West Papua region is famous for its rich and diverse natural resources, including the agriculture and forestry sectors. Hence, the province has been committed as the world’s first natural resource conservation province since 2015 until today. Let’s look at the forestry and agriculture potentials and the roles of the government and indigenous in maintaining the natural resources.
Forestry and agriculture potentials in West Papua
West Papua is blessed with fertile soil, making it a perfect area for forestry and agriculture. It is a home for many plants and plantation crops with high export values. However, the product of each area might be different from another.
For example, Fakfak produces nutmeg which can be sold overseas for a high price; Manokwari and Sorong produce spices, coffee, cacaos, coconuts, and breadfruits; and Ransiki District in South Manokwari Region is famous for its Ransiki Cocoa which has a distinct nutty, earthy, and creamy taste in each bite.
The other plantation crops are sugar cane, fibrous plants (cotton, roselle, hemp, jute, agave, abaca, kenaf, etc.), coconut, palm oil, coffee, tea, pepper, cinnamon, cloves, sago, cashews, and many more. These crops play roles as export commodities and the safety net for food security.
In the forestry sector, the two primary commodities are rattan in Manokwari and kayu lawang in Kaimana, Fakfak, and Sorong. Rattan is usually made into furniture, such as chairs, tables, and bookshelves. It has different characteristics from wood since it is lightweight, strong, flexible, and cheap. Another precious export commodity in West Papua is kayu putih (cajeput), the main ingredient of cajeput oil.
Government’s plan for sustainable forestry and agriculture potentials
For long-term economic development to be beneficial to the community, the government must find a way to develop the forestry and agriculture potentials without damaging the environmental resources and ecosystem vital to the livelihoods and well-being of indigenous people.
One of the strategies is by reviewing all forestry and plantation licenses throughout West Papua Province. The government makes sure that any development will involve various sectors and uphold local wisdom in managing natural resources.
Since land is limited, it’s essential to start looking for strategies to maximize the crops without clearing a forest or opening new farming lands to reduce deforestation. Some plants like cocoa don’t always need forest clearance. We can apply a system called agroforestry, where we plant cocoa under the natural forest cover. However, the system has a downside. Cultivating cocoa using agroforestry systems yield less than developing cocoa plantations in a monoculture system. Monocultures will require natural forest clearance, leading to deforestation. So, keeping the balance of both approaches might be the best way to maximize the forestry and agriculture potentials.
The role of indigenous in conserving forestry in West Papua
To maintain the livelihood and wellbeing of the community, the indigenous in West Papua also take part in conserving the forest and the crops. The indigenous obey some customary laws like pamali and sasi, which prevent overexploitation. For them, forests are their only food source and daily needs, especially as material for building houses, making hunting equipment, and medicines.
The indigenous know best how to manage the forest and utilize the woods in a way that doesn’t hurt the ecosystem by using rules, restrictions, and norms of society. Therefore, the forest is well-maintained, and the indigenous are never running out of resources.
One of the rules used to manage forests is called Ig Ya Ser Hanjob in the Hatam language. Ig Ya means standing up. Ser means keeping. Hanjob means the limit. The rule implies that everything has a boundary and limitation. Once broken, disasters will happen. Therefore, they use the forest without reaching a point of overexploitation.
The indigenous utilize the forests solely to survive and preserve the forest ecosystem. For example, they hunt only for food, gather woods to build houses, and gather plants for making medicine, and none of them are sold outside.
West Papua has massive potential in the forestry and agriculture sector. Therefore, both the government and the indigenous take part in conserving the natural resources for the sake of the community’s livelihood and wellbeing.