Improving Food Security and Driving Economic Growth in Nias

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The microenterprise group of Hiliduho village proudly show off their product. Photo credit: Rocky.


The archipelago of Nias is situated off the western coast of North Sumatra in Indonesia. Nias is a beautiful holiday destination, popular amongst Australian surfers; however, despite this visiting wealth, Nias ranks amongst the poorest areas in Indonesia.  Seventeen percent of people live  below the national poverty line - nearly double the national average; another 40% teeter dangerously close it. Poverty is a significant contributor to food insecurity and malnutrition. Incomes are insufficient to meet basic household needs, including clean water and sanitation, basic healthcare and adequate nutrition.

Building resilience and improving food security is a national priority in Indonesia, however national policies and interventions often prove difficult to implement in the remote village contexts where SurfAid works. Barriers to proposed solutions include unique cultures and customs, isolation, difficulty accessing markets, and poor infrastructure.

With the support of the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP), SurfAid is helping translate national-level policies and initiatives to local contexts. Working side by side with communities, and within existing government structures, tailored projects are increasing food security and improving nutrition by diversifying food sources, increasing household income and supporting nutrition sensitive health and sanitation activities in unique environments.

Working closely with 21 community health groups, SurfAid has supported the development of small businesses including catfish, chicken, snacks, chilies, cocoa and corn. The business groups, selected for their demonstrated leadership capacity in previous SurfAid MCH projects, are mostly women. These women’s influence in contributing to improved food security is significant given their primary responsibilities for food production, purchasing, preparation and in feeding and care practices. SurfAid assistance comes in the form of continuous coaching, technical support, business training and marketing guidance, which are all based on specialised market chain assessments specific to Nias.

Women and bucket of catfish

The small business group of Loloana’a village display their catfish harvest. Photo credit: Yusman.


By working with community groups, SurfAid facilitates collaboration between farmers, improving the profitability of their businesses and maximising learning opportunities. Unified farmer groups can negotiate selling prices more effectively, protected from brokers purchasing goods from isolated producers below market value. Training and coaching, based on the Farmer Field School approach – a United Nations developed technique – facilitates bottom-up learning. It is a group-based learning process where farmers share their observations and analyse together with a SurfAid facilitator/agricultural specialist on how to optimise their results.

This project complements SurfAid’s ongoing efforts to combat intergenerational food insecurity and malnutrition in villages where nearly one in four children are underweight and plain rice is the current dietary staple. Recent results show that malnutrition status has decreased from 7% to 0.4%. The project also supports Australia’s goal of driving economic growth in the Indo-Pacific region and creating pathways out of poverty.


This project is partially funded by Australian Aid from the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP). SurfAid is an accredited NGO, entrusted by the Australian government to achieve our shared goals.