The province of West Papua, Indonesia lies at the western-most point of the island of New Guinea or Papua. The province is home to striking ecosystem diversity: from mountain ranges such as the Arfak Mountains to biologically diverse coral reefs of the Raja Ampat islands. West Papua is Indonesia’s fifth largest province, covering and area of 140,375 km2, with a population of 877,437. Indigenous Melanesian Papuans make up over half of the population, the largest non-Papuan group being the Javanese who make up 14.8 percent of the province. The province is in the bottom third in terms of Gross Regional Product (at purchasing power parity) and places second to last on Indonesia’s Human Development Index (by province).
West Papuan Nutmeg
INOBU’s work in West Papua is focused on Fakfak district. Fakfak covers an area of 11,036 km2 and has a population of 77,112 (2014 official estimate). The district is known for its unique variety of nutmeg (Myristica argentea Warb), a commodity that has been grown naturally in the indigenous people’s lands in Fakfak for generations. Nutmeg is the primary commodity cultivated by the indigenous people of Fakfak, and their major livelihood. Consequently, the commodity is connected to indigenous rights. It symbolizes the connection of the indigenous people to their lands. Communities are restrained by traditional beliefs from cutting down trees, but they can harvest the fruits.
The relevance of Papuan nutmeg in forest conservation efforts in Indonesia cannot be understated. Indonesia is the world’s leading producer of nutmeg, with eight percent of this coming from Fafak district alone. (Other provinces growing nutmeg include Java, Aceh, North Sumatra and Sulawesi). In Fakfak, nutmeg is traditionally grown in wild or semi-wild forests. As an indigenous people’s crop and primary source of livelihood, nutmeg plays a key role in indigenous forest conservation and management in the district.
Our Work in West Papua
INOBU’s work in West Papua is focused on understanding how pressures on forests can be reduced through finding 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 all forests are claimed by customary groups. Consequently, INOBU studied how the implementation of the ruling would improve rural livelihoods without damaging forests. Through studying these processes, we identified the causes of poverty and environmental degradation in West Papua, and worked with the government, indigenous people and civil society to develop innovative policy solutions. The government and indigenous leaders in West Papua are committed to forging new pathways for economic development.