Sago (Metroxylon sagu Rottb) is one of prodigious biodiversity of Indonesia as a native plant and traditional staple food of the people in the country. This plant provides nutritional value in line with food diversification, produces bioethanol towards food energy security and offers environmental preservation. However, the problems of sago in Indonesia are as follows: (1) Low extent of development attention; (2) Grown in limited access of marginal areas; (2) Processed in traditional manner; and (4) Perceived inferior compared to rice and some other food commodities. Some solutions include: (1) Coordinating development of intercropping sago through Crop Livestock System-based community preferences and marketing perspectives; (2) Organizing selective harvesting practices while developing infrastructure particularly marginal land areas; (3) Utilizing appropriate technology through implementing Public Private Partnership; and (4) Diversifying products. The government of Indonesia has implemented certain development policies such as: (1) Sago Management and Development Program; (2) Standard Operating Procedure for Certification and Control of Sago Seed; and (3) Good Sago Cultivation Guidelines. Above all, it should be carried out through coordinating the institutional aspects based on pentahelix (five-network) approach by involving: (1) Government; (2) Private sector; (3) Academe; (4) Community; and (5) Media.
Keywords: sago, development, food, energy, security, environment, Indonesia
Indonesia is a country that has abundant biodiversity (mega biodiversity), including sago (Metroxylon sagu Rottb) which is a native plant and has historically been a traditional staple food of the people in the country. The authentic evidence shows that sago was carved on the reliefs of the Borobudur temple built in the 8th century AD. This confirms sago is not a native plant of Indonesia but comes from outside (Africa, China, India, and Indochina).
More than 50% of the world's sago plant area is located in Indonesia. The rest are in Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, and other countries particularly the Pacific Region. Indonesia is also a country that has the greatest sago genetic diversity in the world. Almost all regions of Indonesia have sago plants. The majority (90%) is found in the provinces of Papua and West Papua namely 4,749,325 hectares and 510,213 hectares, respectively (Bintoro, 2018 and Abbas, 2018).
About 81.80% of sago plants in Indonesia grow naturally (sago forest), while only a small portion (18.20%) is semi cultivated (sago plantation). Consequently, the productivity is still low (8-17 tons dry starch/ha/year), or around 41.67% below its potential (20-40 tons dry starch/ha/year). In fact, sago is very useful, especially for human food and animal feed, energy, and environmental preservation.
This article discusses the sago development policy supporting food and energy security as well as environmental preservation in Indonesia. It comprises of potency, problem and solutions, as well as policy framework of sago in the country. This becomes a necessity considering the increasing demands for food along with population growth and demographic bonuses, the decreasing availability of fossil energy, and the alarming environmental conditions.
POTENCY OF SAGO PRODUCTION
As its genetic diversity, sago plants are unevenly distributed in Indonesia. It was recorded that a more extensive area of sago plants in the country amounted to 1,528,917 hectares (Table 1).
There are several benefits of sago (Djoefrie, 1999; Bintoro, 2018). Among other things, they are: (1) As a main food ingredient; (2) As a raw material for non-food industries such as textile, cosmetic, pharmaceutical, pesticide, plastic, paper, plywood, as well as food and beverage industries; (3) As energy source such as ethanol which can be used as an environmentally friendly substitute for gasoline; (4) As a raw material for food industries i.e., noodles, cakes, and crackers; and (5) As animal feed.
It is considered that sago has sufficient nutritional value as compared to other food sources (Table 2). As one of many carbohydrate sources, sago starch contains 343 calories, or almost equivalent to rice (349 calories) and corn (367 calories). If sago were cultivated intensively (crop density of 100-200 trees/ha), with the assumption of production of 300 kilograms of sago starch per tree, then 30-60 tons of sago starch per hectare would be obtained (Bintoro, 2018). Hence, sago is strategically subsisted to support food security in Indonesia.
In terms of energy source, assuming dry sago starch production (5 million tons/year) and conversion factor (0.6), it will obtain three million kiloliters of bioethanol per year. If bioethanol substitutes around 10% of gasoline, then bioethanol is needed as much as 1.6 million kiloliters which can be fulfilled from sago starch alone (NRC, 2018).
Related to environmental preservation, sago plants are able to absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) and ammonia (NH4) gas emissions of 25-200 milligrams per square meter per hour. Specifically for CO2, sago plants can absorb around 240 tons of this gas per hectare per year (NRC, 2018). Thus, one million hectares of sago plants can absorb around 236 million tons of CO2 annually. In addition, sago can maintain peat land water surface degradation, because the habitat of this plant is in shallow ground water areas, so as to prevent peat land fires that have often occurred in Indonesia.
PROBLEMS AND SOLUTIONS
On the one hand, sago has a great potency for food and other related industrial needs. On the other hand, the development of sago is still not fully supported (Santoso, 2017). The problems of sago in Indonesia are mainly anchored in four issues as summarized in Table 3.
Based on the aforementioned problems, there are some solutions to develop sago in Indonesia, namely:
- Coordinating relevant institutions including local government to develop intercropping sago plants through Crop Livestock System-based community preferences and marketing perspectives supported by accurate data availability.
- Organizing selective harvesting practices while developing infrastructure particularly at marginal land areas of sago plants.
- Finding out applicable solution by utilizing appropriate technology through implementing Public Private Partnership of government, private sector, and other relevant stakeholders in the corridor of local wisdom.
- Diversifying sago products in order to reduce dependence on imported rice, wheat flour, and other food commodities, campaigning sago as energy source, and maintaining environmental preservation widely and continuously.
The development policy of sago is strategically implemented in Indonesia. It is reasonable because: (1) Majority of sago is categorized as wild sago (sago forest) with lack of maintenance, irregular planting space, high number of clump, and low starch content; (2) The extinction of germplasm since sago has not been intensively cultivated; and (3) Conversion of sago lands to other purposes. As a result, the Indonesian Ministry of Agriculture has issued some policies such as Sago Management and Development Program supported by a Regulation on Standard Operating Procedure for Certification and Control of Sago Seed (MoA, 2013a) and Good Sago Cultivation Guidelines (MoA, 2013b) which are summarized in Table 4.
In line with utilizing domestic food sources, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO, 2017) in collaboration with the Government of Indonesia, had been pioneering a commercially viable form of cultivating sago palm through building the Integrated Sago Palm Processing Facility in Southeast Sulawesi province in 2016. This program was initiated as food diversification based-sago palm in order to be back to nature and the traditional food of Indonesia.
The program involves three activities, namely: (1) Developing sago farms with an agro-economic approach as well as ensuring better productivity and quality of sago plants; (2) Building the integrated hygienic and no-waste sago processing units; and (3) Creating an integrated business unit manages sago farming, processing, and marketing. This program aims at reducing dependency on the common sources of carbohydrate (grain, rice, and corn), while taking advantage of an indigenous source of starch from sago as an important commercial value.
As native plant and traditional food of Indonesia, the development of sago is strategically implemented towards accomplishing food and energy security as well as environmental preservation in the country. Food security-based sago can be viewed as part of food diversification. Energy security is related to fulfill energy needs through producing bioethanol as an alternative anticipation to the scarcity of fossil energy. Meanwhile, environmental preservation is aimed at absorbing greenhouse gas emission.
The policy development of sago should be continually implemented through coordinating the institutional aspects based on pentahelix (five-network) approach by involving: (1) Government; (2) Private sector; (3) Academe; (4) Community; and (5) Media. It can be more focused in Papua as a central producing area of sago. It is not only related to certain benefits for people and the environment, but also in line with socioeconomic and political perspectives since Papua becomes a serious concern of the government of Indonesia. Conclusively, sago development policy should be anchored on food security-based cultural security.
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