Protecting Coral Reefs Brings Good Fortunes to Coastal Communities in IndonesiaNewsroom
Indonesia’s coral reefs are a valuable but endangered resource, where coastal communities depend on the sea for their livelihood. A national coral reef management system ensures that it becomes sustainable.
Many coastal communities in Indonesia depend on marine resources for their livelihood. But overfishing and destructive fishing methods used by both large-scale and small-scale fishermen have threatened the reefs, which impacts on the sustainability of coastal and marine resources. In coastal areas where poverty is prevalent, fish catch has declined and is often not enough to feed families.
The project encouraged and mobilized communities to help protect, rehabilitate and manage mangroves and coral reefs, which serve as nursery grounds for fish and other marine animals which they depend on.
To reduce poverty and further minimize further pressure on marine resources, alternative income generation activities were introduced by the project in coastal communities.
A few years ago, Sudirman was a fisherman in Wakatobi, Sulawesi. He did not bring home enough income, so he took on part-time jobs. Today, Sudirman owns a small ecotourism business, providing diving equipment and underwater guided tours for tourists. Life for him and his family is now much better.
“There were times before when we weren’t sure if we had enough food to eat. Now I can afford my children’s education needs, and more,” he said proudly.
Sudirman’s turn of fortune owes much to the rehabilitation of the coral reefs in Wakatobi.
Coral reef coverage increasing
Active in 358 coastal communities across Indonesia, Coremap’s main beneficiaries are families highly dependent on small-scale reef fishing for their livelihood. Like Sudirman, many said that their earnings from fishing were not enough to meet basic needs. In addition, many of them used destructive and illegal fishing methods such as cyanide and explosives to increase fish catches. This has now changed.
“Many fishermen here used dynamite to catch fish,” said Hendriawan, a fisherman. “They don’t do it anymore because they are now aware about the dangers of damaging the coral reefs.”
Coremap has helped improve coral reef rehabilitation by establishing fishing and protection zones, empowering fishermen to monitor the coral reefs, and raising community awareness, including classes in public schools.
Improving livelihoods of coastal communities
Coremap has also changed the local economy.
“Before Coremap started, the people in my village mostly relied on fishing for income. Now I also see handicraft, souvenirs and culinary businesses opening up,” said Sudirman.
The project has helped coastal communities find new ways to earn income using resources available in their areas. By providing revolving funds and training for business operations, many are now able to diversify their livelihood sources. A survey shows that the income of community members who received the revolving funds improved by around 20% on average.
“To reduce the pressure on marine resources, it is crucial that alternative forms of livelihood are promoted among coastal communities,” said Ulia Fachmi, the head of the conservation and rehabilitation division of the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries office in Riau Islands Province.
Ermiyati, a 46-year-old teacher and her family, make kerupuk atom, a type of Indonesian fish cracker shaped like little balls that Malaysian distributor buys from them and exports to various markets abroad. She is a recipient of a $600 loan funded by Coremap, funds she used to purchase equipment to help boost productivity and her income.
“The women in our village have long wanted to start small businesses, but we didn’t know how. Now, we have learned new skills on how to start a home business,” said Hanarfah, who runs a food product business.
Realizing that their new source of income greatly depends on the coral reefs, community members now feel a greater urgency to better protect the reefs.
Convincing fishermen to stop using destructive fishing methods is no easy task. However, with their wives receiving business training and access to loans, it was easier for women to convince their husbands to protect the one precious resource that helps put food on the table.
“We have to conserve the coral reefs because if not, the fish will be gone. It is also a breeding ground for fish so it has to be protected,” said Yusran, chairman of a group of fisherfolks called Bawal Putih in the seaside village of Malang Rapat in Bintan’s Gunung Kijang District.
Now, there is increased awareness and a change in attitude toward coral reef conservation among fishing communities in Indonesia. They have realized the importance of managing their marine resources so that their future livelihood will be ensured for generations to come.
Coremap’s third phase, which started in February 2014, will scale up support for the alternative livelihoods. Under this phase, support will include the production of infrastructure and market access to increase sales of products and services made by the community members.
(Story courtesy of ADB and World Bank. Read the original story from World Bank.)