Improving livelihoods

Oxfam is working with local partners in Papua to improve and expand local agricultural practices so that indigenous Papuan farmers can lift themselves out of poverty.

Oxfam is encouraging indigenous communities to return to farming the traditional sweet potato.

The Papuan People's Sustainable Livelihoods Programme is supporting and encouraging Papuans to use empty land to develop agriculture so they can increase family and community incomes. Using high quality seed and fertiliser provided by Oxfam, fruit and vegetables are grown and sold directly in central markets.

Oxfam is also helping local organisations provide agricultural training for all, encouraging women to participate and improve their own living standards. Several projects are currently in place, helping local people make the most of their natural environment and resources so that they can head toward a sustainable future.

Sweet potato farming

In the Baliem Valley, the cool, mountainous environment is ideal for growing sweet potato (ubi), a crop that has been the main staple food in the area for millennia. But the arrival of migrants from other parts of Indonesia – people who use rice as a staple food – has influenced the indigenous Papuans, whose diet has shifted from ubi to rice.

Oxfam and our local partner YAPUM are encouraging indigenous Papuan communities to return to sweet potato farming. The project is providing training, seeds and technical support to farmers; improving processing and preservation techniques; improving access to local and regional markets; and increasing government and private sector support for Papuan business enterprises. The farmers are working together as group, supporting and motivating each other to make sure the project is successful and sustainable. Incomes are beginning to increase and families are now able to meet their primary needs.

A better life

Sarlosa Itlay is a field coordinator with family of four. She believes that because of the guidance and support provided by Oxfam and YAPUM, particularly regarding the benefit to farmers of working together as a team, the project is beginning to show signs of success.

“Before doing this project, my life was very needy especially after my husband died. I worked as a farmer but everything seemed to be difficult because everything had to be done by ourselves without any sense of mutual help and support for each other. Now I really feel I have better life. I have confidence that the production result of sweet potato will give more income and can fulfil my family's monthly costs."

Large-scale farming

With the exception of a few very rough roads, the remote Highland region of Paniai is accessible only by air, making essential commodities very expensive for indigenous communities. The local people survive largely on lake shrimp, but Oxfam, with local partner YAPKEMA (the Community Welfare Development Foundation), is encouraging communities to become large-scale farmers capable of high yields to meet market demand. The farmers are given training, tools and are now producing significant quantities of vegetables – including cabbage, carrot and potato – every year; they can now rely on clear and sustainable revenue for their family and community.

With support from Oxfam's partner YAPKEMA, vegetable farmers like Jemina Dogopia can sell produce at local markets and support their families.

Supporting a family

Jemina Dogopia is a vegetable farmer with a family of four. Her husband is a teacher, but the family income was not enough to meet their needs.

"Before YAPKEMA I tried to use the backyard to plant vegetables but never had a good result and found it difficult to get extra income for my family. Through YAPKEMA I have had training and assistance and have produced three tonnes of cabbage. But I still have a problem with market distribution. Even though only half of my vegetables can be sold, the income is really helpful. I am expecting that YAPKEMA can get a good market for all the vegetables, which will increase the economic life of the local farmers."


In the village of Aubaidiru, Oxfam has helped set up the Organic Vanilla Enterprise Development Programme. The main objective is to overcome poverty and increase family income. Local communities are trained in effective, sustainable vanilla cultivation and are taught how to plan and operate a sustainable marketing system for the product.

Fish farming

Lake Sentani, just south of Jayapura, once provided the indigenous community with a rich source of food. But overfishing means the local people are struggling to survive and new, sustainable fish farming methods are now being encouraged. Fresh water fish are being bred in floating cages, with locals trained in all aspects of the process so they can continue with the practice unaided.

Our campaign: GROW a better future

Oxfam is supporting small-scale farmers in the Pacific and Southeast Asia, demonstrating how productivity can increase with investment and through sustainable techniques such as organic fertilisers.

But for change on an even bigger scale, investment in developing country agriculture needs to grow. We need effective, ambitious government support, and the right investment from companies. For our world to grow together, we need to change the way the world thinks about farming.

Oxfam Unwrapped in Papua

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