Monday, June 30, 2008

Regeneration of Coconut Trees in Minahasa


Minahasa is one of the regencies in Indonesia that has large area of coconut plantation. Coconut has been an important export commodity of the Province of North Sulawesi. After harvesting the fruit, farmers take the white flesh out of the shells and dry it under the sun or roasted it using the shells as the burning fuel. A fresh white flesh or endosperm contains around 40% oil while the dried one, called copra, contains up to 65% oil. Usually, farmers sell their copra to Bimoli factory in Bitung municipality. One metric ton of copra needs between 9,000 and 11,000 coconut fruits.

Coconut fruits can also be processed to make other products such as palm sugar, nata de coco and dessicated coconut or farine de coco. Other side products of coconut are bungkil (solid residue of copra after extracting oil); fiber and coconut shells which are very good raw material for the manufacturing of active carbon.

Coconut will remain productive until the age of 40 years. Then, the output will wall gradually. The minimum economical production rate of coconut should be 5 metric ton per hectare per year. If the amount cannot be met, farmers must do regeneration. This kind of activity will make the land unproductive for the next three or four years until the new plants produce coconut fruits again.

Majority of coconut plantations in Minahasa, North Sulawesi have reached their productive limit. Therefore, they have tobe replaced by young plants. Many Minahasan farmers do not obtain optimum per hectare harvest. They know that they have to replace the old plants with the new ones but high cost of replacement has become the main hurdle for them.

In order to prevent the farmers from not getting income, a gradual regeneration must be introduced. Besides the plantation can still give income to the farmers, it will only need small number of workers. In gradual regeneration scheme, only unproductive plants that will be replaced by young coconut plants. This method is called selective regeneration.

There is also another scheme that is considered suitable for farmers. Young coconut plants will be planted among old trees as insertion plants. When these young plants are able to produce coconut fruits, then the old trees will be cut.

A plantation in Bukit Doa, Pinaling of Minahasa regency raises additional income by opening a prayer resort in the middle of the area. Tourists visit this religious site, recite rosary along the way of the cross that had been constructed among the coconut trees. Incorporating tourism activity into coconut production line needs special preparation and knowledge.

In the Philipines, tourists are invited to visit traditional palm sugar production centers located in the middle of the plantation and the villages.

The conversion of coconut oil to biodiesel is not recommended, unless the market is overstock, as the amount of profit which farmers can gain is not significant. Such conversion will create scarcity of cooking oil in the market. In fact, the ones who enjoy the profit of biodiesel conversion are the manufacturer.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Non-food Crops should be used for bio-fuel production


The following is my response to OXFAM's Press Release entitled Another Inconvenient Truth. This article response applies to biofuel case in Indonesia.

In the picture on the upper right, you can see trucks loaded with bunches of sawit fruits heading to Crude Palm Oil (CPO) factory in Manokwari, West Papua province of Indonesia.

Oxfam has just released a report which says that Biofuels are not the answer to climate or fuel crisis. You can read the news about it and the link to download it in pdf form below this article. In my opinion Biofuel IS the answer for fuel crisis, especially for the transportation. The way we make biofuel is what really matters. In many countries, biofuel is obtained from the conversion of food materials especially soya beans, corn, cassava, and sugarcane. Such practice will significantly reduce the amount of food supply both in the national and international market. Massive palm and sugarcane plantations in Malaysia, Indonesia and Brazil destroy bio-diversity of the local environment. Malaysia and Indonesia open millions of hectares of Sawit plantation for palm oil production.

In addition, the introduction of bio-fuel plant foreign to certain area will definitely damage the balance of food chain. For instance, I read in a book entitled Bahan Bakar Nabati (meaning literally bio-fuel) which says that Papua and West Papua province of Indonesia have the potency of 5,137,186 hectares of Sawit plantations (elais guineensis) for the production of palm oil and bio-diesel. I consider it as unwise project. Sawit is not native plant of Papua. It comes from Africa. The introduction of sawit in Papua in the form of huge plantations will be harmful to the local environment. Actually there are a number of plants that are ready to be used for making bio-fuel. On the map, Papua island is located above Australia, it has tens of millions of Aren palm trees (arenga pinnata) which are native plants. Traditionally, villagers tap the sap from very very small number of these plants to make alcoholic drinks whereas the rest majority are left untapped in the jungle. Local government have banned alcoholic drinks made of these plants since drunkards often committed criminal acts in the community. Less than one percent of the trees are used for making palm sugar.
The tapping of sap from Aren tree will not harm the environment because the worker does not have to cut any single Aren tree for 50 years which is its average life-time. Industrialized countries in Europe, The United States, Japan and South Korea must set special standard of biofuel imports. Biodiesel and bioethanol which are imported from third world countries must come from plantations that are not directed for food production.
In fact, countries in Africa and Asia have a number of plants for bio-fuel raw material which are not food crops. Some of them are elephant grass, jatropha curcas; and to some extend Aren (arenga pinnata) and Nypa (nypa fruticans). Both plants can produce 2 - 3 times more ethanol than sugacane per hectare.
I hope that this opinion will give a balance perspective on this bio-fuel matter.

The news below is Oxfam press release:
Another Inconvenient Truth: Biofuels are not the answer to climate or fuel crisis says Oxfam
Today's biofuel policies are not solving the climate or fuel crises but are instead contributing to food insecurity and inflation, hitting poor people hardest, according to a new report by international agency Oxfam.

In today's report "Another Inconvenient Truth ", Oxfam calculates that rich country biofuel policies have dragged more than 30 million people into poverty, according to evidence that biofuels have already contributed up to 30% to the global rise in food prices.

"Biofuel policies are actually helping to accelerate climate change and deepen poverty and hunger. Rich countries' demands for more biofuels in their transport fuels are causing spiralling production and food inflation," said report author, Oxfam's biofuel policy adviser Rob Bailey .

"If the fuel value for a crop exceeds its food value, then it will be used for fuel instead. Thanks to generous subsidies and tax breaks, that is exactly what is happening. Grain reserves are now at an all-time low."

Rich countries must stop and revise their policies now. "The evidence about their damage is overwhelming," Bailey said. Even in poor countries where biofuels may offer some reward, the potential costs are severe and they should proceed with caution.

Rich countries are supporting their own biofuel production through targets, subsidies, tax breaks and tariffs. This has been described as a new "tax on food".

"Rich countries spent up to $15 billion last year supporting biofuels. That's the same amount of money that Oxfam says is needed to help poor people cope with the food crisis," said Bailey.

"This is a regressive tax that hits poor people the hardest because their food bills represent a greater share of their income," he said.

The biofuels being grown today are not an effective answer to climate change, Oxfam says. Instead, biofuels are taking over agricultural land and forcing farming to expand into lands that are important carbon sinks, like forests and wetlands. This triggers the release of carbon from soil and vegetation that will take decades to repay.

Oxfam estimates that by 2020, as a result of the EU's 10% biofuel target, carbon emissions from changing the use of land to produce palm oil could be almost 70 times greater than the annual savings the EU hopes to achieve from biofuels by then.

Bailey says that biofuels will not address rich countries' need for fuel security. "Even if the entire world's supply of grains and sugars were converted into ethanol tomorrow - in the process giving us all even less to eat - we would only be able to replace 40% of our petrol and diesel consumption," Bailey said. "Rich country governments should not use biofuels as an excuse to avoid urgent decisions about how to reduce their unfettered demand for petrol and diesel," he said.

In developing countries, Oxfam says that biofuels could provide a sustainable energy alternative for poor people in marginalized areas - but that the potential economic, social and environmental costs can be severe, and countries should proceed with caution. In Mali for example, bioenergy projects provide clean renewable energy sources to poor women and men in rural areas. But, as the main plank of a policy to substitute transport fuel by rich nations, biofuels are failing.

"Biofuels were meant to be an alternative to oil - a secure source of new transport energy. But rich countries have designed their policies too much for the benefit of domestic interest groups. They are making climate change worse, not better, they are stealing crops and land away from food production, and they are destroying millions of livelihoods in the process." said Bailey.

Oxfam Ireland is asking the Irish government to support the dropping of the proposed EU target to meet 10% of transport energy needs from 'renewable sources' - in practice biofuels - by 2020*.

'To support a huge increase in biofuels use when we're already seeing the damaging impacts of increased demand would be hugely irresponsible. It may have once looked like a good idea but clearly now is the time to rethink and drop the target' says Colin Roche, Oxfam Ireland 's Policy and Advocacy Co Ordinator

* Renewable Energy Sources Directive

"Another Inconvenient Truth"
makes the following key recommendations:

Rich countries should:

  • Introduce a freeze on implementing new biofuel mandates

  • Urgently revise existing biofuel mandates that deepen poverty and accelerate climate change

  • Dismantle subsidies and tax exemptions for biofuels

  • Reduce import tariffs on biofuels

Developing countries should:

  • Proceed with extreme caution, planning for the long-term, avoiding ambitious targets and analysing the economic, environmental and social impacts of biofuels

Companies and investors should:

  • Ensure no biofuel project takes place without the free, prior and informed consent of local communities
  • Promote access to energy in remote areas

Friday, June 27, 2008

Bio-vehicle, the easiest solution when facing the soaring fuel price


I have just read in Euronews TV that the price of crude oil has reached 140 USD/ barrel. The recent hike is caused by the decision from Libyan government to reduce production. Whatever the reason for the price hikes, it clearly shows how vulnerable the fossil fuel is. Any disturbance in the Middle-East, say - a refinery is attacked by a small granade, will bring the fuel price getting closer to 200 USD/ barrel.

The soaring price will create more burden to customers around the world. When oil producers enjoy this prosperous moment, oil importer countries must face street protests from their own people. Fishermen cannot catch fish, truck drivers blockade main streets, university students in Indonesia are involved in violent clashes with the police while protesting the government policy in front of the parliament house. More and more office workers commute by public transportation instead of driving their own cars.

Actually when fewer cars are seen on the streets, the environmental condition will be better. But such condition is not what city dwellers want. People still have to go to work, school, hospital, and anywhere they need. That's why experts are doing more efforts in inventing energy efficient cars running on bio-fuel and solar energy. The European Union, The United States, Japan, Korea, and Brazil have developed flexible fuel vehicles that run on gasoline and bio-ethanol. There are also hybrid cars that use fuel-cells, gasoline and even solar energy. Solar panel or solar module is installed on top of a car to provide additional electrical energy for the car.

In the field of bio-fuel, tropical countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, African and South American countries open massive plantation to produce palm oil for bio-diesel production. The United States and Brazil are leaders in bio-ethanol production using sugarcane. It is hoped that all these efforts will improve the environmental condition and at the same time reduce the dependency on fossil fuel which is harmful to the environment.

When people in industrialised countries are focusing their attentions and efforts on the development of energy efficient cars, people in third world countries have to make adjustments too. They have been much effected by the already soaring price of staple food and cooking oil due to the conversion of these agricultural commodities into bio-fuel. Unfortunately, they cannot afford to buy cutting-edge cars running on bio-fuel. They do not have sophisticated renewable energy laboratory and the know-how to produce solar panel or flex-engine either. Solar panel production needs special technology that is very difficult for the villagers to achieve. The easiest solution for them is going back to organic farming, and riding or driving bio-vehicles. Here, the term bio-vehicle is not meant to be a car that consumes bio-ethanol nor a kind of car or truck or tractor that runs on solar energy. It is simply a carriage that is drawn by animal.

So, bio-vehicle is horse or cow or donkey-drawn carriage used to transport people and goods. While I was in Sonder Minahasa, North Sulawesi, I happened to take pictures of these bio-vehicles. Some are pulled by horses while others by cows. Whether a cart is pulled by a particular animal depends on the purpose of the vehicle. For transporting people to school or work, the cart is drawn by horse. The first picture shown in this article depicts how Minahasan people use Bendi (a horse-driven cart) as taxi. In the second picture, a cow-driven cart called Roda Sapi is used to transport agricultural produce from a farmland to the market. Both bio-vehicles do not emit CO2.gas. There are thousands of Roda Sapi and Bendi in Minahasa. They contribute significant income to their owners. The money paid by a customer will not fly out to oil exporter countries in the Middle-East. It will go to cart owners who spend it in the local market. Such bio-vehicles were abandoned by town dwellers in the past due to lower fare public buses which consumed fossil fuel.

Today, when the fuel price is expensive, the number of bio-vehicles is expected to rise again. Bendi owners have been asked by their customers to keep their carriages clean and comfortable in order to attract more commuters. Bendi also attracts tourists who want to travel around the towns of Minahasa. One only pays less than a dollars to go around Sonder town, a beautiful town in Minahasa regency which has beautiful scenery.

We hope that in the future, we can see more flexible engine vehicles and bio-vehicles running side by side on the streets.

Aren tree is the highest among other bio-mass in terms of bio-ethanol production


Aren tree (arenga pinnata) is the highest in terms of bio-ethanol production compared to other plants such as sugarcane, wheat, rice, cassava, and banana. Aren is also called Saguer tree in Minahasa, the Province of North Sulawesi, Indonesia. It is a kind of palm which is similar to Sawit and Coconut trees. While I was travelling around Sonder village, I could take a picture of Aren tree between two coconut trees. Aren or Saguer has more leaves. Its color is also darker than coconut. There are approximately two million Aren trees in Minahasa. If all of them are productive, their sap can produce 876,000 kilo litres of bio-ethanol. Traditionally, the sap from Aren has been used in the production of alcoholic drinks by the villagers in Minahasa; Borneo; Java, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, Fiji, and other islands in the Pacific. The sapping method is significantly different among tribes.

The sap is tapped from male inflourescence spadix twice a day, usually in the morning and in the afternoon before dark. The highest tapping is obtained during the full-moon period. Villagers don't tap the sap from female spadix due to its inferior quality.

One Aren tree can produce between 1 and 20 liters of sap/day. Ten percent of it, after fermentation and distillation, will be converted into bio-ethanol. According to Indonesian Science Agency - LIPI, one hectare of land can accomodate from 75 to 100 trees. On the average, one hectare of Aren trees produces 1,000 liters of sap a day which is equivalent to 100 liters of bio-ethanol. It means that the amount of bio-ethanol produced from one hectace of land is 36,000 liters/ year. This figure is higher than sugarcane.

A number of companies have constructed bio-ethanol distillaries in Indonesia. One of them is located in Motoling, South Minahasa, Indonesia. Its production capacity is 1.5 metric ton of 99.5% bio-ethanol/day. Indonesia is seriously developing its bio-fuel and renewable energy resources after becoming net-importer of oil. This year alone, Indonesia has quit from its membership in OPEC. The soaring oil price in the world market creates more burden to national budget due to the fuel subsidy. This unfavorable situation forced the government to reduce the subsidy by raising the fuel price. Such policy creates massive street protests nationwide, food price hikes and instability in the country.

It is hoped that the production of bio-ethanol from Aren or Saguer trees, sugarcane, cassava will help poor farmers in getting higher income thus improving their economy.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Clay Stove replaces Kerosene stoves

A homemaker is cooking using a clay stove in Sonder village, Minahasa, North SulawesiRecently, clay stove has been getting more and more popular in Sonder, Minahasa, the Province of North Sulawesi. A homemaker needs three to five pieces of wood to cook rice, vegetables, and to fry fish for lunch. This is considered far cheaper than buying kerosene. Homemakers in Minahasa and other towns in Indonesia are asked by the government to replace their kerosene stoves with LPG stoves. Actually the price of a 3-kilogram LPG tank is quite cheap but the cost of transportation to remote villages makes it expensive. Therefore, people prefer to use wood as household fuel.
When firewood is not available, it can be substitute by coconut shells. Coconut shells are the side products of copra. Copra is the dried flesh of coconut which contains high percentage of edible oil. The soaring fossil fuel price has also triggered bio-diesel development using coconut oil as the raw material. So, coconut oil will not only be used as cooking oil but also as diesel oil. In the past, most of the the overstock of coconut shell was not used for biomass fuel. They are considered as waste. Villagers were reluctant to sell the shells to a factory because the cost of transport is high. Now, they use these shells as cooking fuel.

The design of clay stove is very simple. It is moulded from clay in a hollow box shape. One, where pieces of wood are inserted is rectangular whereas the other where the flame heat the cooking pan is circular. There are two clay stove producers in Sonder village, Minahasa. More clay stove producers are expected to grow in other villages of Minahasa regency. A clay stove is sold for Rp. 30,000 (equals to 3.2 US dollars).
Wet clay stoves, coming out of the mock-up are dried under the sun. Sometimes, a producer of clay stoves covers his products with plastic sheet when the sun ray is too hot in order to avoid cracks in them. The clay stoves are also covered when it rains as seen in the picture.
Rows of clay stove were covered with plastic sheets when they were being dried out-door.More clay stoves used by the villagers will be better for the local economy. The money spent by every household to buy wood, coconut shells, and clay stove, will only circulate within the villages instead of flying out to oil exporter countries. When more money circulates in the villages, the economic activities of the people will accelerate in spite of the oil crisis.
In most remote villages in Minahasa of Indonesia, the use of clay stoves is still common. Every household has at least two in their kitchen whereas in towns and cities across the Indonesian archipelago, most households use kerosene stoves. Below is the photograph of Kompor Hock, the most popular kerosene stove in this country. As you can see, they are made of aluminum with fuel tank installed at the bottom of the stoves. Clay stoves are not popular in big cities due to the size and lack of wood as fuel for cooking. In addition, housewives in the city prefer to have spotless kitchen with electrical or gas stoves installed in them. by Charles Roring
Although clay stove as wood has been modified to be more efficient and less smoky, it is still considered as an ancient or old fashioned cooking equipment. Indonesia is located in the tropical region where the temperature is quite high. Clay stove is used only for cooking. It is hardly ever used for room heating. So, you will not see a wood stove installation in every Indonesian house which you usually find in Western houses in Europe or the United States. There is now clay chimney for this stove either. Smoke comes out from the openings where pieces of wood are inserted.

The effect of Soaring Fossil Fuel on the price of agricultural produce


Price hikes in agricultural produce is relatively caused by the soaring fuel price. Farmers have to pay more for the same amount of fuel which they used in tractors and other farming machines. In addition, synthetic fertilizer is made of by products of crude oil.

In countries like the United States, million tons of corn and soy bean are used as raw material for making bio-diesel. This kind of practice reduces the amount of those food material in the world market. High price and inavailability of food in the market mean more starvings. This situation is very dangerous. People launched massive street protest against their government. They blame the government for not being able to stabilise food price.

In certain cases, the soaring food price is considered positive by traditional farmers who do not use tractors or machines. I saw this case in Sonder, and other Minahasan villages in North Sulawesi. They do not use tractors to plow their field. Instead they use cow. They also use organic fertilizer made of manure. Farmers get higher profit from higher agricultural produce. Unfortunately, such situation cannot be used as an excuse to the the food price keeps going up. The price of food has to be within the reach of customers.

We cannot blame the government alone for this crisis. Bio-fuel industries should take the responsibility for this problem. Actually they have to use raw material other than food commodity so that their business will run without causing food scarcity in the market. Experts recommend algae, grass, jatropha curcas and other plants as base material for making bio-diesel and bio-ethanol. These plants will not always effective as some plants can only grow in tropical regions. To solve this problem, bio-fuel industry can still use food base material such as coconut, sawit palm, cassava or soy bean, and corn but they must grow new plantations. They must not convert the available plantations, which had previously been dedicated to supplying food to the market, to bio-fuel production.

Bio-fuel importers in Europe and the North America must set standards which can be used to prevent the conversion of food farmland into bio-fuel plantation.

Bendi, a traditional transport vehicle


Before the invention of internal combustion engine and car, people travelled everywhere by riding horse, donkey, camel and even elephant. Although they do not emit toxic gases such as carbon monoxide, and chlorine, these "transport vehicles" are not interesting in a fast moving world anymore. In some third world countries, people still use horse or donkey drawn cart as transport vehicle. In Europe and the United States, horse-drawn cart are used for tourists travelling around a city or town. They do not function as the main transport vehicles.

We have seen that the soaring fossil fuel price triggers the rapid development of alternative fuel such as bio-diesel and bio-ethanol. Such development needs technology to implement. Most villagers in third world countries do not have the technological capacity to develop bio-fuel. They cannot afford to buy cars or trucks either. So, the easiest way to get a transport vehicle is by utilising their livestock as car or taxi.

If we travel to Minahasa highland in North Sulawesi, we can see bendi roaming around the towns. Bendi is a horse drawn cart. Thousands of bendi could be found in Minahasa region between 1980s and 1990s when most of the town dwellers could not afford to buy motorcycles or cars. Their number was decreasing in the past few years as the public transport vehicles such bus and taxi that consumed low cost fuel offered cheaper fare. The above picture shows how a bendi is used as commercial taxi in Sonder village of Minahasa region, the province of North Sulawesi.

Now, when the soaring price of fossil fuel has become everyday reality, the number of bendi is expected to rise again. Bendi will be more competitive because it only needs grazing for re-fueling.

To attract people to ride this traditional vehicle, bendi owners decorate their cart with glittering ornaments and colorful paintings. The only annoying problem people face when riding bendi is its speed which is far lower than taxi or bus..

Eco-Tourism in Minahasa, North Sulawesi


Minahasa is one of the most important tourist destinations in Indonesia. It is a regency that is located in the province of North Sulawesi. There are various tourists attractions such as world class sea park in Bunaken Manado Tua, furniture and traditional wooden house industry in Woloan, prayer hills in Kanonang and Bukit Kasih. Majority of the people in Minahasa are farmers. They grow vegetables, rice, coconut and vannila. Minahasa has many beautiful sceneries which attrative to tourists.

Domestic tourists like to visit villages and towns of Minahasa whereas foreign tourists like to dive in Bunaken sea park. When Indonesia was facing economic crisis, the Minahasan local government tried to boost the local economy through the development of eco-tourism. Package tours and exhibitions are promoted in every event that is related to tourism. Eco-tourism is expected to help farmers sell their agricultural produce. Business owners have anticipated the rising number of tourists coming into Minahasa. Resorts and restaurants are being built in the coastal area and highlands.

A long the way from coastal region to highland region, we can see many restaurants selling sea food, and other local delicacies. The price of food is very cheap. In Kasuang and Tinoor areas, one can eat as much as he/she can only for Rp. 15,000 (equals to 1.61 US dollars). For the same amount of food in Jakarta, one must pay up to Rp. 150,000 (equals to 16,1 US dollars). Everytime a person visits one of the restaurants, he or she has helped local farmers. All the food materials used by the restaurants are bought from local market.

The pre-fabricated wooden houses industry in Wolowan villages are not only sold for local market but also for international market. Sometimes when a tourist is interested in buying a house, he can order it on site or through a special website. The house will be desmantled and shipped in a container. The manufacturer can also help the reconstruction of the wooden house by sending his engineers to the location where a customer want it to be built.

In Sonder sub-regency, one can see farmers work in clove plantation, make palm sugar in Rambunan. Floating restaurants in Sonder offer the best taste of fresh water fish. Sonder also has various kinds of beautiful flowers. Waterfalls and flower market in Tincep have been known nationwide. Domestic tourists like to buy flowers in the region.

Canna Flower, an additional edible tuber for people


While I was walking around Sonder village, in Minahasa, the Province of North Sulawesi, I saw many kinds of flowers. One of them is Canna. Varieties of Canna have bright colours such as red, yellow, pink, and white. These flower plants are grown in the front yard of most of the villagers houses.

Because of these attractive colours, city dwellers who visit mountainous villages of Minahasa like to buy Canna flowers. Canna can be grown between 0 and 2,225 meters above sea level where the average rain is 1,120 mm per annum. The flowers bloom all year.

Actually, Canna is originally from tropical American continent but they are found in most tropical regions too.

I never see people eat tubers of Canna flower. I read a book entitled, "Hutan dan Kebun" on page 56 that young tuber of Canna is very good for babies and ill people. The starch can be digested easily.

In todays situation where the price of food is going up, Canna tuber may be considered as additional alternative staple food for people. Its leaves can also be given to livestock.

Tuber from Canna can be harvested when it has reached 6 - 10 months. The tuber may be eaten directly after boiling. If the starch is to be taken, it has to reach 15 - 18 months. For mass production purposes, a milling machine has to be used. In Kendal of Java island, Indonesia, Perhutani, a state owned timber company, grows Canna as insertion plants among the Jati trees. By doing this, the company has helped his employees (who are the local farmers) to get additional food resources from the forest without having to cut the trees.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Pig The Main Livestock in Sonder

Besides growing clove, fruits, and vegetables, the villagers raise pigs in the pigpens at back of their houses. Pigs eat food leftovers from households, edible tubers and coconuts. Sometimes, farmers give them special processed food for pigs bought in livestock shops. This business can be considered as savings for the household which gives them additional income when the price of agricultural commodities is low.
Usually, when the sow is in labor delivering the new born piglets, the owner will suck the piglet's nose to take out mucus which blocks its respiratory system. Doing this, the farmer can reduce the mortality rate of newborn piglets. It takes five to six months before the pigs can be harvested.
Usually farmers don't slaughter the pigs. When they want to kill a pig, they will use a small sharp spear and stab it into its heart. When it has died they will pour hot water on its whole body and begin shaving its hair. After cleaning the skin, they will cut and weigh the pork into pieces. Today, instead of pouring water all over the pig's skin, they use a special burning device to burn the pig's hair. It is faster than shaving.
Most of Minahasan restaurants offer pork contained food in their menu lists such as sate babi, tinoransak, babi putar and babi kecap, and etc. Minahasan eat pork, for they are Christians. The consumption of pork is higher during Christmas season.

Minahasa, an agricultural region


In December 2006, I was in Minahasa, North Sulawesi. I traveled around the region by car for one week. I visited Sonder, Tincep, Rambunan, Tanawangko, and Manado. I also went to Tomohon, Kawangkoan, Langowan, Bitung and Amurang. I saw most of the small towns of Minahasa, including Leilem, Woloan and Tondano. The scenery was beautiful.

A long the way, I could see farmers growing corn, rice, coconut and even Jati, Cempaka, Lingua, and Mahoni trees. Trees are cut when they have reached around thirty years old. The wood is then sold to furniture and pre-fabricated home companies in Leilem and Woloan.

In Kawangkoan, the farmers grew peanuts. Roasted peanuts are sold along the main road of the town. Tourists liked to visit this town to buy roasted peanuts, dodol, and halua (traditional cookies made of peanuts and palm sugar).

In Sonder, we could see many fish ponds along the river banks. In the middle of the town, businessman run restaurants which are built above the fish ponds. When we want to order fried or grilled fish from the menu, the cook or restaurant worker might ask you to choose the fish from the pond. So, the food that you'll eat is fresh. But Sonder is not only famous for its floating restaurants. In the past, it was famous for its clove plantation. Clove was harvested and sold to cigarette companies such as Gudang Garam, Bentoel, and Djarum in Java. Now clove is not the main commodity of the farmers.

Minahasa is an agriculture region. If we go to mountainous areas, we will see various kinds of farm land filled with commodities that are useful for the economy of the people. Most farmers raise pigs at the back of their houses.

Tondano is the capital town of Minahasa regency. Its is flat. In the suburb, we can see thousands of hectares of paddy field. The small town whose dwellers grow rice is Langowan.

Coconut trees can be found in the whole region of Minahasa. It has become the driving force of local economy for years. Wealthy farmers bring copra from their village to Bimoli factory by trucks or modified Toyota Hardtop. Traditional farmers usually ride pedati, a cow-drawn cart. Agriculture produce is brought from gardens to the market by pedati. Unfortunately, the number of pedati is getting lower replaced by modern trucks.

The soaring price of fuel oil may influence the farmers to use pedati again. It is considered cheaper but slower than a car. Pedati is also a good attraction for tourists who like to travel around the villages of Minahasa.

Well, I think it's enough for now. I will carry on my story about this region in my next article.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Introducing a West Papuan Artist, Ms. Marice Fonataba

by Charles Roring

West Papua is not only famous of its Sarang Semut and Buah Merah medicines which many people now believe can cure various kinds of diseases. In 1858, Alfred Russel Wallace visited Manokwari (formerly known as Dorey bay) and admired that Papuans were very brilliant artists. In his report, The Malay Archipelago, he was astonished to see that their love of art had existed side by side with their "savage" civilization; tribal wars and cannibalism. Today Papuans are fighting to survive in this 21st century. They pursue what the whole world pursue, modernism, yet the modernity doesn't change their life habit into individualism and capitalism. They still rely on communal relations, they still love art and struggling to preserve their cultural identity.

Just nine hours ago (29 June, 2007 at 17.30), I visited a Papuan artist whose talents are extraordinary. An expert in weaving, plaiting; and handicraft making. She started making and selling handicraft in order to raise her children, shortly after his husband died. He accidently fell off a ship into the sea around Sarmi regency in 1987. His body has never been found. Alone, she had to raise her three children, Daniel Fatie, Maria Fatie, and Annike Fatie. All of them have got married now giving her 11 grandchildren. Her name is Ms. Marice Fonataba. She began learning clothes weaving in 1985 from a Roman Catholic nun. It took six months to master it.

From her skillfull hands, traditional clothes with unique Papuan motifs have been created. Besides weaving, she also creates many artworks made of natural fibers, seashell, beads, barks, and animal skin.

Most of the materials can be obtain from the jungle several hundred meters behind her home. To make a skirt she needs thousands of small sized beads called manik-manik. Bigger beads are available in the nature. Interested in her talents and creativity, local government officials from such regencies as Jayapura, Biak and Serui invited her to exhibit her products, and to give weaving lessons to Papuan girls. For her hard work they gave her reward letters.

Unfortunately, she cannot easily sell her products. She does not have a gallery. Actually she and other artists in Manokwari city have asked the local government to provide an art gallery in strategic location in the city harbour or airport. It costs a lot of money to build a gallery in that location. All of the traditional artists cannot affort to finance the project. Recently, a small art gallery has been opened by a migrant investor in Rendani airport but it is very far from her home. So, she only displays her products at home which is located some one hundred meters at the back of the Roman Catholic Church, Gereja Katedral St. Agustinus, Manokwari, West Papua.

Ms. Fonataba is originally from Serui, West Papua. The motifs of her artworks are mostly influenced by her tribe's motifs.

She also creates artworks with motifs from other tribes in the bird's head region. "Every tribe has her own motifs, we cannot mix them in one costume, for instance the wedding costume of Serui. As shown in the picture below, the bride wears an ornamented skirt called Sireo. When her family wants to escort her for the first time to her bridegrooms's home, the bride will wear it. "It takes six months to make the Sireo," Ms. Fonataba said. In the past, people made it of beads produced by certain plants but now they use thousands of smaller beads. These manufactured beads are sold by shops in the downtown. The bride will wrap her upper body with a piece of Kain Timor (traditional cloth weaved from natural fiber). She also wears manik-manik necklace and decorates her head with a dried paradise bird.

For the bridegroom, he wears an ornamented headband also made of beads called Wehus. The Timor cloth consists grades i.e., Toba, Bokek and Sarim.They are used as dowry. The most valued one is Toba. The most valued Toba is the ones whom the Papuan got from Portuguese traders hundreds of years ago long before Indonesian and the Dutch came to West Papua. It is also used by people when they want to settle many Adat cases. When somebody killed someone. He or she will have to pay the fine with Toba cloth. It is not clear how many pieces he/ she has to pay. The fine is not only the Toba but also some other things such as money, pigs and etc. The value of the cloth depends on the number of mata (rows of ornaments in the cloth). Usually, there are at least three matas. For the current price, one mata equals to one million rupiahs. If there are 15 matas, the price of the Toba cloth will be 15 million rupiahs. On the girl's arms, there are two sea shell bracelets.

If you are interested to order her products, you can contact her :


Picture 1: Ms. Marice Fonataba was showing rewards for her achievements in promoting Papuan handicrafts from local governments. Unfortunately, they only gave this widow papers instead of an art gallery.

Picture 2: Sireo (meaning: wear it), is a traditional skirt of Papuan girl of Ambai tribe in Serui island. It is made of thousands of small beads and needs six months to make.

Picture 3: Ms. Marice Fonataba, sitting on the floor together with her grandchildren, was weaving the traditional Papuan cloth.

Picture 4: The Wedding Costume of Ambai tribe, Serui West Papua. It can also be considered as a grandeur costume which is used in traditional official occasions.


Ms. Marice Fonataba Mobile Phone: 0852 328 402 95

If you visit or know someone who wants to visit Manokwari,

please, don't forget to drop by at her address located behind the Catholic church:

Jl. Brawijaya,

Belakang Gereja Katolik Katedral St. Agustinus Manokwari,

Provinsi Papua Barat,

Republik Indonesia

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Copra and Saguer Palm Trees are suitable as bio-fuel resources for villages in the Pacific

by Charles Roring
Tropical Coconut
Coconut Fruits
In tropical areas, copra has been a traditional commodity for the villagers. Copra is the white flesh of a coconut (endosperm) which has been dried. When it is in dry form its color changes into dark brown. Farmers usually pick up the fallen coconuts in their garden.

After peeling of the coconut and cracking the hard shell which covers the endosperm, the farmer or copra worker will pry loose the meat of the coconut. Then he will dry all the endosperm under the sun. Sometimes the weather is cloudy and the optimum drying of copra cannot be achieved. To accelerate the drying process, farmers roast the hundreds of kilograms of endosperms by using shell and husk that are the byproducts of the coconut.

In intensive coconut plantation, the harvest is carried out every two or three months. For 9,000 up to 11,000 coconuts, a farmer can get between 1.5 and 2.0 metric ton of copra. One hectare of coconut trees can produce between 5,000 and 6,000 coconuts a year. They are equal to around 1.5 ton of Copra. One ton equals to 1,000 kilograms.
In the past, oil that was obtained after pressing the copra was used as edible or cooking oil. It was not competitive to make it as bio-fuel. Yesterday (16 June, 2008), the price of crude oil reached 140 US dollars a barrel. This makes the bio-fuel produced from copra is more competitive. Farmers can sell copra with better price and bio-fuel producers can sell bio-diesel in profitable price.

copra is dried coconut meat that is used as raw material for making cooking oil
Kopra (dried coconut meat)
Coconut can produce sap which can be processed to make bio-ethanol. Before its blossom (spadix) changes into coconut fruits, a farmer cut it and collect its sap in a bamboo. Traditionally the sap is boiled to make palm sugar.
Besides coconut, there is also another palm variety that produces higher amount of sap. It is Saguer palm tree. It looks like coconut but they are different. Saguer tree is the local name of Arenga Pinnata (Latin) in Minahasa regency in the Province of North Sulawesi. When I travelled to this region, I was able to take pictures of the Saguer tree. For other region in Indonesia and other countries, people might call it Aren, Ampo and etc.

Aren tree produces sap that contains sugar
Aren tree
Saguer produces sweet sap which ferments fast. For palm sugar home industry, the container (usually bamboo) has to be washed to clean the yeast formed or produced by the saguer tree itself. The color of the sap or the juice is clear white. It is then boiled and stirred using small flame to make palm sugar. I haven't been able to present data about the production capacity for a hectare of saguer trees. Fermented Saguer sap contain alcohol which can be distilled to make bio-ethanol. This alcoholic drink has been banned in Manokwari, West Papua due to its negative effect in the community. Drunkards which drink the Saguer or Ampo often committed violence in the market or in their neighborhood. The utilization of saguer sap into bio-fuel can be considered as a positive alternative for traditional farmers.
So, in order to make bio-fuel, we do not have to depend on Sawit palm tree (Elaeis guineensis) which in certain regions of tropical areas are not a native palm variety. We can still produce bio-fuel by using native plants that will not severely damage the surrounding local environment.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Hydro Power, a potencial scheme for Remote villages

by Charles Roring

One of the renewable energy resources is hydro power. The electrical energy is produced by converting the potential energy of a flowing fluid, which is water, into mechanical and then electrical one. Hydro power is attractive if there is huge a water fall near a big city. But such a scenery is hardly found everywhere. Many big waterfalls are located far from densely populated areas. Building a big hydro power plant in remote areas needs various kinds of considerations both from technical and economical points of view.

If we travel to villages in the mountainous region, we will see that many of them are under-developed due to their isolated locations. It is the task of a government to stimulate development. The most suitable way for accelerating development is by installing power plants that use renewable energy.

In many cases, remote villages are located near high slope rivers and waterfalls.

I have an interesting story for you. Two year ago, I traveled to Tincep, a small village in Sonder district, Minahasa Regency, the Province of North Sulawesi. This village has three waterfalls which can be utilised to generate electricity. If we construct power plants in those waterplants we can supply electrical energy for the village and more than one hundred villages and towns in the region.

Special scheme can be adopted to construct such hydro-powerplant. Private companies build the power plant and sell the electricity to PLN (the only state owned electrical company). The some of the revenues from the plant can be given to village authority for the development of the village.

By getting enough supply of electricity, the village will be able to promote their own export comodity i.e. various kinds of tropical flowers which have been famous in the province. Tincep village has three waterfalls (one of them is shown in the picture) and flower market. The flowers are displayed in front of the villagers houses.

Electricity is also needed by the Sonder district and Minahasa region to promote tourism industry and attract tourists or travellers from around the world. North Sulawesi is one of tourists destinations in Indonesia besides Bali, Yogyakarta and Toraja. There are many hotels in Manado, Tomohon and Bitung. Minahasa also has a world class underwater coral in Bunaken sea park. Other attractions from Minahasa villages are their farming activities, food, traditional customs and active volcanoes. We will be able to better promote the region if we have enough supply of electricity.

Hydro power in the form of micro-hydro power plant is more cost effective for small villages. They don't need a lot of money to install.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Facing Extinction, Paradise Birds and Crown Pigeon of West Papua

In Papua (Irian Jaya), there are many kinds of birds that are facing extinction. Some of them are paradise birds and crown pigeon. These birds have beautiful feather. Paradise birds (paradisaea minor) are dominated by yellow, green and dark brown while crown pigeon mostly has blue, gray and white colors.
Paradisaea minor
a male Lesser Birds of Paradise
Another species of birds of paradise is the magnificent birds of paradise. In Kwau village of Arfak mountains, tourists from all corner of the world come to watch the male birds perform courtship dance on the slopes of the mountains in the morning and in the afternoon. The promotion of Arfak mountains as tourist destination for bird lovers greatly improve the economic condition of the indigenous people there and helps reduce the deforestation. The magnificent birds of paradise is also called Cincinnurus Magnificus in Latin language. The male birds have more beautiful feather than the female ones. 
Birds of paradise, together with other birds, are important for the survivability of the tropical rainforest. They disperse the seeds of the fruits that they eat. For the magnificent birds of paradise, the species of plant that they help to expand is red fruit plant also known as pandanus conoideus. Now the extract of red fruit is seen as an important medicine for the treatment of cancer, hiv/aids and many other diseases. 
People call the bird crown pigeon because this kind of bird has crown-like head. In West Papua, its name is Mambruk. When you go to the zoo you may probably see these birds. They are originally from the Papuan island.
Hunters and traders of birds of paradise like to shoot them and preserve their skin. Then they will bring these skins to big cities and sell them at high prices. Sometimes, they bring and sell the birds alive to wealthy buyers in big cities.
No wonder, these birds are facing extinction. If we don't do anything to prevent more killings to these species, we will never be able to see them anymore in the near future. 
If you are interested in watching the magnificent birds of paradise dancing in the morning on the slopes of Arfak mountains, please, contact me - Charles Roring - via e-mail: I'll be happy to arrange your accommodation in Manokwari city and your transport to the Kwau village for that purpose.
Also read: 
  • Magnificent bird of paradise
  • Papuan Birds of Paradise
  • Birds of paradise in the rainforest of West Papua
  • Oil painting of birds of paradise
  • Painting of birds of paradise

West Papuan Oil Painter, Lucky Kaikatui

Lucky Kaikatui and his family
From the porch to the living room and the kitchen, a lot of paintings depicting the beauty of Papua's nature and culture decorate the walls. Nearly no more rooms left for him to put new paintings that he creates every week.
Lucky Kaikatui is a prolific painter. Ironically, art lovers in Indonesia do not know him. He lives in Manokwari, a small town in the northern coast of West Papua far from Jakarta (the capital of the state) and unnoticed by Indonesian mass media.
The character of this painter is very strong. This can be seen from the lines that he brushes on canvas. They are strong and full of meanings. His schoolmates have called him a brilliant illustrator since he was in the first grade of elementary school of SD Negeri I Manokwari. When the Dutch were still in Manokwari, this school was called Klim en Daal. His first drawing, entitled "Pendekar Si Kapak Hilang" (The warrior of the missing axe), was snatched away by his friends.
In junior high, Lucky's paintings decorated the library room of his school. After completing his study in junior high, Lucky moved to Jayapura to carry on to high school. Again, in that city, he attracted people's attention with his paintings. In 1985, he participated in a painting competition of West Papua province for high school and general levels. For high school level he was the best whereas for the general one he won the second winner. His natural talent draw the attention of the officials from Irian Jaya's Department of Education and Culture. As the result in 1986, although he was still in High School, he could organize three painting exhibitions in Jayapura. In every exhibition, he displayed at least 30 paintings. The young Lucky Kaikatui finished his high school study in 1987. He tried to enroll in ISI (Indonesian Institute of Art) in Yogyakarta, a city in Central Java Indonesia. Unfortunately he could not realize his ambition because his parents did not have enough money to support his study in Java island.
Realizing his family economic condition, Lucky then returned to Manokwari and joined an entrance test for becoming a civil servant. He passed the test and was received as a civil servant in Manokwari regency. At the time he was sent to a remote post in Anggi, a small village in the highlands of Arfak mountains. The climate of Anggi is very cold. The village is surrounded by "virgin" forest and two lakes. It is isolated from outside world. There is no asphalt road connecting Anggi to the capital town, Manokwari. He had to work in that post and was not allowed to go to the town. The limitation did not discourage him from working for the villagers with his whole heart. According to Lucky, besides working for these villagers, he got the chance to experience in full the natural beauty of Papuan's culture and nature in their purest condition. They would become abundant inspirational resources for his later works.
Although he had been working as a civil servant, he never gave up his ambition to study in higher institution. Patiently he saved his salary for that purpose.
After working for three years and never returning to Manokwari, suddenly he fell ill with Malaria and had to go to Manokwari. While suffering, Lucky decided to leave for the town. He had to walk through the Arfak mountains with its tropical rainforest for three days. Lucky was accompanied by some Arfakkers who were also going to Manokwari. Later he poured these three days walking experiences on canvas. One of them is "Penetrating isolation for a drop of life." This painting describes the natural challenge which the Papuan have to face when they want to go to town only for buying their daily basic needs such as salt, sugar, and cooking oil. Besides there is no asphalt road, there are a lot of small and big rivers between Anggi in Arfak mountains and Manokwari. The villagers must walk on the falling trees to cross big rivers.
Back in town he went to the regent of Manokwari, Mr. Drs. Esau Sesa, to report about the villagers' problems in the form of a painting. The regent accept it and was impressed by his work saying, "a very talented painter like you should be given a chance to further your study and develop your works as an appreciation for Papuan art and culture." Within a short time after the meeting, he got the regent's permission to continue his study in Java island. This time his leaving for Java was a tour of duty financed by the local government.
Based on the directions from local government officials, he was told to take cinematography as his study program in Institute Kesenian Jakarta – IKJ (Jakarta's Institute of Fine Art). It was against his will actually. So, although he was registered as student of cinematography, he could always be seen in the painting department. It was not surprising that finally the painting department of IKJ received him on semester IV as its student.
During his study in IKJ, Lucky and his schoolmates got opportunities to carry out comparative study in ISI Jogja, his dreamed school when he was still in high school. From Jogja, he continued to Ubud, Bali. There, he studied for one month under the supervision of Prof. Srihadi. In Bali, Lucky studied the works of Anthony Blanco, Arie Smith, Eisnel, and I Nyoman Made Lempar.
He had been going around in Java and Bali for eight years when suddenly he was called to return to West Papua. His mother was ill waiting for him to accompany her in her last moments.
Upon returning to Manokwari, Lucky and his friends set up PUMA – Perupa Manokwari (Artists of Manokwari). It is an association of Manokwari's artists. The organization is established to promote Papuan culture to outer world.
He also passes on his painting skills to other young Papuans who are interested in painting and want to become artists. Now he is teaching them at his home. Some of them are Yabal Marbuan, Alberth Marbuan, Alberth Warijo, Carlos, Septinus, and Mesakh. Some are still studying at junior and high schools whereas the others are drop-outs. He hopes that these young Papuans, with other senior artists, can fight together to preserve Papuan cultural identity which is now facing degradation due to modernization, and globalization.
For Lucky Kaikatui, painting is a struggle. He has always reminded Papuan youth not to forget and leave their cultural identity. It is one of the most important West Papuan assets which has to be passed on to the next West Papuan generations. Every painting Lucky makes has a unique background story. For instance, "ALive or Death," this painting depicts a tense moment between Cassowary and the hunter. Lucky's grandfather was an experienced and famous Cassowary hunter in their village. According to his grandfather's story, if the spear missed its target, the hunter may die stabbed by its three sharp claws.
There is also another painting entitled Doreri Bay Manokwari. The background of the painting is Arfak mountains. The traditional sail of the boat is made of woven pandanus leafs, the same material for making Papuan mat. Now, there are not any sail that use the leaves. Most of the boats now are driven by plastic sheet sail or outboard engines. For most Papuans, Mansinam island of Manokwari is a familiar name in their ears. The preaching of gospel in Papua was started in this island. Every year, on fifth February, tens of thousands of West Papuans gather in Mansinam island to commemorate the landing of Otto and Geisler, two Europeans who were the first evangelists to spread the Christianity in Papua.
In the world of Indonesian fine art, he is not recognized. Lucky Kaikatui lives in a small town Manokwari far from the coverage of Indonesian mass media which are mostly located in Java. His painting exhibitions both in Manokwari and Jayapura do not get enough publicity. That's why art communities never heard of him.
This condition does not discourage him. He keeps on painting. New paintings are created every week. To minimize the cost, he makes the canvas by himself. He had mastered the techniques when he was still an IKJ's student. His wife, Rahab, always supports him. The Kaikatuis live in a house in Kompleks Missi  of Brawijaya street, Manokwari, West Papua. 
If you are interested in Lucky's paintings, you can visit him in Manokwari town. Please, contact me by email to before you come.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Native Plants for Bio-ethanol and Bio-diesel Program

by Charles Roring
We can use sap of coconut and saguer palm trees, sugarcane, cassava and etc. to make bio-ethanol. To make this kind of industry profitable, we need massive plantation. But the development of this industry should not damage the local environment. In practice, we often see how bio-ethanol corporations grow plants in certain areas that are not native to the surrounding environment. These plants can be considered foreign plants and might cause environmental problems. This also happens in bio-diesel industry. In Indonesia, plantation companies grow sawit palm trees to produce palm oil. This kind of practice brings damage to the surrounding environment. The reason is that sawit palm trees are more profitable than other plants such as coconut and corn for bio-fuel production.
Cassava, jatropha, and sugarcane, coconut and saguer palm are native plants in Indonesia. Research and development for better varieties of these plants is needed to increase the productivity. Saguer palm trees produce significant amount of sap which can be used as raw material of alcohol destilation. Traditionally, people use the sap to make palm sugar and alcoholic drinks. The production of sap from saguer tree is higher than coconut. So, it is our potential bio-ethanol raw material which has not been developed seriously.
Native plants are more resistant to insects and bacteria. They can produce sap or oil continuously without much difficulties. Therefore I hope that more experts in this country can make saguer palm trees and other local plants as the base of developing bio-ethanol and bio-diesel industries in this country. They might not be better than foreign plants but with substantial R and D we can improve their productivity.
Indonesia has set a national program to increase the production of bio-fuel until 2010 by opening 5.25 million hectares of land for bio-fuel crops. This huge area will be divided into four main crops, i.e. sawit palm 1.5 million ha (28%), jatropha 1.5 million hectares (29%), sugarcane 0.75 million hectares (14%), and cassava 1.5 million hectares (29%). These plantations will be scattered throughout the archipelago. To support the national goal, all related departments and private sectors as well as local governments and communities have to cooperate together. The opening of these plantations must not jeopardise other food crop areas that have been productive in producing food for people. So, unproductive lands should be used for this purpose.
Unfortunately, this ambitious plan is not without risk. Private companies prefer to open their plantation in fertile land. This will mean that more forest will be cut and replaced by sawit palm and sugarcane plantations. In addition, more farmers are needed to run the plantations. In big islands where huge land area is available, usually the density of local population is very low. This will be used as an excuse by the plantation companies to recruit hundreds of thousands of farm workers from other densly populated islands. Such transmigrations program became major horizontal problems between 1999 -2002 as we could see in West Kalimantan and Maluku. Migrants and local communities were involved in communal clashes due to land disputes and economic imbalances as well as sectarian conflicts.
We must not encourage transmigration in order to fulfil this national goal. We can still achieve the above goal by empowering the local people so that more jobs will be available to them in these newly opened plantations.