By. Veronika Triariyani Kanem (Master Candidate in Women and Gender Studies at Waikato University, Hamilton, New Zealand).
Papuan women and sago as their main staple food.
Economic development is an important activity that occurs worldwide on a constant basis. As a developing country, the Indonesian government undertakes various different kinds of economic programmes in an attempt to maximise state revenue within its various regions. The expressed goals of this development are to not only increase revenues but to bring prosperity and equality to society. However, a downside of economic development that is often under looked is the upheavals it creates to the indigenous people of the area. Land which was previously treated as prestigious gifts by their ancestors has been appropriated to meet the needs of state industry. Through this expansion by the government, the indigenous community loses both their cultural identity as well as a source of living.
In this essay, I will discuss how economic development in Papua Province, especially in the Merauke regency has influenced the traditional life of the indigenous community. I will begin by describing a case study from Zanegi village, who have experienced massive deforestation due to an economic development project called the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE). I will then provide a comparison of how other Indigenous people in Asia, America and Africa have also been affected by industrial projects in their regions. Based on these past instances, I will analyse how the modern agriculture project as a new programme of Indonesian government in Merauke may impact on the native peoples in Merauke. I will then conclude my essay by providing recommendations to related-stakeholders on how they can address potential issues ahead resulting from the new project.
The Merauke regency is located in the southern part of the Papua province in Indonesia and has an area of 46,791,63 km² (Merauke statistical data, 2014). Merauke is bordered in the east by Papua New Guinea, in the south by Australia, in the west by the Arafura Sea and in the north by the Mappi and Boven Digoel regency. Most of the area is flat and marked by rivers, swamps and meadows. There are significant populations of termite houses, kangaroos, birds of paradise, wild crocodiles, deer and cassowary. Some of these flora and fauna are not found in other parts of Papua and the West Papua province but is quite similar to that present in Darwin, Australia.
According to the 2010 Indonesian Population Census, the total population of Merauke was 195,716 but only nearly 73,000 were indigenous people. While the actual data has since been removed by the statistical department of Indonesia due to politics, the data has shown a huge gap in the total between Papuan and Non-Papuan’s in the Merauke regency. The indigenous people are called the Marind tribe, who live along the coastal areas and by the Maro riverbank. They have fully integrated their lives with the natural environment and rely on the forests, rivers and beaches for their subsistence. Men freely hunt animals while women look for clean water and gather foodstuffs from the forest. Children are free to play in nature, swim at the beach and river, and they often help their mothers to gather fuelwoods from the forest. The Marind tribe recognizes the forest as their ‘Mother’ who usually feeds her children and will never let them die of hunger. All their needs are available in the forest.
However, the people of the Marind tribe face increasing difficulties due to increased presence from non-Papuan’s. The domination of the non-Papuan population has occurred through such events such as the transmigration programme which was started in the 1960’s, increased availability of work for non-Papuan’s, along with extensive economic developments which attract both private and government officials to the region. In the next section, I am going to discuss the MIFEE project, one of the forms of economic development in southern Papua which has affected the indigenous community traditional way of life. I will start by explaining the background of the project, its goals and aims. Afterwards, I am going to provide examples of how the project is opposed by various parties.
II. The MIFEE project: the start of economic development in the Southern Papua.
As a developing country, Indonesia has a range of economic developments occurring throughout the country. The largest and most well-known is the MIFEE project. This project was designed in an attempt to help solve the Indonesian food and energy crisis. It was a goal set up by Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono as Indonesia’s former president in his first presidency during the period 2004-2009. Before the establishment of MIFEE, Merauke’s former regent head, Johannes Gluba Gebze, had created a local programme named the Merauke Integrated Rice Estate (MIRE). When this project failed because of resource issues, Gebze took up the opportunity to take part in the MIFEE project to solve food and energy crisis in Indonesia.
The state government stated that the basic reason for choosing Merauke as a prime target for the agriculture project because most of its land was categorized as un-productive land which needed to be developed for the welfare of Indonesia society. The MIFEE project was inaugurated by Suwono, the Indonesian Ministry of Agriculture on the 9th August 2010. He proclaimed MIFEE as a future bread basket that citing could produce two million tons of rice, two million tons of corns and 167,000 tons of soybeans as well as 2.5 million tons of sugar and 937,000 tons of palm oil produced from the project (Ekawati, 2010). According to Government Regulation No.39/2009 on the Special Economic Zones, the Papua Province was assigned as a strategic location of national development. Powerful transnational and national economic actors from corporations to national governments had identified Merauke as an ‘empty land’ and as a site of ‘fuel and food production’ (Borras et al, 2011, p. 209). Merauke thus became a potential area to be utilised by the government to run MIFEE projects. The project covers 1.6 million hectares of land for commercial plantations such as sugar cane, palm oil, tapioca, corn and industrial forest.
The inception of the MIFEE project met strong opposition among Non-Government Organisations (NGO), church leaders, academics and several independent researchers. When the programme started in 2010, it created a number of problems among the local community, government and companies. The biggest conflict emerged after compensation payments were issued based on customary land borders and ownership status. This is because the land is communally owned by the Marind people from different clans. If some people wanted to release their lands to the company, this needed to be negotiated and agreed through meetings with the other clans. However, due to miscommunication issues many conflicts arose as some clans wanted to sell the land while others wanted to keep it as a community asset.
After the Marind people had handed over their lands to the company based on written agreements, the company started to clear off the area as an industrial complex. With deforestation, the Marind tribe slowly lost sources of food, traditional medicines and clean water. In addition, they were also unable to access the sacred places of their ancestors as part of their cultural beliefs. As the main actors who routinely go into the forest to meet the family’s needs, women experienced significant difficulties. Forests which were previously within walking distance suddenly became long treks outside the village after deforestation. This has resulted in tremendous amounts of time and energy spent on travel, as well as limiting the women’s space to socially interact with other people.
This impact can be seen when examining the case of the Zanegi. The Zanegi village is one of several local villages within the Merauke regency which were chosen as a site for economic development. The following section will describe in detail how economic development through the implementation of the MIFEE project has undeniably altered and affected the indigenous community in Southern Papua.
III. A case study from the Zanegi village as a valuable lesson for the indigenous community in the Southern of Papua.
The Zanegi village, located in the Animha district, is one of several local villages which have experienced land clearing by the Selaras Inti Semesta Company (known as PT SIS) due to the MIFEE industrial forest project. After clearing the area, the company replanted the forest with only one type of tree, the acacia. The timber from the cleared forests was processed into pulp and shipped to Jakarta. As the forest is the main habitat of the indigenous people, the removal was effectively threatened their whole way of life. Women, as societal contributors to their community, culture and lifestyle, were reliant on the forest to meet their family’s needs.
As a part of church concern and in an attempt to advocate indigenous issues, in the end of 2012, I organized a focus group discussion as part of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Merauke Archdiocese programme in the Zanegi and Wayau villages. The discussion aimed to identify women’s concerns due to PT SIS’s investment activities. Thirty women took part in the discussion, most of them mothers. As the facilitator, I used a simple method to explore women’s opinions that involved watching a short documentary movie about palm oil plantations and deforestation, followed by a general discussion. Some of the issues identified by the women in the discussion included:
– Water scarcity
Generally, sago trees grew wild before deforestation within the forest and many water sources could be found under the sago trees. In the past, the local women could easily fetch water from the forest, which was usually not very far from their village. The water was taken for use in the kitchen, bathroom and laundry. At the same time, they were able to squeeze sago flour from the trunks of the trees. This work was usually done by the women in forests close to a source of water, such as a river or lake. However, since PT SIS started its work at Zanegi, a significant amount of land has been cleared, destroying the forest. All the sago trees were removed by excavators, made the Marind tribe were in danger of losing their livelihoods as they had no other source of food without the forest.
With the removed of the sago trees, the springs also became dry because the land could no longer hold water. As a result of the nearest forest being destroyed, women had to travel a great distance to carry water home. This journey could now require up to five hours of walking every day. The local government, through their village development planning programme, allocated an annual budget for the construction of wells in Zanegi, but these apparently failed because of several factors such as dislocated water springs, poor soil condition, a lack of community awareness in maintenance of the wells, a lack of community assistance programmes after the construction, and insufficient monitoring and evaluation from the government. As a result, some wells were abandoned and contain huge amounts of rubbish.
– The loss of foods and traditional medicines
Traditionally, the wild sago trees have been the main food producing trees of the Marind tribes. One big tree can produce three baskets of dry flour, which can feed one family for six months. In addition, the stems of the Sago trees used as house pillars, and the woven leaves can be used as roofing. Scratching and squeezing the sago are women’s responsibilities, while men tend to hunt animals and go fishing. As well as gathering food, women also collect traditional medicines in the form of particular leaves, tree barks and roots in the forest. For instance, turmeric leaves can be used to wrap up wounds, while the roots are used as herbs. Women often found wild honey hanging on the branches and tree bark. Honey is often consumed as a traditional medicine, usually mixed with ginger or turmeric. All are free and available resources from the forest and women frequently utilise them to meet the needs of their families. Unfortunately, since PT SIS started operations at Zanegi village, the women have found it difficult to gather food because of the expanded area which have been cleared. Some women have tried to cultivate sago trees in their collective gardens, but it takes seven years to produce crops to harvest.
– Limited time and social interaction
The now considerable distance between the village and forest caused by deforestation has limited the time and space that women can use to interact with other people. The long distance to the forest and back has meant that women are struggling to cope with meeting the basic necessities of their families. They strive to support their families, and as a result they go to the forest practically every day from Monday to Saturday, and only spend Sunday at Church. Due to this, church is the only regular time when they can interact with other women and men. Women have less time for recreation or receiving information through the media. They have less time at home to listen to the radio or to talk to their neighbours and relatives. Moreover, they have no space or opportunity to engage in village meetings, which are mostly attended by their husbands. Men acknowledge that women’s first priority is the provision of foodstuffs from the forest to sustain daily necessities, while the main task of the husband is as a decision maker and family protector. Women very rarely have the opportunity to go the city, and some have never been there at all. They have spent most of their lives within a patriarchal social system where all domestic work is believed to be women’s responsibility.
Looking through the gender roles and patriarchal system among indigenous communities who were impacted by the economic development programme, women rarely have the opportunity to be involved in training or seminars organized by the government or church. For instance, between 2010 and 2011, my organisation (Justice and Peace Commission of the Archdiocese of Merauke) conducted Indigenous Land Mapping Training, but the participants were mostly men. Despite not having the right to talk about land, women are often expected by their husbands to stay at home to do the domestic work. The consequence of not been given opportunities to participate in training or seminar means that women have less information and knowledge about social issues happening in the society. They have no space or opportunity to be involved in monitoring and evaluating the government’s agriculture programme.
As one of several local villages in the Merauke regency which has been chosen as a site of the MIFEE project, the impact of economic development on the indigenous people can be clearly felt. However, these issues threatening indigenous life are not limited to just the Zanegi, but are becoming a global issue. Developing countries in Asia, Africa and America have all been impacted on some way from this rapid pace of economic development. In the next chapter, I will relate how issues due to deforestation and industrial complexes have affected native people in several developing countries. This chapter will also analyse the long term impacts of how economic development can shape their way of life and result in a gradual erosion of their traditional heritage.
IV. Literature Review
The United Nation’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples clearly emphasized that Indigenous communities have the right to protect their environment and land productivity (UNDRIP, 2007). Economic development, which is supposed to bring prosperity to indigenous people, has instead made them suffer due to impacts on the environment caused by the expansion of industrial areas. In this literature review I will outline how severe deforestation in various locations around the world has impacted on local indigenous communities. It will begin by describing how the environments of Brazil and West Papua have been changed and destroyed by construction of plantations. This will be followed by a description on how a native people in Bangladesh and Malaysia have endured significant economic and mental hardships from development projects. The review will conclude with an examination of a local community in East Africa, who have lost their traditional way of life due to economic development.
In Brazil, the Amazon rainforest has one of the world’s richest varieties of plant life and abundant animal diversity. It is also the main source of water for Brazil’s agricultural sector, which has experienced severe damage due to the introduction of soybean plantations. Between 2001-2004, there was massive deforestation to the scale of over 3.6 million hectares of land to respond to such plantations, resulting environmental and social problems among the indigenous community (World Information Transfer, 2012). Although Brazil has become the top soybean producing country in the world, the indigenous people are facing major displacement from the natural forest ecosystem. The Awa-Guaja as one of native people who live in the jungle of the Amazon is completely reliant on the forest, which provides food, medicine, and shelter as well as playing a crucial role in the community’s spiritual and cultural life (Greenpeace, 2013, p.16). When the companies took over the forest, the indigenous people lost their traditional territories and they have had to move to a new area. The increase in global demand for biodiesel has also lead to further disruption of the Amazon forest. The production of soya oil to meet the international market required a huge area of farmland, savannah and forest. The rainforest clearing has also contributed to 50 percent of the global warming rate as well as exterminate the native species from the forest (World Information Transfer, 2012). However, the damage to the environment and the indigenous people is not limited to only Brazil, as the people of Arfak in West Papua Province have also experienced changes to their homes and resources due to agricultural development.
In the Manokwari regency, West Papua Province, the local government set up an estate palm oil plantation known as PTPN II Kebun Prafi, and their management of the 12,049 hectares of indigenous land under their control has caused serious environmental problems (Cifor, 2014). With the establishment of the project which ran between 1982-2009, the Arfak indigenous community, experienced a loss of land for family gardens as well as access to foodstuffs, fruits and forest products to fulfil the needs of their families. When the land was handed over to the company, the native people also lost their access to the forest. The estate development also caused changes to the natural flow of water. In the rainy season, the river will overflow causing erosion which damaged the main road that connecting the community from one village to another. Another negative impact of palm oil plantations was the increase in human diseases. As a part of a management of waste and pest control strategy, the company often burnt the empty fruit bushes. The smoke spread around the camp and the local villages, causing the workers and community to suffer from respiratory disease. The smoke also contributed to an increase in carbon emissions (Cifor, 2014). Apart from the environmental impacts, the estate business also increased job opportunities for non-Papuans from around Indonesia, which lead to a rapid increase in the population of Non-Papuans in the Manokwari regency. The main reason for Non-Papuan worker recruitment was because the Arfak people have lacked of skills and knowledge to work in intensive oil palm farming which influenced by their traditional way of life. Most employees who came from outside the region usually occupied positions such as head assistant, administration staff and field assistant, while the locals dominate the roles of part-time labours and obtained less pay from the company. Meanwhile, South Asian women have also experienced social upheaval due to economic growth which has taken away one of the primary sources of the living, the forest. One such example is the women in Bangladesh who have had the social dynamics of their culture impacted by developments.
In Bangladesh, The Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) is an area of 5,093 square miles, or about 10 percent of the nation, experienced massive deforestation which impacted 12 indigenous groups (Dhali, 2008, p.229). Since 1969, when the Rubber Development Project started to operate commercially, there has been an increasing loss of forests as the most important economic resource for the indigenous community. The rubber plantation in CHT has replaced the natural forest and thus impacted on the lives of the Khayang people as one of indigenous groups who lives in the CHT area. The most affected by the loss of forest are women because they have an intimate relationship with the forest to meet the needs of their families. Most of the Khyang women economically rely on the forest as a source of family income from the sale of firewood. Deforestation has meant women have to travel further away from their homes to collect firewood. They are being taxed both physically and psychologically as the long distances cause tiredness and the reduced firewood collected which resulted in less family income. Women who contribute less in the family are not given a role in the decision-making process because a non-earner is not considered to be an important person in Khyang society (Dhali, 2008, 243).
Another case of economic development which affected indigenous lives occurred in Serawak, Malaysia. The Penan natives who are mostly settled in rural and peripheral sites were confronted by development discourse which actually harmed their lives. Besides the positive impacts obtained from the modernization projects such as construction of the main road/bridge, children’s education, health care and employment opportunities, their lives were also threatened because of massive deforestation. The opening of the timber industry in the late 1970s, the cultivation of the paddy industry, as well as palm oil plantations has denuded all the forests as their source of subsistence (Selvadurai et al, 2013, p.75). The forest, which was a place to gather food, hunt animals, collect traditional medicine and firewood, was instead expanded for industrial areas. Consequently, the animals moved deeper into the jungle, which made the natives spent more hours or days hunting for animals. The sago trees were clear cut and replaced by hill paddy cultivation. The concept of land cultivation is resisted by the Penan natives because they believe that digging into the land should only occur to bury dead bodies as well as a place to preserve the biodiversity of the forest (Selvadurai et al, 2013, p.75). The Penan natives also experienced serious displacement and isolation because they could not meet the requirements of the ideal jobs such as having adequate skills, qualifications and proper knowledge of modern agriculture. The natural skills and intimate indigenous knowledge that they have often lead to them being labelled as lazy and careless, making them unable to participate in modern plantation activities (Selvadurai et al, 2013, p.75). As a consequence, the company tends to recruit Javanese labourers from Indonesia who are known to have adequate skills in agriculture and are perceived as hard workers. With both access lost to their traditional lifestyle and an inability to participate in any new ventures, the indigenous people will slowly lose their ability to sustain themselves and their unique heritage.
This long term impact of economic development can also be seen through the ways in which the traditional way of life for local communities in East Africa has changed. The deforestation which has occurred as a part of the global economy has resulted in the indigenous communities losing their traditional foods and turning to instant foods imported from other countries. When the forest has been clear cut by companies to support the expansion of industrial areas, it inevitably leads to the loss of wildlife. Indigenous people who usually gather foods from the forest are forced to change their diet because of the unavailability of traditional foodstuffs. The change in diet may affect the immune system of the locals, which can cause various diseases. In countries including Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, for example, people traditionally consumed a broad range of indigenous cereals, tubers, roots, wild bush meat and animal. Historically, their ancestors gathered wild food and animals from the forest, which was well-known as the ndorobo system, in order to meet their daily needs. The ndorobo were later changed by migrants, resulted in the loss of cultural identities and the traditional way of life. The new farming industry and the decline in agriculture investment in 2001 made the local community turn consuming low-quality staple food imports such as refined sugar and wheat, canned food and condensed milk. The substitution of the community’s diets and nutrition transition caused them to become vulnerable to various diseases such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease (Raschke & Cheema, 2007).
From these examples, it can be seen that large scale industrial projects in what was previously indigenous land can have significant negative impacts on the local population. In this light, I now turn to discuss a very recent programme in southern Papua introduced by the state government of Indonesia. I will also highlight its likely consequences for the local community based on existing experiences from other part of the world.
V. The Modern Agriculture Programme
In May 2015, Jokowi, the current President of the Republic of Indonesia, visited Merauke with the main agenda of attending a grand rice harvest of 300 hectares in Wapeko village. After Jokowi’s visit, he declared that Merauke would be encouraged as a national granary to solve the problem of Indonesia dependency on rice imported. The modern agriculture programme would require 1.2 million hectares of indigenous land. One of the local newspapers in Papua reported that the government would start to operate their business in Merauke by opening 10,000 hectares in three districts (Cepos, July 2nd 2015). The continuation of the programme would be reliant on the recruitment of skilled labourers, while the customary council would participate only in ritual ceremonies and as an observer. The Indonesian military would be involved in land preparation based on President Regulation No.54-2010, which is in regards to national procurement of goods and services.
The project is intended to take three years and the state government would allocate 7 trillion rupiah (US $534 million) to support the plans (Lang, 2015). Furthermore, Jokowi stated that the key to developing such a huge programme would be the utilisation of modern agricultural machines, not human hands, in order to produce high-quality rice. In implementing this concept, Merauke would be the first place to use modern agricultural machines in Indonesia. Jokowi’s idea to encourage Merauke as an agricultural centre in Southern Papua seems like a signal to reawaken the MIFEE project. In looking at all the aspects involved in this programme, it would appear that the indigenous peoples are again faced with an economic development project which will threaten their way of life. Based on insights drawn from international scholars on the cultural and environmental impacts of similar projects on indigenous communities in other regions, as well as my previous research on the impacts on MIFEE in Merauke, I predict that more social issues will emerge within the Marind tribe. Some predictions of the issues likely to be caused by the Jokowi programme are as follows:
1) The loss of food and water sources caused by deforestation.
The total area of the Merauke regency is nearly 4.7 million hectares and the MIFEE project has appropriated 1.6 million hectares of indigenous land, while 2.4 million hectares are being utilised as conservation areas. Jokowi’s programme will appropriate a further 1.2 million hectares, which means that there is currently not enough available land to support his programme without breaking up the conservation areas, which will lead to the loss of protected forests and the destruction of wildlife. As stated by Dhali (2008) and Selvadurai et al (2013), economic development programmes which lead to natural forest disruption will inevitably affect the indigenous people who live in the peripheral area. Women who are tied closely to the forest would likely suffer physically, economically, and mentally because of the loss of access to natural resources. The Zanegi’s experience with PT SIS noted previously clearly illustrates that women bear the heaviest burden from deforestation. Land clearing as a part of industrial land preparation would destroy the forest as a source of subsistence for the Marind community. If the new programme takes control of 1.2 million hectares of indigenous land, there would be massive deforestation which would threaten the indigenous people’s way of life. The deforestation would inevitably lead to the loss of food, traditional medicine, firewood and water sources, and the Marind women would suffer harm because of their more limited access to the forest.
2) A growing gender gap caused by the introduction of advanced technology.
In order to increase the production of rice, advanced technology and skilled-labourers would be required in the farming industry. Jokowi’s programme intends to involve the use of modern machineries to transform 1.2 million hectares of indigenous land into large rice fields in Merauke. I predict that this will result in significant gender participation gaps between women and men due to cultural beliefs and influences. Men, who are culturally believed by society to be physically stronger than women, and more technically-minded, are likely to be prioritized as machine operators and they might be given opportunities to enhance their capacities through different kinds of training. Meanwhile, it is possible that women would be given fewer opportunities in the farming industry because of their less adequate skills and knowledge. On the other hand, female domestic tasks would limit women’s mobilisation to take part in the capacity building programme. Men would take up all opportunities to increase their capacity through various training and seminars while women would become more passive because of their domestic responsibilities which cannot be abandoned. This situation may reduce women’s participation and lead to a huge gender gap in the farming industry. I believe that this pattern is likely to emerge in Jokowi’s programme as an example from Malay women who experienced inequality in the farming industry. For instance, in West Malaysia, all land preparation, planting methods, utilisation of fertilizers, weed-killers, insecticides and harvesting is undertaken by machines. Men have full roles in land preparation, crop care, machine harvesting and transportation, while women are only involved in seed preparation (Ng Choon Sim, 1991, p. 22-24). While women do make essential contributions to the rural economy of all developing regions as farmers, labourers and entrepreneurs, there is a gender gap in the agriculture industry which gives them less access than men to agricultural assets, inputs and services and to rural employment opportunities (The State of Food and Agriculture, 2011, p. 7-22).
3) An increase in the Non-Papuan population caused by the recruitment of foreign skilled-labourers.
The skills of the indigenous people in Merauke are mostly related to food gathering such as tapping the sago, fishing, hunting, and collecting traditional medicines and firewood. These skills are different to those who came to Papua as transmigration people from Java Island in the 1960s equipped with basic skills in farming. They are thus more knowledgeable and skilled, which would likely give them greater opportunities to take up new employment opportunities than the Marind people. As described by Cifor (2014), and Selvadurai et al, (2013), the Arfak community in Manokwari and the Penan natives in Serawak cannot compete with foreign labourers because of their attachment to their traditional skills and knowledge. The lack of skills and proper knowledge in modern agricultural methods makes it difficult for them to adjust to the workplace. As a part of the new programme, I believe that there is a strong possibility that both the local and state governments will recruit more skilled people from outside Papua. There is a big concern among local NGOs and church institutions that the need for skilled and professional workers will encourage more people from outside Papua to come and take up employment opportunities. As reported in the Indonesian Population Census 2010, the population of non-Papuans has already exceeded the local population in comparison between 122,890 and 72,826. There will likely be a dramatic increase in the population of non-Papuans in Merauke caused by Jokowi’s programme, which may lead to social issues such as insufficient space, high competition for jobs and poverty. As an example, if the population of non-Papuans in Merauke increase dramatically it might also lead to high demands for houses. Moreover, the domination of the Muslim culture in Merauke may result in increased religious tension in the community as the majority of indigenous people are Christian.
4) The loss of cultural identity
Rice is the primary staple food for more than half the world’s population and almost 95% of Indonesians consume rice as their staple food besides corn and cassava. Therefore, rice is becoming a political and strategic commodity where the price, access and availability are controlled by the Indonesian government (Girsang, 2014). In contrast, people who are living in the Papua province, which geographically is a part of Papua New Guinea, consume sago as a staple food. Sago has become one of the most important commodities of Papuan society besides kumara, taro, banana and cassava. Culturally, sago cannot be separated from the Marind community. It is usually used in traditional rituals as a symbol of peace and reconciliation. Papeda and Sagu Sep are two traditional foods made from sago which are highly consumed by the Marind people. The increased presence of rice and restricted access to sago due to deforestation is likely to gradually affect the Marind community’s diet. As clearly stated by Raschke and Cheema (2007), people in East Africa have changed their diet because of the consumption of instant food as a part of the introduction of a globalised food system. As a consequence, the indigenous people’s diet changed, which drove them to experience various diseases. I predict that, if successful, Jokowi’s programme will encourage more indigenous people to buy rice rather than consume sago as their staple food. Compared to rice, sago cultivation usually requires several years to harvest and takes place very far away from the village, while rice would become very cheap to buy in the supermarket. The Marind people may turn to consuming rice because it would be more affordable and easily managed. The Marind people’s way of life may change and sago will be increasingly difficult to obtain.
These four issues show that there is significant potential for disruption to the local indigenous people. Based on case studies which have already been conducted in other areas around the world, there is a clear need for pro-active discussion with local communities before proceeding with development programmes. As part of my conclusion I will now describe some of my recommendations for the Modern Agriculture Programme that is currently being undertaken in Southern Papua in order to mitigate or avoid some of the potential risks detailed above.
Based on my previous research on the MIFEE project, a review of the international literature, and further analysis and predictions relating to the modern agriculture programme, I propose the following recommendations:
1) Monitoring and Evaluation the implementation of the MIFEE project.
Further monitoring and evaluation of the MIFEE project to measure both the success and the failure of the project would be useful for determining economic development in the Merauke regency. Data on both positive and negative impacts from the MIFEE project would become a valuable source of information in regard to the continuation of a new programme. Throughout this activity, the local government may also re-evaluate the availability of land from the MIFEE project in an attempt to support the new concept of a modern agriculture programme. If there is no reassessment about the availability of land from the MIFEE project, there is the possibility that utilisation of indigenous land may overlap with designated conservation areas for the upcoming programme.
2) Indigenous land mapping in Merauke regency.
In order to protect sacred places and avoid land conflicts between clans, companies, and the government, it is very important to encourage related stakeholders to participate in land mapping. The mapping would regulate the appropriateness of land use for agriculture programmes without breaking the boundaries of indigenous land. By doing this, I believe that the Marind women would not be as anxious about losing access to the forest because all the boundaries would be mapped and regulated by law. The mapping could be run in collaboration with related stakeholders such as the local government, customary leaders, landowners, church institution, NGOs and university students.
3) Encourage the development of Sago as a local commodity.
The state government of Indonesia should encourage more people to grow sago rather than rice in order to increase the value of local commodity from Papua province. Besides containing a high amount of carbohydrates, sago could boost the economic development of Indonesia. The sago industry would also further empower the locals rather than foreigners because of their basic skills and knowledge in sago cultivation. By doing this, the state can keep running their economic development project in Papua without destroying the cultural values of Papuan society.
4) Capacity building in agriculture for Papuans.
If Jokowi’s programme is implemented, some additional training, seminars and education in farming techniques for the locals is highly recommended. These kind of activities are very important, and should be conducted by both the government and the company. The main aim would be to prepare Papuans to be more competent and eligible to compete for jobs in the agriculture sector. If there is a high number of Papuans who are skilled in farming, this would reduce the need for skilled labourers from Java Island. Importantly, women should also receive intensive training in operating machines to enhance their capacities in farming industry.
The Indonesian government’s efforts to increase economic development in the Papua province, particularly in the Merauke regency, has caused environmental degradation and social conflicts within the indigenous community. As the first mega project focused on the agricultural industry, MIFEE has failed to preserve the environment and destroyed the native’s livelihoods. The disruption of the natural forest ecosystem which has led to the loss of indigenous subsistence has become the main concern for the Marind tribe. In addition to providing sources of food and water, the forest contains cultural meaning for the Marind tribe. Women whose life patterns are closely connected to the forest have found difficulty in accessing the forest because of the huge distances created by deforestation. The forest, which traditionally provided food, water, firewood and traditional medicines, has been transformed into industrial areas. The staple food, sago, has also been pulled down and replanted with acacia, while the native animal population has been reduced. As seen in prior literature and the example of MIFEE project, there are various impacts on the local community to any development efforts, particularly in large-scale agricultural programmes. In order to preserve the indigenous people’s livelihoods and cultural traditions, it is critical that additional oversight and investigation is undertaken to prevent harm and disruption to any local communities in the area.
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