Food security is crucial in every region, including West Papua as we all know that West Papua’s geographic conditions are proven to be suitable for agricultural development. However, is the development help the locals?
Up until now, many Papuans rely on sago and other tubers (potatoes, yams, cassavas, etc.) as their main diet. Recently, the government tried to make rice as local commodities to strengthen food security in West Papua.
So far, Papua is extremely dependent on other provinces. The staple needs of Papuan locals cannot be produced in their region. Therefore, they have no choice but to import from the outer region of Papua such as Java and Sulawesi. This condition makes the price of staple products increase significantly because of the steep transport costs. Aside from that, other factors that contribute to the fluctuations in product prices in Papua include seasonal weather and the supplier area’s price increasement.
Here are a few recorded developments:
In 2017, as an effort to make food security in Papua into reality, Bank Indonesia’s Representative Office in Papua province chose Nabire Regency as an area to develop a rice production center. The reason why they chose Nabire, because the area has a very high potential and geographically efficient to be the main access to areas in mountainous districts of Papua such as Dogiyai, Paniai, Deiyai and Intan Jaya. Therefore, it is hoped that Nabire will be able to produce rice as many or more than the surrounding district’s needs.
The government of West Papua regency continuously developing to increase local food commodity production to provide food security in West Papua. The head of West Papua Food Security Service said that they are still having problems to be dependent, it is proven by several commodities imported from other regions of Indonesia.
In this year, the productivity of food is still relatively low; it cannot balance out the consumptions of its people. However, it is stated that Papua can export some of its product like sago, nutmeg, and palm oil. The government intend to focus more on other commodities besides rice. Apart from potential natural resources, the local communities of West Papua are shown to have sufficient skills to manage their land.
Papua and West Papua plans on maximizing food security by developing land use. Even though West Papua has extraordinary natural wealth, it does not mean that the welfare of the people is guaranteed. Based on the Indonesian Food Security Index of 2018, it is stated that West Papua is included as an insecure food area.
It may have something to do with food consumption behavior. West Papuan did not consider sweet potatoes and sago as staple foods and turned to rice. Therefore, making West Papua equal to other provinces high dependence on rice.
The COVID-19 pandemic certainly impacts the fragile state of Papua and West Papua’s food security. The pandemic disrupted logistic distribution and well as food production—making food to have limited stock. Regarding the situation, the West Papua Governor, Dominggus Mandacan called West Papuan people to utilize their land to plant local foods.
It is making use of land surrounding the residences to re-establish local food as the main food source other than rice. It is hoped that it is enough to anticipate the food crisis happening because of the pandemic. In the long run, it is also expected that the re-establishment will even develop food security.
Being independent is another long-term investment, as well. It is all for the sake of the local community not to fall into poverty and build food resilience. Given the situation, the most important thing on the list is to survive.
During the pandemic, the West Papuan government also assists cash towards the local people so that they can reopen the fields surrounding their houses and plant local commodities such as bananas, tams, cassavas, soybeans, etc.
The governor of West Papua stated that they have around 10.500 hectares of paddy field spread throughout the region today, including Kaimana, Fakfak, Raja Ampat, South Sorong, Wondama Bay, Bintuni Bay, South Manokwari dan Manokwari regency.
The rice harvest of a paddy field with an area of 645 hectares can harvest rice around 1200 tons. It proves that West Papua has the land needed to provide commodities for their people.
Communities across regions need to collaborate more to build local resilience. According to Econusa, it is known that some communities have an interest in studying organic farming, organic fertilizer production, and organic planting media.
It can be said that the development of food security in West Papua is coming towards fruition. With the help of the government and local community collaborations, the people of West Papua’s spirit to stay productive will not disappear. The year 2020 has been a tough year, without the resiliency of farmers, we would most likely have a scarce food situation all over Indonesia. Food security is important in every region; it is the government’s duty to help their people.