Disadvantaged Communities in Indonesian Semi-Arid Regions: An Investigation of Food Security Issues in Selected Subsistence Communities in West Timor

  • Yenny TjoeEmail author
  • Paulus Adrianus Ratumakin
  • Moazzem Hossain
  • Peter Davey


Traditional subsistence farming is an important part of rural society, the yield is a measure of the main source of food to maintain health and livelihoods of rural households. This chapter chiefly investigated the food security issues in AtoinMeto, a subsistence community in semi-arid West Timor, Indonesia. It discusses the concept of subsistence living from the perspective of food sovereignty and food security. Data were collected in Kupang and Timor Tengah Selatan Regencies in West Timor, via mixed-methods of participant observations, and both quantitative household surveys, and in-depth key informant interviews..

This study found that local knowledge and values of AtoinMeto is founded on their existing clan regime and emotionally bonded moral values. This community maintains food sovereignty without overly using the local resources: following seasonal cycles to grow staple food (self-sufficient) and earn cash income via multiple activities within and outside the community to offset declining food stock. However, the system has weaknesses and to support their adaptation to climate change, this chapter suggests three solutions to enhance their food production, improve nutritional value of local diets and develop their ability to market produce.

The findings of this study imply that, in order to attain sustainable food security for the disadvantaged subsistence community, it is vital that any solutions link to the existing community’s knowledge of and values within the cycle of food production and resource use. International organisations and governments must consider this important point and answer the question: How to apply collaborations between technology and local knowledge to the development process?


Subsistence community Semi-arid Local knowledge Community values Ancestral territories Food security Sustainable livelihoods AtoinMeto Tribal community West Timor 



This paper is based on part of the results of an approved Ph.D. research and supported fully by Griffith University. The authors would like to acknowledge local academics and practitioners in Kupang City, IRGSC (Institute of Resource, Governance and Social Change), FAN (Forum Academia NTT), and Perkumpulan PIKUL, for providing their valuable insights about rural development in NTT and their assistance on the procedure for conducting fieldwork in the region. Also, the authors would like to express their gratitude to the local hosts, local guide and the AtoinMeto communities in the three research sites for their participation and hospitality during the data collection period in West Timor.

Supplementary material

Video 19.1

Subsistence community in West Timor (MP4 241007 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yenny Tjoe
    • 1
    Email author
  • Paulus Adrianus Ratumakin
    • 2
  • Moazzem Hossain
    • 1
  • Peter Davey
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of International Business and Asian StudiesGriffith UniversityNathanAustralia
  2. 2.Faculty of Social and Political ScienceCatholic University of Widya MandiraKupangIndonesia
  3. 3.School of EnvironmentGriffith UniversityNathanAustralia

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