Why studying agriculture could be your key to thriving in Indonesia

It’s easy for students studying Indonesian to forget that the value of their Bahasa skills isn’t limited to a career in diplomacy or governance. There are many other career paths where a familiarity with Indonesian culture and language is highly prized.

One such career path is agriculture. While many members of Asia Options supplement their Indonesian studies with degrees in commerce, law, or journalism, a degree in agriculture is an exciting way to have a unique and exciting impact on Indonesia.

Studying agriculture isn’t just about science

A degree in agriculture combines both specialist and generalist elements. While it focuses mainly on teaching students the science behind producing safe, high-quality and ethical food, it also appeals to other fields of study, such as economics, health, entrepreneurship, technology innovation, and even social justice. This is because effective agricultural management — the harnessing of a nation’s natural processes to sustainably (and nutritiously) feed growing populations at accessible prices — is vital to a nation’s longevity.

In other words, a degree in agriculture is ideal for creative, big thinkers who aren’t afraid to cross disciplines, push boundaries, and build new futures.

Indonesia needs agricultural students now more than ever

Indonesia faces increasing threats to food security. Presently, Indonesia ranks 70th out of 117 countries in the 2019 Global Hunger Index, with a level of hunger that is ranked as serious. Similarly, the World Food Program has found that 58 out of 398 rural districts are highly vulnerable to food insecurity and malnutrition is widespread.

The problem of food insecurity in Indonesia is a tough problem for agricultural managers. It raises tricky questions of economics and public policy, a testament to the complexity and scale of agricultural issues.

For example, as Future Directions International notes, the agriculture sector in Indonesia is dominated by smallholder farmers, who use traditional farming methods to produce food. These small-scale farmers generally lack access to finance and technology, which limits their ability to produce food. Most small plots are less than 0.6 hectares and are farmed by several family members. Access to credit has been simplified and technical assistance improved, but smallholders who are able to access improved credit (approximately 17 per cent) still struggle to re-invest, due to the high price of food and basic agricultural inputs. Consequently, on-farm activities only contribute to 49 per cent of the average smallholder’s household income, one of the lowest rates in Asia. Often, smallholders must supplement their farm income with non-agricultural earnings, such as through self-employment or rent. Income poverty is high and almost one-fifth of family farms operate below the poverty line.

In short, combining one’s Indonesian skills with a degree in agriculture presents an opportunity to students to use science, technology and business to tackle critical sustainability issues. In doing so, students can hope to play a part in ensuring the health and long-term prosperity of hundreds of millions of Indonesians.

For more information on agriculture studies, see the ‘Bachelor of Agriculture’ information page at your respective university.

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