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Food-security as a cultural system (in Indonesia).
The global food crisis has a systemic global dimension, but in practice it consists of multiple sub-crises at regional, national and local levels. Across monsoon Asia, the staple food, major crop, key commodity and basis of food security is rice. Countries of the region manage their rice-security through strategies ranging from commercial export of surplus production to complete dependence on imports. Between these extremes lie varying mixes of self-sufficiency, dietary diversification, technological interventions, ecological and resource stresses, and agrarian relations. But hidden behind the much-debated political-economies and ecologies of state and market approaches are deep historical and cultural factors influencing patterns of production, consumption and distribution; complexes of belief and practice about rice as both plant and food; and ideologies of subsistence and self-sufficiency. These are all but invisible to most top-down political-economic analysis, but come to light in ethnographic-level studies. In Indonesia, the food/rice crisis manifests in localised patterns of nutritional deficiency, declining agrarian welfare, an ageing agricultural workforce, loss of farmland and ecological degradation. Government policy, expert opinion, media discussion and popular sentiment are all drawn and oscillate between approaches based on top-down technical and market-based development and mostly small-scale ones based on local self-sufficiency, sustainability and direct producer-consumer links. This paper explores these tensions and contradictions through ethnographic studies at various points in the national food system.