Sago Palm
Online ISSN : 2758-3074
Print ISSN : 1347-3972
Original article
Staple Food Shift in Papua, Indonesia: A Discussion based on the Study of Diabetic Patients and the Cultural Significance of Sago Palm
Yumi Kimura Rise Sasaki
ジャーナル フリー

2022 年 29 巻 2 号 p. 53-62


 This paper focuses on the shift in staple food from sago to rice in Papua, Indonesia, by investigating the background of food choices among diabetic patients. In addition to the fieldwork, a literature review was conducted to further discuss sago’s cultural significance. There has been a lifestyle shift enforced by modernization and communities migrating from outside the island at the author's field site in the town of Bade in Papua, and diabetes is emerging as a new health issue.
 A follow-up survey of the diabetic patients revealed that they had rice more frequently than sago as their staple food. To unravel the background of their food choices, the authors conducted fieldwork and interviews with 11 patients along with medical surveys in Bade from 2012–2013. The investigation focused on: (1) the financial background regarding obtaining sago and rice (a “rice distribution policy” intervention by the Indonesian government made the price of rice affordable to the people), (2) the lack of workers relating to sago management and starch refinement (linked to changes in labor structures), and (3) an aspiration toward rice with the historical background of rice as a prestigious food. Moreover, we found that the doctors at the Puskesmas Public Health Center recommended that their participants eat rice instead of sago in the absence of adequate information about local diet and health.
 When discussing the decline in sago intake, understanding its cultural background was crucial. For this reason, we conducted a literature review to deconstruct and grasp sago’s significance in society, with a particular focus on people’s beliefs and values. The findings suggested that sago holds a strong mythical presence in the New Guinea region and contributed to the structure of the gendered division of labor. Sago had—and perhaps still has—an important position in the socially constructed society. However, it was difficult to find recent literature regarding the contemporary understanding of sago in Papua. Therefore, the attitude toward sago in the local community is a topic for future research.

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