By: Swary Utami Dewi
25 October 2006
Teluk Lombok sub-village, part of Sangkima village is located on the coastal area of Kutai National Park, which covers 198,629 hectares of forestland in East Kalimantan. Like many other coastal communities, the community of Teluk Lombok sub-village had depended on mangrove forests and marine resources such as crabs, shrimp, and fish for their livelihoods. However, in the 1970s, things started to change. External parties came to cut down the mangrove forests. Some also introduced shrimp rearing ponds. Slowly, it depleted the village’s mangrove forests. In 1980-an, the Teluk Lombok community started to harvest the fruits of depleted mangrove forests. Due to abrasion on the coast, the community had to move houses to inland. The subsequent reduction in crabs and fish that lived in the roots of the mangrove trees had also a devastating impact on the community’s welfare.
In 2002, the local government responded to the damaged mangrove forests in Kutai Timur including the coastal area of Teluk Lombok, with a rehabilitation programme that disappointingly failed. Later, the community members of Teluk Lombok started to conduct a mangrove rehabilitation project by their own. The effort was led by a local mangrove farmers’ group Pangkang Lestari. The project started to succeed. Mangrove seedlings grew abundantly. The farmer’s group and other community members could even start to sell mangrove seedlings to other areas for mangrove rehabilitation projects.
The community’s survival could not depend only on mangrove seedlings and decreasing marine products. The people still had to find a way to endure while waiting for their mangrove forest to fully recover. Rearing crabs in floating cages was a feasible alternative that they decided to explore. Young mangrove crabs were obtained from Teluk Kaba, a thirty-minute trip by boat from Sangkima, where the mangrove forest was still in relatively good condition. Within 20 days, the crabs could be harvested and sold for around Rp.8,000 – Rp.10,000/kg. Nevertheless, rearing crabs in floating cages was a relatively new practice amongst the Teluk Lombok people and a number of attempts failed to reap sufficient crabs of the quality the market demands. The farmers discovered that of the 15-20 kg of crabs harvested in one cage, approximately 2 – 3 kg of them were defective.
Upon seeing the large quantity of wasted crabs, the women in the sub-village had the idea to use them to make crab chips. Unprocessed crabs were sold for around Rp 8,000 – 10,000/ kg, whereas the crab chips could be sold for Rp 40,000/ kg, with a reasonable profit margin. The woman quickly formed the Crab Chip Task Force (Pokja Krupuk Kepiting), under Pangkang Lestari group.
The village acknowledged the high economic value of the women’s activity but realised the business was not sustainable without a constant supply of raw material, the rejected crabs. The floating crab system is still being perfected by the farmers and cannot guarantee the women the volume of crabs needed for the chips. The women obtain raw crabs from other coastal villages. Now, Pangkang Lestari has started to learn effective ways to improve their techniques to fatten the crabs instantly in cages, while nurturing their mangrove forest so that young crabs return to live in the roots.
Not only crab chips produced by women of Teluk Lombok which have provided economic benefits. Mangrove seedling selling, now, has expanded very well. Pangkang Lestari has become a supplier for mangrove rehabilitation projects in several districts in East Kalimantan. The business involves around 50 families in the sub-district. Men have a role to seek mangrove seedlings, while women and children prepare polybags (plastic bags filled with soil) to put the seedlings. From the end of 2005 until October 2006, at least 1,113,500 mangrove seedlings were sold. The community gained Rp 541,850,000. Sumanti, 34 tahun, the chief of Pokja Krupuk Kepiting commented in Mamuju dialect, ”Ampunna’ u’de tau mabbalukang polo, u’de diang ni pambayyari anak sekolah ampe mambayarri panginranggang”. It means, ”If we hadn’t had the mangrove seddling business, we could not have afforded fees for children schools as well as paid debts.”
Responding to growing businesses of the community in Teluk Lombok, a financial institution, called Unit Pelayanan Tapak Surya, was established. It started to run in August 2006 and covered 5 villages in Kutai National Park. The financial insitution provides credit and saving services as well as training to teach community members how to manage their money wisely.
Seeing successes of Teluk Lombok, other sub-villages learn from the community. For example, women in Dusun Satu sub-village, Sangkima Lama village, have establihed a women business group, Pokja Krupuk Udang, focusing on shrimp cracker business. Pokja Krupuk Kepiting and Krupuk Udang have conducted several learning meetings to share experiences in managing business and organizing women. Another palm farmers’ group, Gula Aren Mamiri, still in Dusun Satu sub-village, has planned to empower a women business group, which just started focusing on gula semut business (a diversification of palm sugar).
The story of Teluk Lombok shows that a community can go hand-in-hand in conducting the efforts of conservation, economy and gender empowerment to reach a better future.