FAO in Indonesia

FAO Builds World’s First Integrated Sago Palm Processing Facility in the World

A farmer in Sago factory witnesses sago starch as result of the processing

Currently one in every nine people in the world does not have enough food to eat, while overcoming the burden of malnutrition remains a serious challenge to ensure people’s full development potential. In Asia alone, 520 million people are currently undernourished, of which an estimated 20 million live in Indonesia. Child malnutrition remains high in Indonesia, with one in three children under five years of age suffering from stunting (chronic malnutrition).

Ensuring increased food production, while also providing people with access to improved incomes and more diverse and healthy diets is key to addressing these challenges and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, especially SDG-2 which aims to eradicate hunger, address all forms of malnutrition and ensure sustainable agriculture development by 2030.

As part of this global effort, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in close collaboration with the Government of Indonesia, has pioneered a food diversification program in Southeast Sulawesi, which is expected to reduce dependency on the common sources of carbohydrate (grain, rice, and corn), while taking advantage of an indigenous source of starch: the sago palm, which also has an important commercial value.

Southeast Sulawesi is the largest sagu area after Papua with more than 5,000 hectare. For generations, people in the province have harvested wild sago trees from the forest. But since 2016, FAO has been pioneering a commercially viable form of cultivating sago palm through an FAO-funded project with farmer groups in Konawe and South Konawe Districts of Southeast Sulawesi as well as processing groups in Kendari municipality.

The project involves three programs, first, developing a sago farm with an agro-economic approach, ensuring better productivity and quality sago palms. Second, building an integrated hygienic and no-waste sago processing unit. And third, creating an integrated business unit that manages sago farming, processing, and marketing.

Today, 18 December, representatives from FAO, from the Food Security Agency (Badan Ketahanan Pangan) of the Ministry of Agriculture, and from local government have celebrated the opening of an integrated sago processing plant in Labela Village, Besulutu Sub-district, in Konawe District. The event was followed by a stakeholders’ discussion to find the right formula to accommodate the local population’s aspiration for commercially viable sago farming and processing.

The Head of Konawe District’s Food Security Agency, M. Akbar appreciates the program, saying that the effort helps to promote local crop production and to diversify food sources to achieve greater food security, especially for the Konawe people.

“I hope the integrated sago processing center will lift sago to become a product on the global market and improve the wealth of Besulutu villagers and the people of Konawe,” says Akbar.

Akbar also hopes that the project can be replicated in other areas with similar potential. Besides in Besulutu Subdistrict, other areas in Konawe with potential include Puriala, Lambuya, Meluhu, and Sampara Subdistricts.

Environmentally Friendly Sago Processing

The sago palm processing unit installed with FAO support has placed emphasis on much increased hygiene, cost effectiveness, and even waste recovery through the technology used, to assure that the unit is environmentally friendly. Compared with traditional methods – where sago palms are harvested with simple tools like machete, water is used from the river for processing, the modern process involves a grating machine, the use of clean well water and a separate settling pond, which will give a much better quality sago starch and shorter production time. With the modern technology installed, the whole process for each sago tree will only take four hours.

With a separate drying house, during a sunny day, a harvested sago palm ‘stick’ (trunk) may yield 200 kg of starch in three days, while it could take up to a week with traditional methods and produce a lower yield and quality.

A part of the ‘zero-waste’ processing unit, the sago tree bark waste can be used to make charcoal, while the dregs can be used to grow edible mushrooms, and the liquid waste can be turned into biogas or ethanol. Previously, much of the waste materials were not used, while the liquid waste was polluting the river.

Samsuddin, one of the sago farmers in Labela Village, says he is grateful with the integrated sago processing facility and the training given. “We used to just throw away the waste, it killed other plants.”

In spite of having successfully demonstrated improved sago palm production techniques, having invested in two sago palm processing units, and having supported a sago products enterprise managed by women’s groups, FAO says that more work is needed for the program to be sustainable.

“As FAO is handing over the programme today, we are at a critical point in time, and we cannot afford to lose momentum now. Only through a collective effort by all stakeholders, both in the private and public sectors, will this tremendous opportunity turn the sago palm cultivation and processing into a viable rural industry of an important staple food native to eastern Indonesia,” says Mark Smulders, FAO Representative in Indonesia.***



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