Hypere Food Sources from Papua That Began to Be Replaced With Rice



The economic aspect in Papua land is not far from the results of natural resources in the agricultural sector. Most papuans work as farmers by maintaining traditional agriculture. 


Food products from the agricultural sector, especially food crop commodities including potatoes, corn, keladi, sweet potatoes and field rice, have a harvest area of 10,653.52 Ha, with a total production of 72,655.88 tons / year. 


Of the many plant commodities in Papua, hypere or sweet potato is one of the oldest agricultural products, precisely in the Baliem area. 


Sweet potatoes themselves have a long history, if the people of Papua in the lowlands consume sago as a daily food, in contrast to papuans in the highlands, such as the Baliem Valley, they consume more hypere as a staple food every day and have been going on for centuries ago. 


The Origin of Hipere, the Oldest Sweet Potato in Papua.


Sweet potatoes or hypere are known as a staple food of the dani tribe in the Baliem Valley which is located in the central mountains of Papua at an altitude of 1650 meters above sea level. 


Residents of Baliem Valley are very creative in adapting to the surrounding environment. In prehistoric times, when the inhabitants of the archipelago still lived in caves and hunted or concocted, they had developed independent agriculture, by clearing the area around the forest for systematic cultivation.


Even based on the analysis of carbon in the mountains around Baliem, it is estimated that this agriculture has occurred a long time ago, since 6000 years ago. 


At first the cultivated plants were local endemic plants, namely various types of nuts, pandanus, bananas (musa paradisiaca), keladi (colocasia esculenta), red fruit (pandanus), sugarcane (saccharum officinarum) and sweet potatoes (Dioscorea alata).


Sweet potatoes (Ipomea batatas) are relatively new introduced plants in the Baliem Valley because this type of plant was only cultivated about a few hundred years ago.  Hipere itself entered Asia in the 15th century, brought by European sailors to the Philippines to enter the land of Papua. 


This cultivation is known as the second revolution, because it became a triggering factor for the ‘population explosion’ in the Highlands of Papua. Not only the people but also there is the addition of livestock. 


 This sweet potato turned out to be a source of feed for farm animals. In addition, hypere is also known as a complementary food in traditional ceremonies. 


This cultivation technique developed with the introduction of sweet potatoes since 500 years ago. Farming sweet potatoes in addition to using stone axe equipment is also in its development using shovel equipment and iron equipment in terms of preparing land for planting.   


Hypere and The Tradition of Burning Stones.


Hypere is commonly cooked by a method known as the stone burning tradition, which has existed since ancient times and is preserved until now. The tradition of burning stones begins by looking for grass in the fields, then arranging stones and wood to burn.


Stone burning activities are usually carried out by men, while mama’s affairs (red: women) prepare their foodstuffs. 


Stones that have been hot from burning are put into the grass about 30 cm, then hypere and other materials are inserted on hot stones, layer by layer until covered with leaves, and left for 1 hour until cooked. 


Hypere Threatened by Another Food Invasion.


Although it has long been a staple food for the people of Papua, especially Baliem. Hypere is threatened due to the presence of other foods such as rice. 


Since 2020, sweet potato food yields have decreased, from about 86 tons to 75 tons, while rice increased by 60% from 2015 from 171 tons to 293 tons. 


This shift continues to occur little by little, even some urban communities prefer to consume rice rather than hypere, some even open rice fields by planting rice.