Gifts from mother Earth: Berlinda Mawane of Mimika shows the final Mangrove tea product, which is processed from Mangrove plants near her village in West Papua.
Women in rural areas of Papua have discovered a new way to improve their livelihoods as well as preserve the environment.
The year 2013 was a turning point for women in Pigapu village, Mimika, West Papua, when the Sekolah Lapang Pesisir (coastal field school) came to their village.
The school is an empowerment project initiated by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), through the Indonesia Forest and Climate Support program and NGO Blue Forests.
The project aims to teach local residents to utilize and cultivate mangrove leaves and fruits for various purposes. Mimika district harbors at least 250 hectares of mangroves, the third biggest after Papua’s Asmat and Merauke.
Like most of the local women, the idea of producing snacks and tea had never struck Berlinda Mawane before.
She has spent almost 45 years collecting and selling karaka (mangrove crabs) for a living. It never occurred to her to process the mangrove plants and turn them into profit as she thought it would take more time and energy to do so.
However, it has become harder to find crabs due to overexploitation and Berlinda has no other choice but to look at other options to make a living.
That’s why Berlinda decided to join the school, even though she at first refused an offer from Sebastian Mapareao, 56, to join the empowerment program. One of the programs teaches locals how to produce food and beverages from mangrove plants.
After several months, Berlinda managed to increase her income by making around 12 packs of acantus tea and eight packs of bruguiera mangrove cakes.
The tea is sold for Rp 25,000 (US$1.90) per pack.
Aside from the economic benefits, the beverage is good for people’s health, as indicated by the Food and Drug Monitoring Agency (BPOM).
The agency has declared that the mangrove plant contains saponins, polyphenols, alkaloids, flavonoids and amino acids, and is believed to be effective as an anti-inflammatory medicine, sputum growth inhibitor and blood purifier. The leaves can also be used to treat rheumatism, neuralgia, hepatitis, liver inflammation, liver cancer and ulcers.
By selling foods and beverages made from mangrove plants, the women of Pigapu can earn more, thus improving their livelihoods while preserving the environment.
— Photo by JP/Seto Wardhana