Papua Nutmeg, Not Only Food for the Fakfak Community – Indonesian nutmeg has been famous since ancient times, until it became the target of other nations such as England, Spain and the Netherlands during the colonial period. One of the quality varieties of nutmeg is from Fakfak, Papua.

Co-founder of Inspirational Young Papua, Nanny Uswanas, said 70-80 percent of the Fakfak Regency area is endemic nutmeg forest. For the people of Fakfak, nutmeg does not only serve as a food ingredient, but also has economic, social and cultural and ecological values.

Nanny, who is a native person of Fakfak, explained 6 interesting facts about Papuan nutmeg:

  • Mother who gives life

Culturally, the nutmeg tree in Fakfak is considered like a mother by the local community because the tree is considered to give life. “They believe that if they are not properly cared for, the nutmeg tree will not bear fruit. One way to protect it is to impose traditional sanctions, if someone cuts down a nutmeg tree,” said Nanny.

According to Nanny, the people of Fakfak also feel that nutmeg has become part of their identity. “Apart from being the identity of the Fakfak community, nutmeg is also a symbol of Fakfak Regency,” she said.

  • A barter tool in ancient times

Before Indonesia’s independence, nutmeg was seen as a commodity with high economic value by nations outside Indonesia. In the past, the coastal Fakfak community and several other nations had established trade relations.

According to Nanny, citizens of other nations arriving at Papua to carry out an evangelistic mission told the Fakfak community about the economic value of nutmeg seeds. “If they don’t tell them, the nutmeg will be allowed to grow just as such without picking the fruit,” she said.

Af ter that it begins the first export process in the form of barter. “From the oral stories of our parents, nutmeg exports have been carried out since the Dutch era,” said Nanny.

  • Used as a ‘living bank’

Nutmeg also acts as a ‘living bank’ for the Fakfak community. That is, nutmeg trees can be sold or pawned to collectors for important needs, such as celebrations or children’s schools.

Because, according to Nanny, the nutmeg harvest season is twice a year plus one additional harvest season. Because of it cannot be harvested every day, selling or pawning nutmeg trees cannot be used as the main source of livelihood for the people of Fakfak. “The nutmeg they harvest and sell is used as a reserve fund, not to meet their daily needs,” she said.

Then, how do you determine which a resident has the right to sell which tree? Nanny explained that Papuans have communal land or forest ownership rights. However, the division is clear, namely based on the clan which is then passed down to families. The distribution system is not written, but has become a habit from generation to generation.

Papuan nutmeg can be sold in fresh or dried form. As stated by Nanny, since herself was a child until now, the citizens of Fakfak sell freshly picked nutmeg per 1,000 pieces. Meanwhile, dry nutmeg is sold on average per kilogram.

  • Protecting the environment from disaster

Nanny explained that the nutmeg tree is an untroublesome plant because it can thrive and bear lots of fruit without the need for fertilizer and special care. Tree types, soil contours, environment and climate are mutually supportive in the growth of nutmeg trees.

Age can also reach the age of hundreds of years and continue to bear fruit. The tree that was harvested by his grandfather until now can still be harvested by Nanny himself.

The diameter of the Papuan nutmeg tree trunk is not large, but it has very strong roots. “These roots play an important role in preventing floods and landslides,” said Nanny. The tall and shady nutmeg plants also serve as shade for other plants in the vicinity.

  • Part of the culture

Viewed as a giver of life, nutmeg is also inseparable from the culture of the Papuan people, especially the people of Fakfak. For example, when harvesting nutmeg, there is a ritual performed by the community.

According to Nanny, every time they will harvest nutmeg, they tie the nutmeg tree with a white cloth. Only one tree is tied with a white cloth to represent a nutmeg forest. They also make a kind of tray made of woven Pandanus leaves. On the tray were four cups of coffee and betel nut.

The ritual being also conducted before harvest is for residents to clean the area around the tree from weeds so that the disk or circle around the tree is clean. The knife used to harvest nutmeg is also celebrated. There is a special procession for sticking a knife into a pole.

  • An Efforts of Conservation for Papuan Nutmeg

For hundreds of years, nutmeg seeding took place naturally by birds. Nutmeg cultivation was only carried out about 10-15 years ago.

“Citizens are starting to use vacant land to plant nutmeg. Or they are replanting on land where the trees are no longer productive or fall naturally,” said Nanny.

The parts of the nutmeg that have the highest economic value are the red seeds and mace. Meanwhile, the flesh of the fruit is still rarely used. In fact, when it has become a cultivation, the flesh of nutmeg becomes abundant.

For Nanny, in the past, the flesh of nutmeg was only often used as sweets, wet and dry. Now the derivative products are quite diverse, such as jams, syrups, candies, aromatherapy and balms. “Everything is carried out directly in Fakfak, because the people of Fakfak have received various trainings to produce their own,” he said.

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