New News, Jakarta – In an effort to preserve the abundant forests and natural resources (SDA) in Papua, especially in Keerom Regency, the Sustainable Agriculture Program in Papua (PAPeDA) has taken the initiative to create innovative citronella food products that can improve the economy of the local community.
The PAPeDA program aims to encourage the acceleration of Papua’s economic growth by relying more on the participation of the community as a whole, business people, local governments, and village government economic institutions (such as: Village-Owned Enterprises/BUMKam).
The Director of the Independent Consultation for People’s Empowerment (KIPRa) Irianto Jacobus as the assistant for the PAPeDA Program sees that there is a lot of natural potential in the Keerom Regency area which is abundant but the daily life of the community is still not well developed.
“We [Yayasan KIPRa Papua] see in Keerom Regency that exploitation is still ongoing from several companies that take forest products, but then on the other hand the lives of indigenous peoples in Keerom Regency in their daily lives are not yet well developed,” he explained when he was a speaker in Papuan Food Product Management Discussion Series: Torang Pu Para Para Festival, Monday (16/8).
He assessed that there are a lot of lands in Keerom to be developed as well as to be able to improve the economy of the local community through the cultivation of citronella. “We also know that the development of Citronella is a good plant and not difficult,” he explained.
Furthermore, this innovative product of Keerom Wangi Sereh food seeks to preserve forests and natural resources, especially in Keerom.
“Because some community members also take part in taking forest products and are also used by several wood industries, therefore we look at how the forest and nature can be protected but also on the other hand the community also gets economic benefits,” said Jacobus.
In turn, the Founder of Niora Indonesia, Eet Etih Suryatin, explained that the use of the results of this fragrant lemongrass was also diverse.
“My experience from Keerom was, after discussing with friends and the company, that indeed this fragrant citronella product can be processed into various products, such as essential oils, hand soap, dish soap, or hand washing, as well as mosquito repellent, and it could also be for example the one that is now the most sought after handsanitizer,” explained Eet Suryatin, in the same series of discussions.
Why Lemongrass Wangi?
The PAPeDA program organized by the Association for Small Business Improvement (PUPUK) and supported by The Asia Foundation (TAF) has produced several innovative food products with high economic value, such as liquid balm, taro, and so on. However, this time, PAPeDA will develop an innovative food product from citronella.
The originator of Keerom’s citronella product, Arie Sutte said that choosing the citronella product went through a long process.
“Initially it wasn’t just lemongrass, there was patchouli and so on. But from the consultation process with various parties, finally this fragrant delivery plant emerged,” he said, Monday (16/8).
Furthermore, Arie Sutte explained several reasons why his party chose fragrant lemongrass products, including climate factors.
“In terms of climate, this lemongrass plant, I think it is well known, is very suitable for the climate in the Keerom region,” he said.
In addition to economic factors, socio-cultural factors are also one of the considerations for choosing lemongrass plants.
“This citronella plant is not a rare or foreign plant to them [masyarakat Keerom], because so far they have worked a lot in the form of planting only, but not yet on a large scale as we have programmed, “he explained.
In addition, Arie Sutte also said that there were already other stakeholders who had moved or planted lemongrass plants in Keerom before the PAPeDA program.
“Before the PAPeDA program or the KIPRa Foundation planned the development of citronella, we found that stakeholders from the Keeom Bappeda had planted them. There are already more than 20 ha. And this is very supportive, moreover, Mr. Triono said that there is no refinery yet,” he said.
Request for Lemongrass in a Pandemic Period
Eet Etih Suryatin explained that basically the market for this fragrant lemongrass product is very wide, it can even penetrate the export market.
“What I learned, around 2007’s, the trend for exports was very high, the market was also wide. In Japan it’s a bit high,” he said.
He also explained that this fragrant lemongrass has great potential for the astiri, chemical, aromatherapy, pharmaceutical, and cosmetic industries. He gave an example of the company Marta Tilaar, which also uses fragrant lemongrass.
However, Eet Etih Suryatin also said that the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic also affected the cultivation of citronella, especially in terms of market demand.
“In a time of pandemics, go down for demand [sereh wangi]. Especially for products that are more of a beauty. So, now what we are looking for more is precisely for health and for drinks that can encourage us to increase our immunity,” he explained.
In assisting the cultivation of lemongrass in the Keerom community, Irianto Jacobus said that there are several difficulties and challenges ahead.
“The initial challenge is how we actually change mindset or the mindset of the community, which has been doing subsystem agriculture, which relies on natural processing, to cultivation agriculture because this fragrant lemongrass is cultivation,” he explained.
Irianto Jacobus emphasized that his party should not only educate and provide information to the public, but also must provide a kind of view that ‘with this fragrant lemongrass cultivation will produce something that is beneficial from an economic perspective’.
“People tend to get money in cash. That’s how we provide learning or education and mindset that this fragrant lemongrass will produce something useful from an economic point of view, although this cultivation process takes approximately six months, it can only be distilled and harvested like that,” he explained.
Not only that, the challenges ahead in the cultivation of lemongrass are related to nature and forest conservation.
“We also break the concentration of the existing community. Some people play with wood, take wood, we are trying to attract them to jointly manage the existing abandoned land by planting this fragrant citronella plant, so that nature will be maintained and sustainable,” he explained.
In practice, when talking to local residents, his party must also be more careful so as not to create misunderstandings.
“When speaking, you have to be more careful and detailed, because this land is not owned by individuals or individuals, but is more owned by the community. So, therefore, how we approach them, explain well to them, so that they will cooperate voluntarily, it becomes very important. So that we can all together use the expanse of land to be used together in developing the cultivation of citronella plants, “he said.
In addition, social capital is also an important note for Irianto Jacobus in assisting the Keerom community in protecting and preserving nature through the cultivation of citronella.
“We also encourage social capital. This means that in terms of land assets the community already has, in other social capital we try to give them, that this mutual cooperation and mutual assistance is important. So when opening the land, we need to work together,” he concluded.