Building a strong evidence base for policy making: The contribution of Indonesian CSOs

Masons in Indonesia during an SNV-led practical workshop on septic tank installation

Civil society organisations (CSOs) in Indonesia are increasingly aware that successful policy advocacy requires action on three key fronts: focusing on a few strategic thematic areas where CSOs are well-positioned to make a difference; gathering high quality evidence in order to influence policy makers; and linking up efforts with a wide range of actors to achieve positive outcomes from local to the national levels. In this article, we highlight how the partnership with the International Food Policy Research Initiative (IFPRI) is helping to build a strong evidence base for more effective policies in the food and nutrition security sector.

A key focus area for the V4CP programme in Indonesia is the issue of stunting, as it is also a priority area for the national government. In its National Medium Term Development Plan, the government has made a commitment to reduce the prevalence of stunting from 37.2% to 28% by the end of 2019. The country has also joined the global Scaling-Up Nutrition (SUN) initiative that aims to fight malnutrition in all its forms.

The V4CP programme operates in two provinces identified as having some of the highest levels of poverty and stunting: Nusa Tenggara Timur with stunting rates of 55%; and Nusa Tenggara Barat with stunting rates of 41.6% (Riskesdas, 2013). A key focus in our advocacy efforts is to open up spaces for CSOs to propose solutions to combat malnutrition, especially at the provincial and district levels. During the V4CP learning event in September 2017, CSOs further noted the need to link these local efforts more explicitly with national-level processes and policies in order to support effective implementation of food and nutrition security policies at sub-national level.

In order to generate high-quality evidence on a sustainable basis, the V4CP programme has partnered with IFPRI to build the capacity of local CSOs in the two provinces. The first step was to include partner CSOs in developing the terms of reference for a 2017 study aimed at filling critical data gaps on malnutrition and stunting in the two provinces. After undergoing training on data collection methodologies, CSOs were fully involved in implementing a survey of 2,000 households using systematic random sampling, with SNV and IFPRI providing support on data analysis and validation.

The aim of the study was to gather up-to-date policy-relevant data on the nutritional status and dietary practices at household level, including access to basic health and other community services provided by the local government. During the data collection process, which was conducted between June and August 2017, CSOs gathered data on a wide range of relevant topics, including: housing and assets, water, sanitation, crop production, food security, hunger periods and coping mechanism, use of government social programmes, and child weight and age from health cards.

The preliminary findings indicate that 42% households reported a period of hunger during 2016. According to the responses received, the main coping mechanism for many households was to eat cheaper or less well-balanced meal, or alternatively to borrow money to buy food. The study also found that about 70% of the households surveyed were receiving subsidised rice under the government’s RASKIN Programme.

In early 2018, IFPRI will publish a full report containing an analysis of the study results with policy recommendations, as well as key areas of advocacy efforts for CSOs. Already, the interest shown by the Health Department in the preliminary findings of the study suggests that CSOs have an important contribution to play in building a robust evidence base for food and nutrition security policies.