The paper was prepared for the International Conference on Poverty Reduction and Forests, organized by RECOFTC, Bangkok, Thailand, 3-7 September 2007.
The writing below tells about efforts conducted by a mangrove farmer organization, Pangkang Lestari, in Teluk Lombok, a sub-village in Kutai national Park, East Kalimantan. Begun from a mangrove rehabilitation project, Pangkang Lestari has started promoting income generation, gender empowerment and shared-learning among communities in Kutai National Park. Although the journey to reach a better life is not always smooth, challenges are faced with learning and sharing spirits and by the help of local leaders and stakeholders.
Mangroves and Teluk Lombok
Teluk Lombok is a sub-village of Sangkima village, Kutai Timur regency, on the edge of Kutai National Park, East Kalimantan. The mangrove forests that protect the beach from erosion from wind and waves run along the east side of the national park, forming part of East Kalimantan’s natural mangrove forests.
The communities of Teluk Lombok and other sub-villages in Sangkima are originally from Sulawesi. The wave of immigration from South Sulawesi, which is famous for its seafaring culture, to Sangkima began with the arrival of Datuk Solong and his two children, Lato La Talana and Lato La Dolomong, in 1922. Dolomong is recognised as the first person to put down roots in Sangkima – more precisely, in Teluk Lombok, one of sub-villages in the region, in the 1960s. Now there are at least 320 residents (120 families) living in Teluk Lombok, continuing the fishing traditions of their ancestors.
When it was still lush and fertile, the mangrove forest was a source of livelihood for the Teluk Lombok community. Fish, shrimp and crabs were found in abundance among the protective forest of fertile mangroves. The fishermen sold raw fish from their plentiful catch at the market. A part was processed as salted fish by the women of the community.
The lush mangroves did not last long. The mangrove forest slowly disappeared from the coastline of the national park. The construction of a road by a major company in the early 1970s afforded easy access to everyone. Thus began the systematic clearing of the area. The mangrove and many other forest plants were cut down unthinkingly by outsiders such as from Balikpapan (a town in East Kalimantan) and Ujung Pandang (capital city of South Sulawesi, now well-known as Makassar). Great swathes of mangrove forest were converted into shrimp ponds by investors.
Nor did the Teluk Lombok coastline, which had previously been known for its lush, fertile condition, escape the rapists’ groping hands. Ado Tadulako (60 years old), former village head of Teluk Lombok, still remembers clearly how, beginning in the mid-1970s, many outsiders came to cut down the mangroves and cart them off them to the city. “They told us they were being sold in Ujung Pandang,” said Ado. At that time, the community merely stood by and watched as tonne after tonne of mangrove wood was removed from their village. “We didn’t oppose it. We didn’t think there would be any negative impact for those of us who lived and made our living here,” he explained.
Years later, Teluk Lombok began to feel the loss as a result of the disappearing coastal mangroves. Erosion widened the shoreline, so that the community members were forced to move their home hundreds of metres inland. “In the old days, we never needed to go out far to fish. We always had a good catch. Every day we were able to catch fish, as well as around two or three pikul (a local measure equivalent to 137 lbs) of shrimp and crab. After the destruction of the mangrove forest, our catch began to dwindle. After 1982, things started to get difficult. We were catching 20 kg per day, at most, and even to achieve that we had to fish further out from the shore,” explained Ado.
In time, the situation became more difficult. The community had to travel far out to sea, and do battle with bigger waves. The fishing boats needed more fuel. The price rise of kerosene, used as power gas for the boats, made their lives worse. Furthermore, the catch continued to decline. A mere 10 kg catch was now greeted as a gift from above, reminisced Ado.
When the community was no longer able to rely on the size of their catch to sustain them, they began to seek alternative work. Having relocated their village up further inland to escape the erosion, they began to turn their hand to seasonal crop farming. Although the harvest did not contribute to their income, it was enough to fill their bellies.
The Local Motivator
Ado Tadulako began to think about the causes of the hard times that had fallen on Teluk Lombok. At that time, the government and stakeholders interested in the situation of Kutai National Park began to carry out various activities. Out of curiosity, Ado became involved in these activities. He began to understand that it was the destruction of the mangroves that had devastated the habitat of the fish, the shrimp and the crabs, and led to the need to relocate the entire village. Ado asked the community to begin conducting a self-project to revive mangrove forests surrounding the sub-village. Ado himself initiated this by inviting the village people to discuss their difficulties and look for a way out.
Conservation efforts and the establishment of the Mangrove Farmers’ Group
Ado’s proactive efforts led to a meeting with Bikal, a local NGO based in East Kalimantan. Cooperation between Bikal and Teluk Lombok commenced in 2000. In mid-2001, during the village institutional preservation and strengthening campaign, Bikal began to notice the apathy of the community towards environmental protection as a result of their more urgent problems, such as how to feed themselves. The institution recognised that a different approach was needed. The economic difficulties faced by the community provided an opportunity to develop a mangrove coastal rehabilitation program.
Ado became a key motivator. Urged on by Ado, the community held a discussion session. This had the effect of increasing their awareness of the importance of mangrove rehabilitation for the community.
In an effort to rehabilitate the mangroves, the community underwent a learning process. The failure of the replanting program in 2002, carried out by the Kutai Timur Forestry Office, also gave rise to further discussion among the villagers. The community estimated that their lack of active involvement in the process had caused the loss of 200 hectares. The program saw the villagers merely as mangrove seed growers. The program was primarily organised by an outside contractor brought in by the forestry office.
When Bikal secured funding from a funding agency in 2002-2003, it threw open the doors of education for the people Teluk Lombok. In July 2003, Usman Kallu, a young fisherman from Teluk Lombok, had the opportunity to travel with Bikal staff to Sinjai, South Sulawesi, to see the community mangrove management program in Tongke-Tongke village and another mangrove management project being conducted by the local community in Kariangau, Balikpapan, East Kalimantan. Usman brought back fascinating tales from his visit, which aroused the interest of the people of Teluk Lombok to manage the mangroves themselves. The visit also taught them that the success of a village community is heavily dependent on the existence of farmers’ organizations established by the communities themselves.
Reflecting on the failure of the Kutai Timur Forestry Office program in 2002 and the success of the Tongke-Tongke community in managing their own mangrove forest, the community was convinced that they could rehabilitate their own mangroves, and after successfully replanting, could protect and care for them. However, they needed a chance to prove this first. The community received supports to self-manage a 10-hectare mangrove forest that ran along the shoreline of their village. However, administrative requirements demanded that a formal famer organisation be created. After careful consideration, Pangkang Lestari was established in April 2004. In the local language, pangkang means mangrove. The name symbolises the desire of the community to grow and protect their mangrove forest.
Women began to participate
As well as having the opportunity to see the mangrove seedling process in Kariangau, Balikpapan in July 2003, Usman was also able to witness the method of growing crabs in special cages, which could serve as an additional source of income to fishing and seed growing. When it was first rolled out, within 20 days the crabs could be harvested and sold at prices between IDR 8,000 and IDR 10,000 per kg.
The Pangkang Lestari crab business gave to rise to innovation for the women of Teluk Lombok. During trials, it was found that not all of the crabs caught in the nets could be sold. Damaged crabs could not be sold at the market. Farmers had to throw a large proportion of them away. Usually, 2-3 kg out of every 15-20 kg catch was damaged. Considering the numbers of crab needlessly thrown away, the women came up with the idea to turn the crab into crackers.
This idea to make crackers was based on a story Usman told about a mother in Kariangau, Balikpapan, who made this product for her own consumption. When Pangkang Lestari provided training in the new method of crabbing, one mother asked what food could be processed from crab, one answer given was “crackers”.
The enthusiasm displayed by the women of Teluk Lombok was well received by the men of the village. Pangkang Lestari and the villagers agreed to form a working group at the end of 2004. The crab cracker business was hugely profitable for the villagers. While the price of raw material stood at between IDR 8,000 and IDR 10,000 per kg, the crab crackers fetched around IDR 40,000 per kg. Sales began to spread to nearest towns such as Sangatta and Bontang.
Although a relatively young organisation, the working group (Pokja), chaired by Sumanti has already demonstrated its credentials, having won the Appropriate Community Technology Competition both for Kutai Timur regency and East Kalimantan province. This group subsequently represented East Kalimantan at a national competition in September 2005.
Learning and working together in the community
The community’s high level of enthusiasm for learning is seen in various activities being conducted in Teluk Lombok sub-village. In carrying out the mangrove rehabilitation process, for example, Pangkang Lestari has its own method for observing mangrove seedling development. Each month, field training is conducted both at the seedling location (to observe seeds – for example, which insects are destructive to the process and how to overcome this) and at the growing location on the shoreline (to see the extent of monthly growth and the problems at the growing location). After the sessions, while relaxing on the beach, the community usually holds a serious discussion on the mangrove project.
Thanks to the community’s perseverance, the mangrove seeds have grown well. An environmental observer from Semarang, Muhammad Marzuki, as quoted in Kompas daily newspaper (9 August 2004), explained that growing mangroves is no easy task. “It can take months for them to grow a single inch. The problems arise when the coastal community doesn’t understand the need for mangrove forests,” he said. At Teluk Lombok, about 200,000 mangrove seeds have been planted. According to Ado, the young mangrove trees, which measured around 30 cm to 50 cm when planted, had grown to between 1.5 m and 2 m within 13 months. Based on this, the rehabilitation of Pangkang Lestari can be judged a success.
What is more, the area of rehabilitation, which originally encompassed 10 hectares in August, had grown to 12 hectares by December 2004. The farmers decided to carry out additional independent seeding activities after identifying a denuded area along the coast that needed to be reseeded. The mangrove seeds in this additional area have also grown well.
The success of the mangrove rehabilitation showed that Pangkang Lestari could be trusted as a seed provider. The Kutai Timur Forestry Office usually gained seeds from Balikpapan. Pangkang Lestari was able to supply 375,000 mangrove seeds over an area of 150 hectares at a price of IDR 450,000 per stem to the forestry office.
When working to provide mangrove seedlings, Pangkang Lestari has included around 50 families from RT1, RT2 and RT3 of Teluk Lombok sub-village. Everyone – men, women and even children – plays a part. The job of looking for mangrove seeds in the area falls to the men. If seeds are required, they can be found all the way to Bontang. Meanwhile, the women and children usually help to package earth in polybags. The seeds are then ‘planted’ in the polybags by men and women alike.
Next, thousands of mangrove seeds already packaged are placed in position by the shoreline. This temporary place has a simple roof made of palm leaf thatch, whose function is to protect the seeds from direct sunlight. As the men heading out to sea pass this temporary shelter, they usually check on the condition of the seeds. In one to three months, the seeds are ready for planting along the shore or sent to places requesting the seeds, such as to Bontang or Bulungan, East Kalimantan.
Starting to have better income: a step to reach better livelihood
By the end of 2006, at least three regions in East Kalimantan – Bontang, Sangatta and Bulungan – were using the mangrove seeds supplied by Pangkang Lestari and the Teluk Lombok community. From the end of 2005 until October 2006, at least 1,113,500 seedlings had been sold, with sales totalling IDR 541,850,000. The price of the seedlings had also increased from IDR 450 to IDR 600 each.
The results of an interview conducted in October 2006 during a project of Participatory Poverty Analysis in four villages, including Sangkima, shows that an economic increase has occurred in Teluk Lombok sub-village from the sale of mangrove seedlings. Husen, 77, a Pangkang Lestari member, told that he had received millions of rupiah in seedling sales. Sumanti, 34, chairman of Crab Cracker working group, said (in the Mamuju language), ”Ampunna’ u’de tau mabbalukang polo, u’de diang ni pambayyari anak sekolah ampe mambayarri panginranggang” – roughly translated as, ”Without the mangrove seedlings, we wouldn’t have the money to keep our children in school, or pay our debts.” The seeding sells have indeed helped in terms of income generating, as an additional to the usual income from fishing activities.
An additional income, of course, comes from crab crackers. Now, Pangkang Lestari, the woman group and the community are still trying to find other additional incomes from cultivations of crabs and seaweed.
With community businesses in Kutai National Park already starting to run, a community finance institute needed to establish. Since August 2006, Tapak Surya Service Unit has begun operating in five villages in the park. The service unit, which is an extension of the Daya Lestari credit union, is expected to function as a community savings and loans outlet, with Tapak Surya also playing the role of educator for the community on the importance of saving and financial planning for the future. If, for example, the community runs into problems over operating capital, they have the ability to take out a loan with Tapak Surya.
Sharing learning and experience with other communities
The activities of the Teluk Lombok community has served as a source of inspiration to communities in other sub-villages and villages in the national park. The existence of a crab cracker working group, for example, has encouraged the establishment of a shrimp cracker working group within the Sumber Rejeki group in Satu sub-village, Sangkima Lama village. This group originally focused solely on fishing. However, inspired by Teluk Lombok community, they decided to form their own group focusing on shrimp crackers production. A number of meetings have been held between the two working groups to share experiences relating to their businesses and the women’s organisations.
The Gula Angin Mamiri farmers’ group, also located in Satu sub-village, has also started doing women empowerment in the gula merah (palm sugar) and gula semut (another diversification from palm sugar) businesses. Whereas previously the group only produced palm sugar, which has been harvested by the men for generations, they have now diversified their products. Gula semut production is a job for both men and women. The men take the sap from the trees, while the women boil it and turn it into sugar. In the future, the community plans to divide the work according to product, with the women focusing on gula semut and the men on gula merah.
Dealing with challenges through learning and working together
The mangrove farmers of Teluk Lombok have also found additional energy from their crab cracker sales, which are sold by the women. Bearing in mind the far higher price of the crackers than raw crabs, the local community is aware that it is still hard to guarantee a steady supply of natural raw materials because the mangrove forest has still not fully returned to its former state. Therefore, in-cage-crabbing activities started. Initial trials were not successful enough to grow crabs in the cages. The farmers of Pangkang Lestari are now concentrating their efforts on studying more effective ways to increase the size of the crabs in the crab cages.
Recently, Teluk Lombok community has also begun to engage in a seaweed cultivation, an activity usually found in mangrove forest areas. A Seaweed Working Group has been set up under Pangkang Lestari. In November 2006 they conducted a comparative study on business management and seaweed marketing in Bali. At the beginning of 2007, they tried to cultivate seaweed. However, the trial was unsuccessfull due to several reasons (the different type of the seeweed, hard waves on the seashore, etc). Pangkang Lestari now is still learning a more effective way to cultivate seaweed.
The women group still also demonstrates enthusiasm and energy. Nor are they stopping at crab crackers; they are learning about various other foods that can be processed from seaweed, in line with Pangkang Lestari’s efforts to cultivate seaweed. Various kinds of food, including puddings, sweet delicacies and seaweed ice cream, can already be processed by the women in Teluk Lombok. The women hopes when the seaweed cultivation runs well, they are ready to process the raw material and, then, sell the processed products.
Other challenges are also faced such as the needs to find new markets for mangrove seeds and applicable technology. Stakeholder such as the local NGO still helps Pangkang Lestari and other communities in Kutai National Park in terms of capacity building and organizational strengthening. Supports for the community are also from local leaders such as Ado Tadulako and Usman Kallu, who are always there to reconsolidate the community members when they feel down.
Other major issue in Kutai National Park is a different opinion among the local and central government (the Ministry of Forestry). The local government of Kutai Timur regency has proposed to take out about 23,000 ha of the National Park area due to several reasons, such as new encrauchment. The Ministry of Forestry thinks that if it happens it would become a precedence for other national parks. Special local and national taskforces have been established to deal with this matter. The local communities, who have lived for many years in the area, worry that this matter can disturbed their live. It is hoped that any decision made will be for the sake of the communities, such as in teluk Lombok, who have much depended on and helped rehabilitate the mangrove forests.
Another opportunity in terms of global waming phenomenon
Recently, the world has faced disasters (such as floods, droughts, hunger and spread of certain deseases). Scientists prove that they relate to the phenomenon of global warming leading to further impacts. Forests in equatorial countries, such as Indonesia, become more important as their function to capture CO2. The role of forest dwellers, who have wisely managed and protect forests, becomes more significant.
A community, such as in Teluk Lombok, which had promoted the rehabilitation of mangrove forest in Kutai National Park, has given contribution to reduce global warming. In near future, voluntarily carbon market will be able to provide benefits to such community for its devotion and love for the forest. Here, Pangkang Lestari and the whole community members could be able to actively participate in reducing global warming by continuing to take care of its forest.
The above story shows that through a farmer organization, combined with several factors (such as the existance of local leaders, learning spirits and stakeholder supports), a community can consolidate its power to conduct a forest rehabilitation and community empowerment. Although it is not always smooth, challenges are faced together. In near future, the community even has an opportunity to actively involve in efforts to reduce global warming and gain more incentives from the forest.