climate-driven food insecurity in Central Java

The George Institute awarded $350K grant to map health issues from climate-driven food insecurity in Central Java

A joint Australian-Indonesian research project led by The George Institute’s Health Systems Science team has been selected to receive an inaugural KONEKSI Collaborative Research Grant - Environment and Climate Change.

One of only 38 high‐quality projects chosen from 611 proposals, Exploring links between food security and health to inform policy and service priorities for the northern coast of Central Java aims to build a robust picture of the impacts of climate change and other environmental factors on dietary patterns and disease in people living in three flood-prone districts of Java, the world's most populous island.

Dr Anna Palagyi, Lead Researcher and Program Lead - Ageing and Health Systems at The George Institute for Global Health, said there is a need to formalise the largely anecdotal evidence on the impact of climate change on food security and health for vulnerable coastal communities in Indonesia.

“The limited evidence available highlights significant disease burden from poor nutrition, hygiene and sanitation in villages impacted by tidal floods,” she said. “Rising sea levels and more extreme weather events in the past two decades have caused severe erosion of the northern coast of Central Java.

“Encroaching sea water has destroyed houses, crops and fishery infrastructure, placing the livelihoods of tens of millions of people living in this region at risk. Illegal sand mining, rapid development and inadequate protection measures are compounding the problem,” Dr Palagyi added.

Diverse disciplines involved in the project will collate and analyse policy, health and nutrition data from a wide range of sources (the oldest records date from the mid-1990s). Researchers in social science, food and nutrition, climate mitigation policy and agricultural economics will work alongside grassroots environmental activist groups to formally understand the scale of the issues.

Inundation and sediment deposit in Semarang, Pekalongan and Demak - home to 36 coastal villages of varying scale and development - makes land unviable and shrinks aquaculture reserves, severely impairing subsistence food production and cutting off opportunities for agriculture and fishery production - the primary sources of income for most families.

“At the moment, communities are forced to adapt to these problems with limited government support. Low quality replacement housing, inadequate fresh food and water supply, and poor sanitation are directly impacting the health of the community,” explained Dr Palagyi.

“Ultimately, our goal is to use robust, contextual evidence to work with local communities and decision makers to co-design practical policy and intervention strategies that will strengthen community resilience to the harms from climate change-induced food insecurity and its negative health impacts,” she said.

The project brings together three partner academic institutions in Australia and Indonesia – The George Institute, Universitas Brawijaya and Universitas Sebelas Maret – and extends and strengthens the advocacy-policy partnership of these institutions with two Indonesian non-government partners - The Institute for Social Research, Democracy and Social Justice (Percik) and The Habibie Center.

KONEKSI (Collaboration for Knowledge, Innovation, and Technology Australia and Indonesia) is a knowledge partnership platform funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) Australia for a five-year (2023-2027) period. KONEKSI aims to achieve an enduring relationship between Indonesia and Australia that advances mutual interest and supports Indonesia’s inclusive and sustainable development, by increasing the use of knowledge-based solutions and technologies. It will bring people together to jointly identify problems and solutions, create partnerships and extend networks. The 38 knowledge partnerships supported by the inaugural grants involve 85 organisations in Indonesia and 23 in Australia.