Interviews were collected between March 2020 to June 2021. The main themes and sub-themes identified are presented in Table 2. These are discussed in the remainder of the results section and supported with relevant quotes.
Motivators to Produce and Consume sago
a. Sago will provide more financial benefit when processed and sold
b. Every part of sago is useful
c. Sago is beneficial for local economy
d. Sago enables economic relationships with sago companies to be established
a. Sago provided food stability during Covid-19 pandemic
b. When food security improves, people choose rice as the first dietary option
Potentially Healthy Food
Food to prevent colon cancer and diabetes
Heavy machinery used by the sago companies has caused environmental damage
Strategies from Stakeholders to Increase the Awareness of Sago Consumption
Role of stakeholders in the sago supply chain
a. Government is entirely responsible for sago and its development
b. Collaboration between community, government, and private sector is required to promote sago
c. Too many stakeholders involved in sago management is problematic
Policy and promotion
a. The national government and local government policies are not synchronised
b. Promotion of sago consumption through social activities and festivities
Barriers to Sago consumption
a. Distance and lack of supporting infrastructure
b. Sago processing is time and energy consuming
a. Low selling price
b. Raskin's (subsidised rice for poor households) policy in remote locations
Qualified human resources
Lack of qualified human resources
Social and political factors
a. Sociocultural issues (regionally specific)
b. Certain parties exploit the issue of sago for their own political gain
Sago Eating Culture
Sago is not only as staple food,
but is embedded in local cultural practices
Changes in consumption trends
Rice has become the Papuan people's staple food
Motivators to Produce and Consume Sago
The main themes that influence the indigenous peoples of West Papua to produce and consume sago were identified; namely economic factors, the use of sago as valuable food in an emergency context, and potential benefits of sago to human health, as well as environmentally beneficial food production. Most stakeholder participants believed that sago has an economic value which benefits the families of those growing it, and/or after the sago has been processed and sold, and which had a positive impact on the local economy.
Sago has long been a source of revenue for the region. Sago has a high economic value. Derivative products can be a variety of products, from cakes to cosmetics. (participant #01, politician, male).
The economic value was described in terms of the relation between the local community and the sago processing company in Sorong Selatan.
Sago may be processed into two economically valuable products: wet and dry sago starch, both of which give benefits to the family (participant #11, sago farmer, male).
The economic value of sago starch sold in the market can be used to meet family needs (participant #12, sago farmer, male).
During the factory trial, one family meticulously collected sago from their own land and earned 16 million rupiahs in 20 days (participant #18, food activist, male).
Every part of the sago tree and its derivatives were thought to be economically valuable and beneficial in daily life for most households.
“… every part of the sago tree has a variety of applications, including roofing, arrows, house walls, and food items, even sago caterpillars may be consumed. Indeed, it is possible to consume the mushrooms that grow on the roots of the sago palm (participant #04, local civil servant, male).
However, in the context of community interaction with sago companies, some aspects were unfavourable to the community, such as low selling prices and community poverty levels, that require immediate attention.
In relation to ANJ, the low sago selling price remains an impediment and inhumane practice. This is where the government's role in assisting the community comes into play. One sago tree may sustain a household for two months if it is cut down. Ironically, the majority of people with low incomes own sago villages (participant #07, academia, female).
In addition to its economic value, sago was perceived to play a critical role in ensuring food availability at the local level, and, according to stakeholders, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic. An increasing number of people were relying on sago consumption to achieve their daily nutritional requirements.
Sago consumption increased significantly during Covid-19, owing to the fact that sago is the easiest crop to obtain without spending money, in comparison to rice (participant #12, sago farmer, male).
During the Covid-19 pandemic, sago re-established itself as a staple food, and consumption increased (participant #01, politician, male).
While sago consumption increased during the pandemic, stakeholders argue that sago consumption will reduce as people's incomes improve.
When we have money, we eat rice. Without money, sago becomes a viable choice for survival (participant #04, local civil servant, male).
Two other factors influenced a person's decision to consume sago, namely health and environmental concerns.
One of the [potential] benefits of sago is that it has a low glycemic index, which helps prevent colon cancer and diabetes. According to my research, if people consume sago or sago rice daily, their health would be preserved (participant #08, academia, male).
The sago company is causing havoc on the environment by using heavy machinery without regard for sago and other flora (participant #04, local civil servant, male).
Strategies from Stakeholders to Increase the Awareness of Sago Consumption
Given that stakeholders generally supported maintaining or increasing sago consumption within the local population, primarily to promote food security in relation to food availability and nutrition, it follows that strategies may be needed to enhance public awareness about the potential benefits of sago consumption. The majority of stakeholder participants believed that the government is primarily responsible for sago consumption promotion.
The government is responsible for sago (participant #01, politician, male).
Local governments must take a proactive role in safeguarding community rights
regarding sago forests (participant #02, local civil servant, male).
However, it was thought that sole dependence on the government to support sago production and consumption within local diets, would not be effective. Effective collaboration between the community, government, and private sector was thought to be needed to jointly increase public awareness of the importance of sago in everyday life.
The community and local government are responsible stakeholders (participant #05, local civil servant, male).
If people are not accustomed to eating sago, no matter how strict the government's local laws are, they will fail. We must first love what we have. Akness, ANJ, and Perhutani are the backbones of Sorong Selatan, as no one else in Papua is capable of managing sago as well as we are (participant #07, academia, female).
Whilst involving different stakeholders in sago management was thought to be essential, participants expressed the view that having too many stakeholders involved in policy development and the supply chain may also be problematic.
One of the challenges that has existed in the past and continues to exist today is that there are too many agencies that handle it, resulting in an underdeveloped sago [value chain] (participant #08, academia, male).
After gaining a thorough understanding of stakeholder priorities and perspectives an effective policy and promotion plan is required. As a result, policy synergy between the national government and local governments is necessary. Yet the national government and local government policies are not synchronised.
The government is involved in fostering the development of the infrastructure as part of national strategy. Road infrastructure in order to make distribution lines more efficient. Additionally, the regional government develops regional regulations governing the price of sago (participant #01, politician, male).
Until today, Sorong Selatan has lacked a dedicated sago policy, despite the advantages of the sago hectare area (participant #05, local civil servant, male).
There is no local legislation governing, for example, the distribution of rice and sago to employees, where out of 10 kg of rice, 3 kg is sago (participant #07, academia, female).
In practice, sago promotional activities carried out by local and national government continue to be limited to ceremonial occasions, such as social events and food festivals.
The local government's policy in terms of promoting sago is limited to festivals that promote sago culture/traditions (participant #02, local civil servant, male).
Social events, courses, and instruction on how to prepare sago-based foods (participant #03, local civil servant, male).
A call from West Papua's province administration that whenever there is an activity, local food options such as sweet potatoes, taro, bananas, and sago must be provided, including for families and in churches (participant #07, academia, female).
Barriers to Consume Sago
Participants believed that there are numerous difficulties and challenges in the area of sago (production) management that affect sago consumption. One obstacle is the distance to and a lack of supporting infrastructure for farmers to go to the sago forest, not to mention the sago processing which requires considerable time and energy from those involved.
Apart from the manual process, I believe that the distance to the sago location is one of the problems encountered (participant #03, local civil servant, male).
Obstacles related to the harvesting process which requires close proximity to rivers for transportation of harvested sago (participant #12, sago farmer, male).
Processing sago into starch involves a great deal of labour and time, making this activity tough (participant #01, politician, male).
Sago rice took a long time to develop [research and development process]; for me, it took 20 years for sago to be processed into the sago rice that exists today (participant #08, academia, male).
After harvesting sago, an additional problem may be the unfavourable selling prices. Sago has a low selling value, especially if compared to the efforts expended in the harvesting process which takes a long time and is labour intensive. In addition, Raskin's policy (subsidised rice for poor households) has been applied to households in remote locations. People therefore prefer to consume rice rather than sago, given its convenience and accessibility.
The market practice of purchasing and selling sago continues to be destructive to us. For instance, the price of a single stick of Surya cigarette [one of the local cigarette brands] is higher than the price of sago. This makes no sense at all (participant #04, local civil servant, male).
Raskin’s policy [subsidised rice for poor households] has applied to remote locations, and families and farmers have lost interest in planting or cultivating sago in the forest (participant #01, politician, male).
The lack of skills in relation to sago processing has contributed to sago's underdevelopment as a commodity. The two main issues in terms of resources are the inaccessibility of technical equipment and trained value chain workers who can manage sago from planting to harvesting.
The difficulty is in obtaining the necessary equipment for sago production, but the government has aided in this endeavour (participant #05, local civil servant, male).
In terms of sago cultivation, the community still lacks the competence necessary to manage the crop using qualified practices, from seedling to harvest (participant #07, academia, female).
Finally, managing sago cultivation is not just a technical concern; it also requires motivation on the part of farmers and producers to engage in, and manage, production effectively. Stakeholders recognise that there is a need to ensure (economic and agricultural) policies are linked to sago production, and that indigenous people are engaged in the policy (and sago production) processes. For example, contributing local knowledge, skills and expertise complement those held by workers from outside the area.
The issue with sago development is not technical, but rather socio-cultural (participant #16, national civil servant, male).
The difficulty arises solely from a lack of will to manage the sago (participant #18, food activist, male).
Economic management is still closely linked to the political process in relation to sago. When a large number of the workers are from outside Papua, the situation becomes political. Indigenous Papuans are merely observers, despite the fact that investment also requires specific skills and expertise (participant #14, national civil servant, male).
Sago Eating Culture
The majority of participants agreed that sago is embedded in a cultural and ancestral identity that must be protected, and indicated that at present, the visible form of preserving sago eating culture has become largely limited to cultural and food festivals. Traditional food may be included in diets more generally and also contributes to cultural identities.
Sago continues to play a significant role today, employs the indigenous system, and is an ancestral tradition. Sago is a defining feature of the Papuan people that cannot be lost across generations (participant #02, local civil servant, male).
Sago Papeda has been my staple diet from childhood, passed down from generation to generation, enabling me to attend school, read, and write. When sago is not available, the Papuan people perish, as our existence is dependent on sago (participant #04, local civil servant, male).
Sago is the primary diet of the Papuan people, and we have known it since we were born (participant #13, sago farmer, male).
Consumption trends, however, appear to have changed, potentially as a consequence of various other factors, such as the increased availability and accessibility of rice (compared to sago), and policies which subsidise rice for consumption in poorer households (i.e. Raskin’s policy), resulting in rice having become the Papuan people's staple food.
When we discuss staple foods, we will remark that sago is the Papuan people's staple food. However, if we look at daily life, we see that rice is the staple food that has developed into its own lifestyle. This is in contrast to the rural areas, where sago is more readily available for consumption (participant #07, academia, female).
When it comes to the Papuan people's food, rice remains the primary staple, followed by sago (participant #01, politician, male).
 PT ANJ Agri Papua Barat (ANJAP) is one of the sago companies in West Papua operating since September 2007.
 Sago villages is a forest that is naturally overgrown by sago, inherited based on customary law by their respective parents in each tribe, and managed from generation to generation.
 Akness (Akademi Komunitas Negeri Sorong Selatan) is a vocational education institution based on the Community Academy which was established to prepare human resources in Sorong Selatan for the development of sago in the future.
 Perhutani is a state forest enterprise that established a sago factory in Sorong Selatan
 Papeda is a traditional Indonesian dish made with sago that is frequently referred to as the local porridge variety for the indigenous peoples of Papua and Maluku.