Organic and Diverse Non-Rice Food Systems


Dear friends and colleagues,

Re: Organic and Diverse Non-Rice Food Systems

The summary report below provides an example of an organic and diverse food system in a village in Indonesia. Based on leye, which is made from cassava, this diversified, local food production system has ensured the stability of food supply, and thus food security. Farmers plant a variety of crops, fruit trees and fodder, which combine to provide food, economic assets and environmental services.

This example is one of many compiled for the International Conference on Organic Agriculture and Food Security (May 2007). The full document can be found at

With best wishes,

Lim Li Ching
Third World Network
131 Jalan Macalister,
10400 Penang,

The Organic and Diverse Non-rice Food System of Giyombong Village, Indonesia

By Hira Jhamtani and Purnomosidi

In: Papers Submitted to the International Conference on Organic Agriculture and
Food Security, FAO, Rome, Italy, 3-5 May 2007. Page 76-77.

Giyombong village is a remote hilly area in Central Java, Indonesia. The village consists of about 286 families (1,359 people) who eat leye, food made from cassava, as their main staple food. Villagers practice a sustainable and organic, diversified food production system, with cassava as the main crop. They plant four varieties of cassava, locally known as Palengka, Randu, Lanteng and tela pait or Jawa Ireng. These are planted all over their lands, intercropped with a rotation of dry land paddy (gogo rice) in the rainy season, or vegetables and other root crops such as sweet potato, ginger and taro in other seasons, or with coffee. They also plant fruit trees, trees for fodder, fuel wood and housing, and keep fish and poultry. The crop rotation is managed in such a way that there is always a harvest at every season, and any time a family needs food or money. A field documentation was conducted for two weeks in November 2005 to learn about the food production and utilisation system at Giyombong. Hopefully the lessons learnt can be adapted in other areas. The method applied was semi-structured interviews and field observation.

Leye is made from the Jawa Ireng cassava roots. The roots are processed into flour, made into a dough-like mixture, and then shaped into small grains like rice. The leye grains are half dried in the sun or on top of the cooking fire after which they are steamed and then eaten. If leye is to be kept for reserve food supply, the grains are fully dried again, and can be stored for up to one year. Roots from 3-4 cassava plants are sufficient to make leye for a family, per day. Roots are harvested when the plants are 1-2 years old, and villagers make sure they replant the stems for the next season. Other cassava varieties are fried or made into snacks, chips and crackers. Families normally eat leye for two to three days consecutively and then eat rice for one day. Rice is served only to guests or hired help, and during festivals and parties. Each family has a barn, in which they store dried gogo rice, corn and leye, and sometimes cassava crackers. Villagers often barter leye with
gogo rice, depending on their needs.

Eating leye began during the colonial era as a strategy to survive the forced cultivation policy of the Dutch, which forced each family to plant crops for export on 2/3 of their lands for the benefit of the colonial rulers. In Giyombong, farmers made sure they had enough to eat by cultivating rice, cassava and vegetable crops on the limited land. They found that cassava made into leye is a rich source of carbohydrate and can be stored as a guarantee against harvest failure. This continued after Independence, until today, with no adverse effects on nutrition. The local mid-wife who provided health care from 1997-2000 said she has never encountered a case of below-five children or adults suffering from malnutrition. In the district health care centre there is no record of child malnutrition in Giyombong.

Villagers have two other sources of income. First is making sugar from the sugar palm trees, cultivated by about 60 families. Palm sugar is sold in the village or the market. The mature fruits, kolang kaling are also sold. When the tree no longer bears fruit, the trunk is sold or used to make agricultural tools. Secondly, almost everyone at Giyombong works as a pine resin extractor in the plantations owned by the State Forest Corporation, Perhutani.

Several factors have led to food supply stability at Giyombong. First is the diverse, integrated and organic agriculture that provides food, economic assets and environmental services. In addition to cassava and gogo rice, 14 varieties of banana are planted in the village, together with other fruits such as guava, papaya, jackfruit and pineapple. They also plant crops for fodder such as Caliandra, a special rubber cassava (locally known as karet) whose leaves are eaten by the livestock, two types of grass and a few other trees. The fodder trees also control erosion in steep areas and are a source of fuel wood. In turn, the goats produce manure, mixed with dead leaves called lemen. People first use lemen to fertilize their fields, and then sell the extras. Each family has at least five goats, which are their most valuable assets. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides are used only to plant cabbage, which is sold and not locally consumed. Now they rarely plant cabbage as the production cost is too high.

Second, the community has a specific food culture: the leye technology and the fact that gogo rice is kept in the barn and not sold. Despite the difficulty in making leye and the introduction of cheap white (polished) rice, most villagers have continued making and eating it. Some farmers feel that leye keeps their stomach full for a longer period. Leye can also be kept overnight, while cooked white rice gets spoilt when kept overnight.

Third, probably due to its remote location, the government’s Green Revolution programs, which has spread almost to all areas in Java, did not reach this village. Thus the food culture, the rice barn, and the integrated organic production system are relatively intact.

Giyombong village illustrates that diversified, local food production systems are an important part of food security. This is not an isolated case, nor a new one. Communities in most parts of Indonesia had not been totally dependent on rice, even in the predominantly rice-eating communities of Java, Bali, Sumatera, Kalimantan and Sulawesi. People supplemented their diet with corn and/or root crops. In Eastern parts of
Indonesia, people ate sago, root crops and corn, supplemented with rice. This food habit was lost or eroded when the government focused on rice as the one and only staple food. Food security is at stake when rice becomes the only staple food, but the Giyombong case can become a roadmap for community-based diverse food security systems.

Hira Jhamtani is an associate of the Third World Network in Indonesia. She is involved in documentation of local sustainable agriculture systems in Java and East Nusa Tenggara, and is leading a policy study on food security in Indonesia.

Purnomosidi is a community organizer with Yayasan Pendidikan Rakyat Indonesia (YPRI—The Indonesian People Education Foundation), an alternative learning centre that facilitates empowerment of people. He is currently working at Giyombong to help strengthen the community food system.

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