Building local food security in Papua and West Papua

An agricultural product processing and marketing training has helped Aldonsina and Ross, two women in Papua and West Papua, to sustain their livelihood during the pandemic while also build food security shaped by local wisdom.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced Aldonsina Awairaro, 43 years old, to use every available resource to provide an additional income for her family. The mother of three earns her living from selling pinang, noken woven bags, and synthetic knitting from her zinc-roofed wooden cottage that she built with her husband in Anggori village, West Manokwari district, West Papua. Although the income is not a lot, Aldonsina said that she was proud to be able to bring food to the table for her family.

“I chose to start my own business in my cottage because I don’t want to be attached to anyone. I can also have the time to take care of my family. I don’t need to go to the market or to the major road side so I can save the transport cost. The income is enough to buy rice”

said Aldonsina 

Aldonsina said she was encouraged to sign up for the agricultural product processing and marketing training that was held by Mnukwar Papua in West Manokwari district in September-October 2021. This training was part of the Employment and Livelihood programme, jointly coordinated by four United Nations (UN) agencies in Indonesia, including ILO, with funding from the UN COVID-19 Response and Recovery Multi-Partner Trust Fund (UN MPTF).

The entrepreneurship training as well as capacity building for partners is one of the efforts made by the project to promote equal access to decent livelihood. The agricultural produce processing training will expectedly encourage the community to take advantage of local food resources and reduce the amount of capital needed to start their business.

“By providing the space for small enterprises in the agricultural sector, ILO hopes that it can help improving the community’s welfare and support food security, which is in line with the Government of Indonesia’s programmes,” said Navitri Putri Guillaume, ILO’s National Project Officer in Jakarta.

Aldonsina said the training by Mnukwar had provided a lot of new knowledge for the residents of Anggori village about the types and opportunities in developing agriculture products. During the training, participants were trained to process local food materials, such as sago, noodles, and glucose syrup. They were also introduced to various methods of marketing, both online and offline.

Aldonsina, who is known as an active member of the local community and church, participated actively in the training. She tirelessly invited and encouraged women and youth of Anggori to join the training. Due to her efforts and cooperation of every participant, four groups comprising youth and women of Anggori were established. These groups will initiate agriculture products processing ventures with the involvement of the local community.

She said that a lot of Anggori community members had been wanting to start such business but they did not have sufficient capital or tools. She hoped that the knowledge gain during the training would help community members, especially women and youth to survive amid the pandemic. “Community members, especially women in this village who really understand their family’s economic condition, need to be supported by trainings and mentoring such as this one, so we can have the skills to start a business and earn enough income to fulfil our household needs,” she said.

Another participant of similar training conducted in Dowansiba hamlet, Amban village, Rosalina Boseren. Ross, she used to be called, hailed from Biak regency, Papua and currently studies Indonesian language at the Papua University in Manokwari. Declining income due to the pandemic has forced Ross’ family to cut her allowance, prompting her to seek a way to fulfil her daily needs.

Many people in Papua and West Papua are still maintaining a habit to chew the three commodities, known locally as nyirih. Sellers of these products can be found in small as well as major markets across the two provinces.

Ross explained that Mnukwar agricultural training was in line with her aspiration to continue and to grow her business. In addition, she admitted there was a certain pride in introducing Papuan local food that she is now producing and selling based on the training, namely the sago-based noodle and simple syrup.

“I started a small business selling areca nut, betel leaf and lime stone”

she said

Ross hopes that similar training will continue to be conducted to support youth particularly those who experience financial problems. “This training helps empowering the younger communities while also solving unemployment issue. With that, we can also support the farmers, especially sago farmers, and help drive the economy,” she said.