Arrival in West Papua, a visit to Lemon Island

Post by Dr. Dolores Foley, University of Hawai‘i, Department of Urban and Regional Planning
August 2, 2017
Flying into West Papua yesterday I was amazed at the extent of the forests. As you can see from the air, the undisturbed landscapes seem to stretch as far as the eye can see. Like many parts of the world however, development pressures have led to difficult choices that govern land. Papua is no exception, and as our bombardier flight gets closer to Manokwari you can see the beginnings of the logging trails, the palm plantations, the transmigration sites, and worker camps.
Agriculture is an important aspect of the economy in West Papua, engaging more than half the workforce and accounting for a significant portion of West Papua’s revenue. In the cities, rice has become the principal staple crop, although cassava, yams, soybeans, and corn are also important. The highlands especially prefer the tubers, which they call batatas, hasbi, and other names. We also had a great time trying the sticky sago palm, which are prepared by husking the trunks of the palm, crushing the stalk, and pressing to make the popular staple food across Eastern Indonesia: papeda.
Nutmeg, oil palm, and cocoa are major cash crops, and we hear about government plants to try out new cash crop industries like coffee. In contrast to other parts of Indonesia, we are also immediately aware of the importance of Pigs. Driving into the city upon our arrival at the airport we saw several scuttle across the road. Jordan, our new local friend, tells us that there are heavy fines to pay for female roadkill. Compensation is determined by the number of potential suckling offspring. Although services and trade are the next largest employers behind agriculture, manufacturing and mining are greater contributors to the overall economy. Petroleum products are the focus of the mining industry, although the region is also rich in copper, gold, nickel, and other minerals.
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The previous blog discussed the coastal village of Sawai Bay There appears that unemployment is high and in both villages we visited, fishing was the mainstay. Our latest visit was to Lemon island. Once upon a time the Island was home to groves of calamansi (small lemon). Few remain and have since been replaced by coconut trees. It is a small island off the coast of the town of Manokwari, a popular local tourism destination, and is just a short 15 minute boat ride across the bay. There are only 215 residents on the island.
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For link to this drone image see this link https://www.instagram.com/edwinvalen/
There is something special about the small island feel, one which you can circumnavigate in less than an hour. Residents rely on fishing and gardening though some also bring local tourists over on the weekend from Manokwari. There are many boats along the beach most are used for fishing or for brigning local tourists back and forth.
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We talked to residents about their perceptions of risk, and we were eager to understand more about the tsunami that took place in 1996. Many of the fishermen were out and most of the people encountered were not around when the event happened. We did find an elderly couple that remembered the event. It was much worse across in the Bay in Sawaibu, they told us, and as the waves passed the island they only experienced about  30-50 cm increase. No homes were affected. They were also on the leeward side of the pacific ocean, providing for a buffer against direct impacts.
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These are just some of the issues that we will be examining throughout the week as part of our training workshop on Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation. We will be visiting eight different sites over the next week in this exciting new place. We will be exploring issues that range from landslides, flooding, sea level rise, storms, erosion, and others. We will visit coastal areas and other sites further up in the hills.
On our way back from Lemon Island our boat stopped off at a local restaurant above the water. We ate local favorites of grilled fish, papaya flower salad, kangkung, and the local specialty of papeda served with a very spicy fish soup.

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