural products for export purposes and outlining the technical and administrative requirements farmers must meet to enter the export market. 

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Fourth, the reformulation of special allocation funds, physically and non-physically, must be immediately integrated with the 2025-2029 Medium-Term Development Plan (RPJM), which is formulated in the National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas). 

These priorities could be focused on specific farmers or agricultural areas, such as by synchronizing with the food security allocation of 20% of village funds and the village fund allocation formulated by the Ministry of Villages, Disadvantaged Regions and Transmigration.




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