INOBU Launches Sustainable Indigenous Nutmeg Program in the Epicentre of Global Nutmeg Production

March 22, 2017

Indonesia dominates world production and export of nutmeg. This week, Inovasi Bumi (INOBU)’s researchers and experts are on the ground in Fakfak district of West Papua to launch a mapping program that will systematically gather data on all growers of nutmeg in the forests of Fakfak district, to build a foundation for a jurisdiction-wide increase in the productivity of nutmeg agro-farmers in West Papua. INOBU also signed an MOU this week with AKAPe, a local NGO in West Papua. This partnership is designed to galvanize our work in West Papua, building on our research to begin developing policy innovations. We are building a sustainable indigenous commodity framework which has potential to later be replicated in other districts of West Papua, and extended to other key commodities, especially sago.

Customary Rights Context

INOBU has been working in West Papua since 2013, in partnership with our sister organization Earth Innovation Institute to find solutions to the poverty-environment nexus. In 2016 INOBU began work to trial an innovative new approach for sustainable indigenous commodities in West Papua focused on understanding how pressures on forests can be reduced through alternative, more sustainable livelihoods. Finding these alternatives became especially important after the Indonesian Constitutional Court Ruling 35/2012 that enabled customary owned lands to be relinquished from the national forest estate. In West Papua, finding sustainable alternative livelihoods is more pressing as customary groups have claims to all forests in the province.

Sustainable Indigenous Commodities: The Nutmeg Potential

Fakfak district is famous for Papuan nutmeg (M. Argentina). For hundreds of years, nutmeg has been exported from the district to buyers and consumers around the world. Known as pala in Indonesia, nutmeg is one of two spices derived from several species of tree in the genus Myristica (the other spice is mace).Nutmeg forests can be found throughout most of Fakfak. Nutmeg is the primary commodity supporting the livelihoods of communities here. As a result, it is inextricably linked to customary rights. Leveraging our early years of research in West Papua, along with our experiences working in Central Kalimantan on jurisdictional sustainability (palm oil), in 2016 INOBU commenced foundational research work to better understand the forest aspects of nutmeg as well as the customary context. Working closely with the local government and customary leaders, INOBU is developing policy innovations that would recognize customary rights, increase productivity and improve the livelihoods of communities in the district.

The launch of the mapping program comes at the heels of a pilot study conducted by INOBU on the ecology and productivity of nutmeg in Fakfak, beginning by mapping of land rights based on ownership of nutmeg.  The project objectives were to: (1) map the nutmeg areas owned individually (hak dusun pala) and collect social economy and livelihood data; (2) compare and evaluate the mapping methodology and technology used; and (3) collect village baseline data to develop village profiles. Based on this research, INOBU is moving ahead with the development of policy interventions and innovation. The mapping process is expected to provide a robust framework for integrating growers of nutmeg in West Papua’s forests, ultimately supporting the recognition of customary rights and an increase in productivity.


INOBU (Institut Penelitian Inovasi Bumi) is an Indonesian research institute that works towards the vision of an Indonesia where land and seascapes are managed sustainably and benefit the communities that depend on them. Through innovative research, policy analysis, technology and alliance-building, INOBU seeks to improve public policies and strengthen civil society to sustainably manage Indonesia’s natural resources and agricultural production systems, throughout the life-cycle of products. Our work in Fakfak is made possible by a sub-grant from the Forest Farms & Finance Institute (FFFI), the German International Climate Initiative (IKI) through Earth Innovation Institute.


John Watts,