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Adino, a traditional farmer in Patimburak Village, Fakfak, had to put up with low commodity prices and trade uncertainties for his nutmeg from the middlemen. However, now Adino and other nutmeg farmers have begun to improve the crop quality so that they can sell their crops at higher prices.
Adino, a traditional nutmeg farmer, is waiting for the harvest season in Patimburak Village, Kokas District, Fakfak Regency, West Papua. The harvest season, which occurs twice a year, is known as the eastern season and the western season.
Every time the western season approaches, starting from October to November, Adino feels excited as he expects to reap higher yields compared to the eastern season, which starts from April to May.
“The yield depends on the weather, but in the western season the yield is higher than the eastern season,” said Adino.
Adino knows the harvest cycle well and the condition of his nutmeg forest, located about 300 meters away from his house. His deep knowledge of the agricultural cycle comes from his decadeslong experience as a nutmeg farmer.
Adino, a transmigrant from Java Island, set foot in the hilly area of Patimburak Village for the first time in 1998. Then he married a native woman there and has a son and a daughter who are 10 years old and five years old, respectively.
As a transmigrant, Adino had to learn the local language and how to live like a local, including traditional nutmeg cultivation, a tradition that has been passed down through the generations.
However, Adino and other farmers started changing their farming practices when the local non-governmental organizations Yayasan Aspirasi Kaki Abu untuk Perubahan (AKAPe) and Yayasan Inobu came to Patimburak Village in 2016. The assisted traditional nutmeg farmers were taught and trained to improve their harvest and post-harvest techniques for better nutmeg quality and higher selling prices.
Farmers were encouraged to take ripe nutmegs and pluck them directly from the trees using poles in order to prevent the nutmeg from falling to the ground. This method aims to prevent the nutmeg from getting contaminated with aflatoxins.
Male farmers are tasked with plucking nutmegs, about 15 meters high, and female farmers usually help collect and select nutmegs that have fallen to the ground but are still good enough to be sold. What these farmers look for is nutmeg seeds and mace, which is the red outer layer of the nutmeg. Meanwhile, the fruit is usually removed or processed into candied nutmeg by local women.
The farmers also changed their drying method. Previously, the nutmeg harvest was dried by smoking using a cooking stove and done individually or together with the family. Now, the assisted farmers store and dry their crops in warehouses with solar-powered heaters. With this collective farming system, farmers started to record their yields and sales.
The improved quality has led to higher crop prices and increased incomes for farmers, which can reduce the risk of forest clearing to expand the nutmeg forest. That means the harvest and post-harvest training helps reduce deforestation in West Papua when implemented together with strong conservation policies.
In addition, nutmeg farmers are able to gain more profits through efforts to optimize the distribution supply chain. Previously, Adino and other farmers had to sell their own crops.
Being a farmer in Patimburak Village, an isolated village located far away from the city, came with a cost. Farmers had to travel long distances to reach the city to sell their crops. From his village, Adino must go to Kokas District by a motorized boat for at least 30 minutes and continue his journey to Fakfak City by riding an angkot (public minivan) for one to two hours.
In the city center, Adino had to offer his crops to middlemen, known as collectors, door to door in order to get the highest price. With this system of buying and selling agricultural commodities, prices were determined solely by the middlemen.
Now the assisted nutmeg farmers no longer need to trade in this old-fashioned method. They only need to go to the Kokas District to sell their crops to AKAPe at a more reasonable price because the quality of the harvest has been clearly measured.
Through this new marketing system, Patimburak Village produced up to 500 kilograms of harvest and generated Rp 40 million in the last eastern season. Adino himself, who has a nutmeg garden with an area of less than half a hectare, received Rp 2.3 million for the 20 kilograms of nutmeg. Using the old sales system, Adino only got around Rp 1.3 million for the same amount of harvest.
This increased income, moreover, allows Adino to start saving for his children’s education in the future.
“The extra money is saved for my children’s schooling,” said Adino. “I hope the price of nutmeg can get even better.”