Global Food Security day two: The role of tempe and cassava in a food-secure future

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AMADEUS DRIANDO AHNAN-WINARNO: Greetings. How many of you know tempe? How many of you like tempe? How many of you believe that tempe could be a potential solution to global food security problems?

I’m Driando, co-founder of the Indonesian Tempe Movement. Please allow me to walk you through why I absolutely believe that that is the case as a food scientist and technologist. I’ll make three points: why we should look into tempe in the first place, what the science says about tempe, and what the future holds for tempe.

I look into science of tempe because of three personal emotional reasons.

Cancer is running in my family. My grandpa had to perform a surgery to remove the breast cancer tumor of his own mom at his own garage. That’s why he switched to food science.

And looking into cancer is deeply related to malnutrition/overnutrition. But there’s also this other side of malnutrition, which is undernutrition, that unfortunately hits very hard to the eastern part of Indonesia, including my friends.

But not only health concern; environmental concern also hit me quite hard. I live not too far away from, unfortunately, the world’s number-one most polluted river in the world, Citarum. It got me thinking: What could we do to preserve and conserve the environment? And could we even make high-quality food if you don’t take care of the environment?

And that’s why, with the mission of the Indonesian Tempe Movement that my grandpa, my mom, and I created eight years ago as food scientists, we want to give people more access to nutritious, sustainable, and affordable food. We believe that people don’t have to be rich to live, like, a healthy and more sustainable life. And what makes us truly believe that this is the case is because of science.

So, scientifically, compared to beef in terms of nutrition, tempe contains similar amounts of energy, protein, and iron; significantly higher levels of fiber and calcium; and significantly lower levels of salt and saturated fat. Sustainability-wise, tempe could produce the same amount of protein compared to beef with four times less energy and 12 times less emission to be emitted to the atmosphere. In terms of affordability, tempe could be eight times cheaper than beef for the same amount of protein in Indonesia.

But what many people don’t know yet is that tempe is not just this food made using fermented soybean originated in Indonesia 300 years ago. Tempe is a fermentation process that we can apply to so many—almost every grain not legume bean around the world. Here I have mombin tempe, kidney bean tempe, black bean tempe, almond bean tempe. It’s a process. And not only these raw ingredients; my grandpa used to eat tempe made using tofu industry byproduct, okara, in the form of tempe gembus because he couldn’t afford the whole bean tempe. It was fancy.

And I wonder, like, how many of you wonder how the tempe fermentation works. For today, I have this tempe fermenting necklace to show you how easy tempe fermentation is. So the idea is that you want to make the baby mushroom rise up as happy. You want to serve them with tender and warm foods. You want to mate them with a food and to get them into the bedrooms. The bedrooms could be leaves, could be plastic bags, could be petri dish if you work in the lab. And in just two days you’ve got your own naturally nutritious food.

So if you look at this simple but sophisticated process, we’re just looking at the tip of the iceberg of the whole movement. After eight years of running the movement, I’ve seen beautiful, beautiful new kinds of tempe from all around the world. We’re talking about white bean tempe burger from Brazil, buckwheat tempe soba noodle from Japan, fava bean tempe wat in Ethiopia, bambara nut tempe fries from Tanzania, vegan meat made using lupin bean tempe in Europe.

Now, to end my talk, one thing that I learned from the movement is that the naturally nutritious foods that we have now were not just inventions of the past. The naturally nutritious food revolution is happening now, and I believe the tempe fermentation is a big part of it. But also, tempe is just one out of so many foods in which the R&D process has done by our ancestors years ago that are waiting for us to dig into as treasures, as the future foods that we need to feed the people, to feed us, to feed the planet in most sustainable ways possible. Thank you very much.

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ANNOUNCER: Please welcome to the stage Professor in Faculty of Agricultural Technology, University of Jember, Dr. Achmad Subagio.

ACHMAD SUBAGIO: Thank you. First of all, I would like to thank the committee to provide time for me for presentations, small presentations.

What I would like to introduce is about cassava. Maybe you know about these papers. You know also about toilet papers. You know also about biodegradable plastics. You know also about our fabric. All of these thing contain of cassava. Maybe we don’t know about that one.

But we believe that cassava right now is in our living time. All of our goods contain of cassava. That’s why I always promote cassava, because of that plant actually is very, very effective photosynthesis, two time more corn and also better than the other crops, including wheat.

And as you know, that right now, Indonesia, we have populations, as Mr. Prabowo said before, that about 273 million of people. That’s a lot of mouth and they need food. And of course, when we calculate, we need about 32 million ton of rice—that is only rice, not carbohydrate. When we calculate the carbohydrate, it’s about 45 million ton. That’s a huge amount of carbohydrate.

So when we calculate that one, of course our land is not enough when we only plant rice, because rice need a lot of waters, need a lot of fertilizers, and other thing. Not so many land can be planted by using rice, but cassava, we can grow cassava very well in sub-optimal land. We can grow cassava only if the water is about three or four months. That’s more than enough.

So, ladies and gentlemen, what I think is that we have to try to increase the cassava, the use of cassava, and of course the production of cassava. And for the consumptions, there is some problem that always people say that cassava is food for the poor people, always like that. But through our technology right now, we can provide very, very good materials from cassava. We can mix with many kind of ingredient and to be very, very good food. And this is the reality.

I think for 10 years more we need to grow about 5 million hectares of cassava because to that one we can provide a lot of food for the peoples and also feed, and also we can grow something like—we can develop something like we call bioindustries, including monosodium glutamate, sorbitols, lecithin, everything is come from cassava, because cassava can provide stats, and from stats we can provide sugar, and from sugar we can provide energies for a lot of function of bioindustries.

So this my point. And again, I encourage all peoples let’s do cassava. Thanks a lot.

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ANNOUNCER: Please welcome back to the stage Gaurav Srivastava.

GAURAV SRIVASTAVA: Thank you. It’s been a long day.

Excellencies, members, sponsors, supporters, and my dear friends, the incomparable author, poet, civil right activist Maya Angelou remained a beacon of enduring hope even in her darkest of days, her eloquent voice and practical truths as relevant today as the moment she first shared them. Angelou said: “During bad circumstances, which is the human inheritance, you must decide not to be reduced. You have your humanity, and you must not allow anything to reduce that. We are obliged to know we are global citizens. Disasters remind us we are world citizens, whether we like it or not.”

It is really important to remember that while it is important to think about global issues, it is also important to address issues at home. It is important to worry about issues that are happening in Indonesia. It is important to remember that there is still a family at home. In the morning, during the speech of the minister of defense, he had poignantly mentioned that he needs to feed 5 million newborn Indonesians. This is a really important subject. But it is also important to remember that there is a hungry child at home, and for a mother and father it is most important to feed that child.

The issues that we talk about today, these are political issues. They are not only—but they are issues that require collaboration between industry, between business and policymakers. And that is important to keep in mind as we leave this room today.

As citizens of this Earth we are more interconnected than ever before, linked as social beings, innovators, artisans, and dreamers bound by a birthright as old as time: an inherent claim to inviolable human rights to freedom, dignity, and equality. As members prepare for this week’s and arguably the most critical G20 summit, they will consider the grave complications of our times. They will reflect on the important strides we have made, the disappointment and setbacks we have endured. They will commit themselves and their colleagues to an even greater investment in universal responsibility and to the safety and sanctity of our one human family. It is important to remember that it is one human family, but at the end of the day it is about the children at home. It is a legacy that we all have to preserve. It is important to think about issues on a global scale, but important to remember that it starts at your home.

As always, the United States of America stands ready to lead this charge both at home and abroad, delivering aid, promoting economic growth, enacting comprehensive health and food security initiatives. We will continue to fight hunger, malnutrition, and the senseless atrocities that have stolen the innocent lives of so many. We will heed Mother Nature’s warning, abating her tears with strong and steady push towards a timely transition to clean and renewable energy while responsibly acknowledging the interwoven, intricate, and dependent relationship between modern agriculture and oil, working diligently on a stopgap measure that will feed hungry, reward our collaborators discourage our detractors, and most importantly maintain national security.

I am so incredibly heartened by the invaluable insight and generous support conceived at and throughout this forum over the last two days. I share these blessings with my incomparable wife, Sharon, and with the brightest guiding lights of my heart and soul, my children. I implore you all to continue the quest for more answers and better solutions toward realizing global food security. We know all successes begin on the smallest of levels. The best ideas are cultivated when foundation and governments build partnership with the neighborhoods that need assistance, embracing community leaders as an irreplaceable pillar of this endeavor.

After my conversation with Fred from the Atlantic Council, I am also pleased to announce that we plan to hold our second security conference on the sidelines of the G20 in India, hopefully. I hope you will join us all again as we gather to reflect on the strides that have been made, the humanistic grounds that have been gained with your support and the implementation of actions gleaned from the dialogue we have shared at this forum. I have the greatest confidence that the momentum we have earned will be plentiful. Remember, there is nothing more human than morality.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, class is dismissed. We all have some very important homework to do. I would remember to keep one thing in mind, that we started this event with let there be bread.

Now I would like to invite the president of the Atlantic Council, Mr. Fred Kempe. Thank you for coming. God bless.

FREDERICK KEMPE: What a wonderful day. What a wonderful two days. And I have a few people to thank and a couple of things to say, but I will be brief.

So Bakur Kvezereli, the CEO of Ztractor, talked about two loud wakeup calls, COVID and the war, that have made us pay attention to food security in a way that we hadn’t. We do face the greatest food security crisis in modern history, says the World Food Programme. My own view is we should never let a crisis go to waste, so we are at work here not letting that crisis go to waste.

And then Max Peterson on the last panel talked about how, with food security, failure is—Max Peterson from AWS, a great strategic partner of the Atlantic Council, talked about how when it comes to food security failure is not an option.

So thank you, Gaurav, for your powerful final remarks, and to Gaurav and Sharon so much for being not just co-hosts of this forum but really giving it the vision, lending your friendship, and your generosity. So thank you so much. And please, everybody, thank them.

To speakers and audience members who joined us throughout the course of the conference, thank you for your valued insight and ideas.

I want to thank General Clark, Minister Prabowo, and his ministry; Minister Luhut and his ministry.

Pak Hashim, thank you so much for all your partnership through this.

We’ve heard from so many important global voices—perspectives from the Global North, the Global South, government, industry, civil society, brilliant students, seasoned experts.

I also want to thank people who are a little bit more behind the scenes and you didn’t see them as much on the stage: Matt Kroenig and his Scowcroft Center team; Iveta Kruma and her production team; Vicente, overseeing so much—or, Vicente Garcia, one of the great brilliant leaders of the Atlantic Council overseeing so much of the entire project, bringing it all together; our friends from Nouvelle Productions, and you’re going to see more from them tonight at the concert; from Edelman; from Viva Creative. Other sponsors: EMP, Unity, Harvest Commodities, Abt Associates, Arsari Group. Our media partners: CNN Indonesia, Kompas TV.

What’s clear for me from the last two days is how many of us in this room and joining online stand united in our commitment to combating food insecurity and hunger and serving as catalysts for change of the G20 and beyond. But too often, the private sector, the public sector, people all over the world don’t galvanize in this kind of setting, and I’m glad we were able to do that.

As we’ve seen and heard, food security remains a complex and multisectoral political, economic, scientific, and security challenge. Peter Engelke, who with Jeff Cimmino was leading the intellectual work that was behind this conference, will distill what we’ve learned over the last two days, put it in recommendations to the G20 and beyond, and you’ll be able to read that on our website tomorrow or the next day, Peter? Pretty soon? We’ll turn it around as quickly as we can.

What we know and what we heard from Gaurav is that the—at its core, the food security crisis and issue is a humanitarian one. It’s about that basic need for sustenance, food and water, and how they are met with dignity. We saw that powerful chart in the powerful keynote address of Minister Prabowo. And I’ll just remember FWE—food, water, energy—and the interlinkages of the three.

This is about building more sustainable food systems to better protect the planet we live on, the planet that nourishes us all. It’s about taking care of one another across communities and countries while we still have the chance. And as I said this morning, this inaugural edition—and Gaurav and I are able to reach decisions relatively quickly, and so we are going to go ahead and we’re planning on going ahead in India next year. But this inaugural edition of the Atlantic Council Global Food Security Forum marks the beginning of what we hope will be the Atlantic Council’s leadership in the global food security space alongside the Srivastava Foundation. And I look forward to continuing to convene similar forums along the G20 each year starting from India next year. That would be our hope and our plan.

I also look forward to engaging with our Indonesian partners and you all on our shared goals. This is our first major convening in Indonesia. It will not be our last. And we look forward to working with your country of 273 million people, the third-largest democracy, fourth-largest population. Just an incredible country where the US bilateral relationship will grow deeper and deeper. And as we heard from your minister this morning, this link right back to the days of your independence needs to be refreshed, deepened, and expanded.

I do want to thank again the Indonesian Ministry of Defense and Coordinating Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Investment once again for co-hosting this forum for us. To show up with that kind of partners on the margins as an official sideline event of the G20, what a wonderful way to enter this wonderful country.

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