Mentawai demographic transition: From upstream uma to settlement and sago to rice consumption

Masoka Delfi, Johan Weintre

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    A study was undertaken in several coastal Mentawai communities on Siberut Island located off the west cost of Sumatra. The main purpose was to make an inquiry of the gradual social changes in the community as a result of a government initiated housing relocation which subsequently stimulated a new pattern of staple food consumption. In order to document the change an observation of several households was arranged across several villages to obtain a greater understanding from a household's perspective. In addition, to clarify the food security of the family unit, the harvest process of sago was investigated to understand the food provision in the village environment. It was noted from a food starch intake perspective, that traditional sago consumption emerged to be the most attractive staple food. Soil conditions, available harvest technologies, human skills and supplementary nutritional requirements are all important elements relevant in the capacity of staple food provision. Nonetheless, as a result of external influence on food values, significant government initiatives and social status preference, a gradual shift of food consumption is detected in the community. The change has been in parallel with a demographic shift and increased cash income derived from the islands agricultural endeavors as well as increased natural resource collection from the remaining forests. The exposure to erratic fluctuations of cash crops market prices such as cocoa, cloves or coffee has added an inherent risk to food security. In this study a pattern of increased external markets interdependence was encountered that runs parallel with a social environment of increased acculturation. The encouragement of multiple sustainable food choices would safeguard the social and economic security of the communities in Mentawai.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)37-52
    Number of pages16
    JournalThe International Journal of Sustainability in Economic, Social and Cultural Context
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


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