The Understanding and Response to Climate Change by Farmers in Indonesia Varies Depending on Their Location

Rating B (Moderate progress to sustainability)

Indonesia has approximately 38.8 million farmers dispersed among 75,436 villages, 7,232 sub-districts, and 514 regencies/cities. Rice is the primary crop cultivated by Indonesian farmers. Other crops cultivated by farmers are palm oil, natural rubber, cocoa, coffee, tea, cassava, rice, and tropical spices. The average size of the farm is small, less than one hectare, and the majority of farmers utilize about 0.1 to 0.5 for cultivation. Generally, farmers produce four plantings per year when they have access to irrigation and three plantings in the absence of it. The Indonesian farmers are equipped with tremendous local knowledge and wisdom about which crops to cultivate based on the seasonal weather variations. They have engineered local systems, diverting water from rivers and streams to croplands. However, climate change impacts such as erratic rainfall patterns and extended dry seasons make it difficult for farmers to decide their cultivation timescales. They are often confused regarding when to start the next planting season and what crops to grow.

Differences in the upstream and downstream farmers

Interestingly, the understanding of climate change impacts and their adaptive actions differ based on the farmers’ location, either upstream or downstream. The upstream farmers perceive increased temperatures and pest attacks as signs of climate change, while downstream farmers are usually concerned with tackling drought conditions. Comparatively, the downstream farmers are more active in seeking information about weather patterns from television, the internet, and agricultural extension workers. They also have a higher acceptance of scientific-based information in response to water shortages. These farmers have combined local and non-local knowledge to devise crop diversification techniques to adapt to drought conditions. Another practice they follow is storing water by creating Belik (that looks like a 1.5m deep water trench) in the wet seasons, which is later used during dry seasons. Furthermore, they take off-farm activities such as working in the construction sector and migrate to other villages to support their livelihood during dry seasons. In contrast, upstream farmers use chemicals and pesticides to reduce pest attacks, causing more harm to the crops and the environment.

Adaptation strategies

One of the successful farming systems implemented in Indonesia as an adaptive measure to the changing weather patterns is the System of Rice Intensification (SRI). It is based on four principles: (1) early plant establishment, (2) reduced plant density, (3) improved soil conditions through enrichment with organic matter, and (4) reduced and controlled water application. This technique increases rice yield by using less water, grain, and water and mitigates greenhouse gas emissions from paddy fields. Some other local adaptation techniques farmers adopt are expanding land under crop production, intercropping, changing rotation and tillage practices, using a resistant variety of seed types, and a direct seeding technique called Tabela. The Tabela technique directly spreads seeds on agricultural land without the need to plant seeds elsewhere and then transport them to cultivated areas after a few days. This technique saves labor costs for planting one week and produces more crop yield.

Government efforts and future direction

On the other hand, Indonesia’s Ministry of Public Works and Housing has constructed several dams and irrigation canals that ensure water supply to farmers in the dry season. Some other initiatives undertaken by the government are conducting climate field school, integrated planting management field school, and integrated pest management field school, as well as the development of new superior varieties of rice, development and usage of organic farming on paddy fields, development of soil cultivation technology and water-economical plant, building improved water storage, dissemination of compost-making devices, manure management to generate bio-energy, monitoring of flood and drought susceptibility on paddy field area, and adjustment of planting calendar. The adaptive capacity of farmers can further be enhanced by creating a local adaptive management policy based on their location that takes into account local knowledge and follows a bottom-up approach. In addition, the Government can support farmers by improving their awareness about climate change impacts and investing in infrastructure and sustainable farming and production practices that reduce climate risks.


This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard Indonesia Country Manager Netra Naik


Climate change is real, and what governments do matters.

Help us work with key stakeholders globally to ensure continued support of the The Paris Agreement.