Nutritional Insecurity and Climate Change: Evaluating Adaptation Pathways in Indonesia

A/Prof. John F Mccarthy1

1ANU, Canberra, Australia

Climate change poses a major threat to the livelihoods and food security of many people in rural Indonesia, especially those dependent on agriculture, fisheries or living on the forest fringe. Yet, as impacts are nestled among a range of complex factors that are highly contextual, the effect of climate change on food security will be complex and variable. While existing studies tend to focus on the impact of biophysical change on livelihoods, this paper applies an approach that analyses how climate related impacts are mediated through socio- political structures and processes. Drawing on available studies of climate related vulnerability, food security and adaptation in Indonesia that suggest that climate change compounds existing forms of nutritional and livelihood insecurity, the paper discusses emergent understandings of how biological processes, meteorological forces and socio-economic processes work together to produce vulnerability.  Based on an analysis of contexts where drivers of vulnerability are relatively well understood and where studies of adaptation strategies have already been undertaken, the paper develops an analysis of probable vulnerability/adaptation pathways.


John McCarthy works on questions of governance, institutions and rural development with a focus on forestry, agriculture, food security and land use. At present he has an Australian Research Council funded project regarding social protection and food security in rural Indonesia. He was previously a Research Fellow at the Asia Research Centre, Murdoch University, Western Australia and Leiden University in the Netherlands. He has carried out various assignments with agencies including AusAID (now DFAT), ACIAR, the World Bank, and the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). John is Associate Professor at the ANU Crawford School
He is the editor of two recent books:
Land & Development in Indonesia: Searching for the People’s Sovereignty, ISEAS, Singapore.
The Oil Palm Complex: Smallholders, Agribusiness and the State in Indonesia and Malaysia, NUS, Singapore.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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