A Culture of Loving Nature: A Simple yet Important Lesson from Papua

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(Photo Credit: Kumparan.com/MacePapua)

Muhamad Rosyid Jazuli — December 2020

Papua is one of the most dynamic regions in Indonesia. You may have heard a lot that Papua is closely related to seeking self-determination and even separatism. I can assure you that there are many resources you can find about such things.

However, that Papua is a vibrant region with its ups and downs, as almost all regions in Indonesia and the world, I am a little doubtful that the availability of information about it, especially in English, is minimal.

So, to overcome your thirst for knowledge about Papua, here are some stories related to the love of our beloved Papuan friends and family for nature. I assure you, this has nothing to do with politics and self-determination, let alone separatism. As written by the MaCe Papua channel on Kumparan.com, this simple story tells how Papuans love their culture and nature with soul, whole heart, and simplicity.

To the north of Kaimana Regency in West Papua Province is Tanggaromi Village. The distance is about 30 kilometers from the city center. Around 200 residents inhabit Tanggaromi.

The residents of Tanggaromi plant vegetables and bananas in their gardens to support themselves. Gardening is passed down from generation to generation from their parents and their ancient ancestors. One of these lovely residents is Mama Evi (40), who has lived in Tanggaromi since she was a child.


For Mama Evi, gardening and planting bananas are valuable skills she masters thanks to her parents’ education. From such endeavors, Mama Evi can send her children to school. “My parents used to teach me gardening when I was little. Every day I participated in planting vegetables. They taught me until I could do it and until I could work to earn money myself,” said Mama Evi.

Mama Evi reminisced about the beginning of her gardening journey. She was taught to plant cassava, sweet potato, and banana in the first place. In Papuan customs, there are no restrictions for women to learn. Women must not stop learning! “As women, we have to keep learning from childhood,” said Mama Evi firmly, as written by MaCe Papua.

She has also applied this life legacy to his six children. Her first child is now 20 years old. She is the most diligent and eager to help her garden and plant bananas. She is now proud of her children, who are willing to work hard for their lives.

For Mama Evi, gardening is a form of her love for nature and how nature loves her family. For her, bananas are essential. “Thanks to our bananas, we make a living, eat, and send our kids to school,” she said to MaCe Papua while playing with her little child, Shentika.

“The best sales come on a big day like Christmas. In 3 weeks, I can get IDR 4 million,” she said joyfully.

Mama Evi’s hard work does not stop there. Sometimes at night Mama still goes out to sea to fish. “I do almost everything. Nature provides a lot of things that can be used. The fish that I usually catch is Mera-Mera or Burapu fish. I sell the large size for Rp.50 thousand, while the medium size for Rp.30 thousand,” she said.

Like women in Papua, Mama cannot be separated by a traditional Papuan bag, namely Noken. “Sometimes I also make Noken, but here Noken doesn’t sell well. So sometimes I only make it if there is an order,” she said, implying the persistence of hers.

Mama Evi’s hope is now only one. “If I later become a farmer, I want to be a successful farmer. If a fisherman, a successful fisherman. If a trader, of course, a successful trader. Hard work must be done to be successful. That’s what I teach to my children,” concluded Mama Evi, showing a portrait of optimism for the Kaimana people.


Harmony with culture and nature is a life principle held by most Papuans. One of the Papuan environmental activists in Papua, David Saweri asks the young generation of Papua never to stop loving nature. Not much different from what was experienced by Mama Evi, that the love of Papuans for nature has become a ‘divine’ message from generation to generation.

“I always remember my parents’ message, if you don’t take care of nature, your place will not be comfortable and safe,” said David, as quoted by KabarPapua, Sunday, November 22, 2020.

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(Photo Credit: KabarPapua.co)

In a discussion activity entitled Geotourism with the community in a camp, which was one of the agendas at the Srava Cava Festival (Base G Beach), in Jayapura, Papua Province, David entrusted a message to young people to forge social ties with the environment.

David conveyed that his parents’ message was a motivation to always protect the environment around where he lives, such as planting trees and other plants.

“To start something, we have to do with ourselves, including protecting the environment. If necessary, we have to establish social ties with our neighbors, including the trees we plant. Because someday the plants will help us, maintain the availability of oxygen and so on,” explained David as reported by KabarPapua.

Indeed, David gave a warning, but politely, that if the water is no longer drinkable, the land could no longer be used for planting, and the air is not suitable for breathing, then all wealth that we have will be valueless.

“For that, let’s get have ‘an affair’ with nature (SELINGKUH), starting from now on. I have planted trees from small to large. I see that this has gone well,” said David with a smile. Hang on there… The cheating (SELINGKUH) David mentioned does not mean anything, but it stands for Selamatkan Lingkungan Hidup or Save the Environment.

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(Photo Credit: Papua.co)

In the end, from Papua, we learn that human power is minimal. Uniting the rhythm of life with the rhythm of nature is the key to a successful life. On the one hand, in a broader context, as part of Indonesia, Papua has contributed a lot of value, both material and non-material, to the country. On the other hand, what Papua has achieved today is that its people’s prosperity and economic advancement cannot be separated from its multicultural life’s contribution. For years, Papua has been the most diverse region in Indonesia.

Some may argue that such diversity is detrimental for Papua, as you read somewhere. However, studies have shown that it is multiculturalism that eventually can bring advancement in any region, thanks to the rich and far-reaching contributions made by different entities

Papua indeed has its own problems, which some are the same and some others are not, with other regions in Indonesia. Nevertheless, don’t let the problem make us forget the extraordinary achievements, progress like what Mama Evi and David have done, that have been present for some significant time in Papua. (*)

This piece fully represents the writer’s idea. It does not express any ideas or stances of specific institutions or organizations she/he works at or is affiliated with.

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