Minggu, 12 April 2009

Amungme tribespeople start enjoying rice

Markus Makur
Amungme tribespeople have exchanged rice for potatoes, cultivating their new staple on a 5-hectare plot in the Agimuga district in Mimika regency, Papua. Over the last three years, the tribespeople have produced hundreds of tons of rice.
Djafar Baco, a senior researcher at the Agricultural Technology Assessment Agency at the Makassar-based Hasanuddin University, said on Tuesday that their lands in the Aramsolki kampong are fertile and suitable for growing various crops such as carrots and onions. The local people had previously grown these crops but their harvests could not be sold and were left to rot due to the lack of cheap transportation to Timika, the capital of Mimika regency.

Djafar, who has been researching the Agimuga land since 2007, explained all Indonesian varieties of rice could be cultivated there. "I'm proud to see the willingness of Amungme tribespeople to grow rice of the *Gogo' type," Djafar said. Djafar was appointed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the Papuan Agriculture Development Alliance in cooperation with the giant copper mining company PT Freeport Indonesia.

Assisted by Stefanus Susant of the Mimika Agriculture Office, Djafar said he had advised the local people to grow rice. "Over the last three years, rice production here has been promising, which has encouraged other people to expand their paddy fields," Djafar said.

The rice is sold to a cooperative the Amungme tribe founded in cooperation with the Timika Church Diocese. There have so far been seven groups of farmers in Aramsolki under the guidance of USAID, which also provides equipment, including hand tractors and rice-milling machines.

Pius Ilimagay, head of the Aramsolki kampong, explained there was no longer any need for local villagers to buy expensive rice in Timika, which can only be reached by sea and air. Residents from five other kampongs in the district now buy rice from Aramsolki, rather than Timika. It takes up to two days to travel between the kampongs on foot. Ilimagay said despite the addition of rice crops, the local people still continued planting potatoes and tubers to meet demand.

He explained Amungme tribespeople no longer needed cash assistance but still required more direct guidance on properly cultivating and harvesting the rice crops. "We ask the Mimika administration to assist by providing quality rice seeds and agricultural experts. Don't just give the Amungme people money - teach them how to maximize their agricultural potential."

Hengky Walilo, from the local Aramsolki Catholic church, said USAID and Freeport had made a real difference as the local people were now able to harvest and eat rice. She said instead of simply talking, the companies had provided what the people needed.

The coordinator of the Papua Agriculture Development Alliance Project, Kornel Gartner, explained Aramsolki kampong was chosen to plant rice because the Catholic church has traditionally introduced agricultural practice to the local people, since Dutch colonial times. Another project being developed is the Papuan coffee plantation, which will be marketed overseas.

Source : www.PapuaToday.com

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