Universitas Indonesia Conferences, The 8th International Symposium of Journal Antropologi Indonesia

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Environmental Change, Economic and Health Crisis, and the National Roles of Anthropologists in Increasing Communities' Living Sustainability: the Case of Nira Traditional Beverage.
Meutia Hatta Swasono, Dea Rifia Bella

Last modified: 2022-06-24


In this paper, we will discuss the situation in early 20’s where approximately 17 hectares of land in a West Java district that belonged to the villagers, was transformed into a palm oil plantation owned by a private company with the approval of the provincial government. The land was previously owned by the villagers in several villages, as rubber plantation inherited from their parents or previous ascendants. Some of the smaller portions of the land were also used by the villagers to grow rice and vegetables for their own consumption and modes of production. The process of adjustment to the environmental rights and new livelihood had given a complex problem to the people and put the sustainable living change into uncertainty. It mostly concerned with their old profession or types of work, involving not only for the people removed from their old villages, who have to develop their adjustment, innovation and creativity to increase their capabilities to move forward in their life, but also for the leaders of the villages who bear their responsibility to create a strong community bond to find solution in the process of moving to the neigboring villages which became their new dwelling places. The data explains that the land crisis has a circulation problem on other aspects of people's lives, not only in economy but also in medical health conditions, since access to health care is difficult, expensive and far away from their new villages. Among so many efforts to overcome the crisis due to the environmental change, we would like to focus on the role of nira, as one of a herbal plant which produces alcoholic beverages which has since a long time considered as a useful healthy drink derived from the teaching of their ancestors concerning traditional healthy beverages. Under the developing process of nira production, people can also have new income from its side products for utensils as well as its fruits called kolang- kaling as healthy snacks, usually for breaking the fasting during the Ramadhan holy month. Further, it will provide new efforts to produce more gula aren popularly called as brown sugar. People's belief that producing nira must be guided by mantras and prayers is a cultural knowledge in the use of nira as a local product. It alsohas a wider opportunity to be introduced as modern drinks, such as boba drinks, processed coffee, and other cultural beverage products. What needs to be considered is how to prepare the resources in the land for their living sustainability which can also provide better income from the nira tree. In this situation, cultural knowledge has its functions and provide increasing productivity for the communities. This study contributes to the emerging interest in anthropology of development and medical anthropology by tracing the objects to build a connection in the process of meaning production between land transformation and medical condition and healthy food development. This paper is also a reflection of the opportunity that Indonesian anthropologists can create through new ideas and/or assistance for the people and their village leaders to increase people's capabilities by finding solution for combating low productivity, producing new creativity and innovation derived from their traditional resources as socio-cultural assetts, such as processing the nira as herbal healthy drinks snacks and aren sugar in better qualities and varieties in the post-crisis period.

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