The people of Arfak Mountain District in the eastern Indonesian province of West Papua have, since generations, relied on traditional herbal medicines to cure several diseases.
Situated in the south of the West Papua provincial city of Manokwari, the Arfak Mountain District, which gained self-autonomy from Manokwari District in 2012, has an abundance of medicinal plants whose leaves can be used to treat numerous ailments.
Dominggus Indow, a local resident of Anggi Village in Arfak mountains, remarked in Manokwari recently that the local people had continued to rely on traditional herbal medicine following the shortage of health facilities in the area.
He noted that despite the presence of some community health centers (Puskesmas), the medicines being provided by them were not effective in curing the illnesses of the local communities.
"We are tired of going to the health center since the drugs given are always the same and not too potent in curing our diseases. Rather than going to the Puskesmas, we had better stay at home and consume traditional medicine derived from the leaves of the trees," Dominggus stated.
He explained that due to the remote location of Arfak Mountain District, the indigenous Papuans, who reside there, had to rely on the plants around them for treating their ailments.
Since the modern medicines provided by Puskesmas were considered less effective and having side effects, Dominggus has called on the indigenous communities in Arfak Mountains to preserve their rainforest to continue making traditional medicines from the leaves of trees.
According to the local resident, their ancestors had used various plants in the Arfak mountains to cure several types of diseases long before modern medicines were introduced by the Puskesmas.
Further, Dominggus reiterated that although Puskesmas had been present in some villages in the Arfak Mountain District, but they had yet to give optimal services to the local communities.
Dominggus revealed that several residents had opted to stay at home and use traditional medicines when they fell ill, especially the people living far from the health centers.
He explained that there were numerous species of plants around their houses and in the forest that the locals could use to cure an array of diseases.
"These plants are the heritage of our ancestors that we can use to cure malaria, flatulence, burns, chest pain, rheumatism, and many other diseases," he explained.
Although the Arfak mountain area has split from the Manokwari District to become self-autonomous since 2012, it remains far behind other regions in West Papua Province.
Edi Sumarwanto, head of the West Papua Culture and Tourism Office, stated that the number of poor people in Arfak Mountain District was quite high as compared to other regions in the province.
Sumarwanto noted that due to the areas mountainous topography, the local government had to spend a significant amount of budget, and it took a long time to build infrastructure in the Arfak mountains.
Construction of transportation infrastructure, such as bridges and roads, in the district was still underway, but he said it would take a long time to complete the work.
However, Sumarwanto explained that despite the local communities living in poverty, the Arfak Mountain District had high agriculture and tourism potential due to its abundant natural resources that can be developed.
He pointed out that the Arfat mountain area had a plethora of endemic flora and fauna, found nowhere else in Indonesia and even in other countries.
"Several species of birds can only be found in Mokwam Village, and attractions such as the twin lakes in Anggi and Anggi Gida villages and other natural beauty have yet to be promoted," Sumarwanto remarked.
He assessed that although the ongoing development process in the Arfak Mountain District will take time to complete, yet it was part of the central governments efforts to boost tourism in the new district.
"The status of a road, which was once a district road, has been upgraded to a provincial road, and now, it has become a national road, and it is certainly part of the central governments support to develop the district of Arfak mountains," Sumarwanto affirmed.
He remarked that since many years, the tropical rainforest in the Arfak mountains had attracted tourists from around the world to observe the endemic animals and plants in the region.
He said the tourists can enjoy ecotourism activities in the Arfak mountain areas while hiking in the forest to explore various species of tropical plants.
In the meantime, West Papua Department of Communication and Information Chief Bambang Heriawan Susanto stated that West Papua Governor Abraham Atururi had been committed to developing all regions in the province.
In the communication sector, Susanto noted that construction was underway to improve accessibility of transportation whether by land, sea, or air.
Susanto noted that the Irai airport in Arfak Mountain District was considered feasible to be developed to boost tourism in the area.
Local air transportation spokesman Maryanto stated early this year in Manokwary that in mid-2015, a verification team of the Ministry of Transportation had reviewed the Irai airport located in the Anggi region.
During the review, he said the team found that the runway of the airport can be extended in order to accommodate large-bodied aircraft, but the absence of skilled human resources to manage the airport in the area still posed a hurdle in the development of the airport.
Therefore, Maryanto has suggested to the local government to hand over the management of the airport as an asset to the Ministry of Transportation in order to be developed immediately. (Antara)