Making more out of nutmeg in West Papua

FAKFAK, West Papua – Nestled among fragrant nutmeg trees and steps away from a white sandy beach in West Papua, a hilltop village has found new ways of making the most out of its prized spices. 

Sakartemen village sits on a lush hill called Hargendik in Fakfak, which is known for its nutmeg. During harvest season, farmers hack away with machetes at the thick bushes covering the ground, searching for the large, slightly curved fruits that litter the hill by the thousands. These fruits are nothing like the smaller versions found in other parts of Indonesia.

Highlights

  • In Fakfak in West Papua, nutmeg fruit that used to be discarded is now being made into juice and syrup as part of a local development program supported by UNDP.
  • Fakfak is known for its nutmeg, and the home industry juices and syrups have been certified by the Fakfak Food and Drug Monitoring Agency and are sold at shops in the area.
  • The locally made nutmeg juice and syrups are providing extra income to farmers who used to depend on middlemen to sell the mace and seeds.

Other farmers use long pickers to harvest fruit straight from the trees. The scarlet-colored membrane that surrounds the nutmeg seed is called fully by locals, and is dried in the sun before being ground. The black seed of the nutmeg is also extracted and dried, to be used as a preservative for meat.

On certain days of harvest season middlemen arrive at the doorsteps of farmers’ homes to purchase the fully and the seeds – items that have been coveted and traded for centuries.

But what of the rest of the fruit that lies scattered, discarded over Fakfak’s hills?

“Many consider it junk,” said farmer Hamidah Wagab, 54, from Kampung Pirma. “I don’t though. I make traditional sweets from the flesh of the nutmeg fruit. We soak it in sugared water and it is turned into candy and traditional sweets like dodol pala. We also make juices and syrup from the nutmeg fruit.”

Supported by New Zealand Aid, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) provided training to farmers in Sakartemen to turn the flesh of the nutmeg fruit into income – in the form of juices and syrup to sell. Cooking and pressing equipment were provided by the local administration.

Field officers of UNDP’s People-Centered Development Programme (PCDP) were introduced to the farmers in October 2012 by Gemapala, a local NGO that works to improve the lives of farmers in West Papua.

Local PCDP economic development officer Listiati Rumatupa says the programme originally targeted 75 farmers, training them to make use of the flesh of the fruit and turning it into profit. In Fakfak, the nutmeg juice and syrup bears the brand Moscada, and the items are sold at various small shops in the area.

“More and more farmers know now that even if they are in underdeveloped villages they are able to make juice and syrup like the kind made in top factories with a small home industry with very simple equipment. And the juice has no preservatives and is fresh. They know it is a good product,” Listiati said.

“Because of the good quality of the juice and the syrup produced by the communities, even the Fakfak Food and Drug Monitoring Agency [BPOM] was impressed. The juice and syrup received full health security certification from BPOM,” she added.

Abdul Rahim, who heads the Forestry Agency within the Fakfak administration, said nutmeg was the regency’s number one commodity, followed by seaweed and the eggs of flying fish. He added that that the Forestry Agency and other state agencies in the regency fully supported the programme that assisted resident nutmeg farmers.

“At least 98 percent of these nutmeg forests are owned and managed by the indigenous peoples of Fakfak. We believe that the nutmeg has very good potential for being developed further. It is being exported outside of Fakfak to Java. This year, we produced 1,400 tons of nutmeg fruits. If you want to convert it to the nutmeg meat – the flesh of the nutmeg – then this amounts to millions of kilograms of nutmeg meat. This is what is thrown out and frequently considered garbage by the indigenous communities,” Rahim said.

“We required a single good model. A simple model that can be taught easily, learned easily and once it succeeds, the model can be replicated in different indigenous communities in other areas of Fakfak,” he said.

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