Ecology area is closely related to how people adapt their life, and it also becomes one main factor that influences the livelihood of people in West Papua. Walker and Mansoben (World Bank Prime Report/UNDP 1987) note that the diversity of Papuan people is closely related to the adaptation of socio-economy in the ecology zones (Lavalin International Inc; P.T. Hasfarm Dian Consultant, 1987:88-92; cf. IBIJD 1990:1-16) in ecology anthropology. That’s why it’s often found one ethnic group living in the mountains do different things for livelihood from another living nearby the seashore.
Therefore, take a look into our following discussion on the people of the province and their livelihood.
Agriculture and Cultivation
Agriculture is one of the most popular livelihoods here. People who live in swampy, coastal, and riverine areas like Cenderawasih Bay, including Biak and Maya tribes, normally grow sago throughout the year. They usually do the activity traditionally and involve two or more families from a small clan living under the same roof. The agriculture process adapts shifting cultivation system, allowing them to move their cultivation from one place to another.
The agriculture products may vary, like taro, sweet potato, banana, ground pumpkin, cane, and vegetables. These days, they also plant nutmeg, coconut, breadfruit, matoa, and duku fruits. They dwell around the upper coastal areas in Raja Ampat Island. In the Highlands, Dani and Meybrat tribes grow cassava and vegetable that are good to plant in the high areas. Furthermore, you can also obtain fragrant nutmeg syrup in Fak-Fak Regency.
Just like agriculture, people of West Papua go fishing in coastal lowland areas. In Raja Ampat Island, people who live nearby the sea also cultivate the products of pearls and seaweed.
In the past, there was a difference in job distribution between men and women in fishing. Women used to go fishing more often than men who made and occupied their hand-made fishing tools. These tools included net (perpere), pocket net (bei) and sero to catch the fish.
Men used a particular fishing technique and specific physical power, like fishing by using sero. They plugged the sero poles deep into the lake, and women did the rest. These days, fishing becomes more advanced in techniques. They have started to use anchored nets, spears, and modern fishing tools. Inspired by other techniques from other areas, they also chop the fish in the water, and today many men go fishing, too.
Animal Hunt and Husbandry
Some people who live around foothills and small valleys hunt and breed animals, mostly pigs, for living. Pig is an important element in many cultural occasions. Dani tribe use it for particular celebrations, tribe ceremonies, appointments, and wedding parties. Thus, you can’t be surprised to find pig livestock in their houses. The breeding tools are so much traditional. They only have three to four pigs in a family that are let to wander around the village.
These days, they also breed fish traditionally, mostly golden fish and carp. They make a cage of ram wire and place it in the lake water underneath their stilt house. Another cage is placed open on the lake, so it traps the fish which come into it. The animal husbandry is managed conventionally as these fish are fed from their daily kitchen leftovers. Once ready, the people will consume them half and sell the rest at the market.
As mentioned before, people today grow food and farm fish for not only being consumed but also being sold for money. They trade various products of agriculture, fishery, and even handcraft products, including Timor fabric.
The only traditional weaving industry called Timor fabric is produced in South Sorong Regency. It was first found and made by Maybrat tribe that had normally worked in agriculture and simple traditional animal husbandry. It is called Timor fabric because this weaving industry was first introduced in the 1700s by civil servants and missionaries from Timor, East Nusa Tenggara. Now, it has become a star selling product from West Papua.
Tourism has become one of the pillars of West Papua, such as Raja Ampat and Cenderawasih Bay National Park. The national park is located in Teluk Wondama Regency and covers from the east of the Kwatisore Peninsula to the north of Rumberpon Island. The park stretches with a coastline of 500 km. Meanwhile, the land area reaches 68,200 ha; sea area 1,385,300 ha, with details of 80,000 ha of coral reefs and 12,400 ha of the ocean.
West Papua is full of potentials, like agriculture, fishery, animal husbandry, trade, and tourism, and they differ from each natural environment. The world has evolved through modernization, and this potential area still embraces life with its nature and culture. Time flies, but hopefully nature and culture here remain well-preserved forever.