When it comes to nature conservation in Papua and West Papua, we should know better. Using local wisdom works much better, more effectively, and more efficiently than outside influences. After all, this island is the home of the indigenous Papuans. They should have more privileges on how to work on that.
For starters, let’s learn from the Kokoda Tribe how to tackle environmental issues in Papua and West Papua.
The Kokoda Tribe
The Kokoda Tribe is one of the tribes in West Papua. They have a fairly wide distribution, which covers Sorong, South Sorong, and Fakfak districts. This article focuses mainly on the Kokoda Tribe in the Ugar Islands, Fakfak Regency.
The local wisdom this tribe has centered on three different aspects:
Sasi Laut (The Marine Harvest)
This local culture is handed down by ancestors to regulate marine harvests. The arrangement involves dividing fishing areas into different periods. This means each area can only be accessed for fishing at certain times.
Another way to practice Sasi Laut includes certain types of fish and other marine animals to catch. This method is related to controlling the population. They must not catch more than they are told to. This way, the population of the marine animals stays plenty enough for a longer time.
This ritual is started by a traditional leader, who performs ritual offerings where the sasi laut should take place at that time. The next day, the whole community bathes in the water while going fishing with their gear. After that, no one is allowed to fish in that area for the next six months. This gives the fauna enough time to reproduce.
Hutan Keramat (The Sacred Forest)
If you wish to enter one of the sacred forests in the eastern part of the Ugar Islands, you must seek permission from the traditional local leader. The permit requires two ritual stages. First, you must give offerings to a sacred tree. The offerings may consist of areca nut, betel nut, lime, and tobacco.
Second, you must allow them to tie yourself with the locals, using a red ribbon. This is a sign of their goodwill because they believe that the ancestral spirits will protect you while you are in the forest. If you miss this part, the consequences will be severe. In 2015, there was a report of visitors being possessed by forest spirits when entering the forest without getting themselves tied by a red rope with the locals.
Apotik Hidup (The Nature-based Pharmacy)
In the middle of Ugar Village (Kampung Ugar), there is an area of about 25 square meters. That area is a nature-based pharmacy, according to the local community. Most plants used for medicinal herbs are from the nearby sacred forests. However, there are also plants grown by the locals. These plants’ stems, rhizomes, and roots are later used for medicinal herbs—for example, Zingiber officinale Roscoe, Cymbopogon citratus, Stapf, Phyllantus niruri L., Curcuma longa L., and many more.
Leaves and twigs are the parts most often used for medicines. There are rods also used, although rarely. Snakewood (kayu ular or Picrasma javanica Blume) has been used for centuries by the locals to treat malaria. This plant is also called ‘gorai’ in a local dialect.
It turns out that the Kokoda Tribe has always played their part in keeping the nature conservation in Papua and also West Papua. It is wise to take a six-month break after the marine harvest ritual, so they will not run out of fish to catch. The sacred forests keep outsiders from trying to exploit them. The nature-based pharmacy is also more environmentally friendly than modern medicines. It is priceless too.
We all have to learn from the Kokoda tribe.