unctad.org | Nutmeg revival helps Aceh, Indonesia, recover after years of conflict
Nutmeg revival helps Aceh, Indonesia, recover after years of conflict
23 August 2016
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The revival of nutmeg farming has generated jobs and economic opportunity in the post-conflict Indonesian province of Aceh and is still helping to consolidate peace in the region as much as a decade after the end of the insurgency, says a new UNCTAD study, Sustaining Peacebuilding and Post-Conflict Recovery Through BioTrade.


The study which examines how locally sourced products can help build prosperity in post-conflict zones, took the example of an UNCTAD/United Nations Development Programme nutmeg project in Aceh Selatan, the southern district of the province. The 2010/2011 project, taking a community-based approach, helped bring more people into the post-conflict economy through a revival of the nutmeg sector. It also established a Nutmeg Cooperative that helped farmers to access markets and secure precious credit.

Indonesia has been well-known for its nutmeg production since the height of the spice trade in the 17th and 18th centuries, but the sector struggled during a 30-year insurgency in Aceh starting in the 1970s.

"People abandoned their farms for security reasons," one nutmeg farmer Abdurrahman is quoted as saying. "When I returned … the nutmeg trees were destroyed by pests. I didn't know what to do."

Abdurrahman turned to the Nutmeg Forum - shortened to Forpala in Indonesian - which was founded in 2010 with help from UNCTAD and the UNDP, five years after a settlement had been reached between Aceh separatists and central government. Aceh had also been devastated by the 2004 South-East Asian tsunami.

"Forpala offered some training on nutmeg plant grafting and I was encouraged to learn the techniques to protect my farm," Abdurrahman said.

The forum trains growers to improve production, strengthens ties between farmers, producers and local government and promotes nutmeg products on national and international markets with better branding and packaging.

Nutmeg trees yield not only the seeds which are ground into the familiar culinary spice but also mace made from seed husks, essential oils and even nutmeg butter. Value-added products include confectionary, syrups, cosmetics and industrial lubricants.

Aceh produced 280 tonnes of nutmeg oil in 2013, equal to 40% of world production, according to Forpala.

"Since 2012, my business has steadily grown," Raini, one of the women who have benefitted from the nutmeg revival, said. "I make about 300 pre-ordered packages [of nutmeg cakes] a month… Nutmeg has become a part of my life."

Another entrepreneur, Yusnida, sells nutmeg confectionery all over Indonesia, a process that helps build trust between communities and, ultimately, peace.

During the project, UNCTAD introduced concepts and methods from its BioTrade Initiative, which helps developing countries to conserve biodiversity while improving economic and social welfare. The initiative promotes the commercialization of goods and services derived from native species and ecosystems while maintaining environmental, social and economic sustainability.

It has been estimated that as much as two-thirds of global biodiversity hotspots and priority conservation areas were affected by conflict between 1950 and 2000.

Meanwhile, markets for biodiversity friendly products are growing. For instance, the natural cosmetics industry is estimated to be worth $26 billion, the natural beverages industry $23 billion, and the botanicals industry $85 billion, according to the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

BioTrade programmes are being implemented in countries with "low-level" internal conflicts like Mozambique and Zambia.

UNCTAD has also helped with economic recovery after conflict in Colombia, promoting BioTrade with projects on native cocoa and coffee, herbs and bee products such as wax, honey and royal jelly.

"The sustainable use of biodiversity can be a major opportunity for conflict-affected communities and ex-combatants to derive economically feasible and environmentally friendly opportunities," says Lorena Jaramillo Castro, an economic affairs officer at UNCTAD and author of the new report.

"They can sustainably use the biodiversity that surrounds them to make value-added products and services, then trade these products for income," she added.

Raini said: "I thank Forpala and UNDP-UNCTAD as they have changed my life and that of many others in this village for the better."


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