The Indonesian government is embarking on a massive mangroves rehabilitation project to create thousands of jobs for the coastal communities. By Diana M, Indonesia correspondent, Maritime Fairtrade
With 3.3 million hectares of mangrove ecosystem – equivalent to 23 percent of world’s total area – the Indonesian government has been intensely working to make the most of this invaluable natural resource. The government is going to increase conservation and rehabilitation works of the damaged mangrove areas to create jobs for more locals.
Within the first few months after the country was hit with the first case of COVID-19 in March 2020, the government started to implement the national economic recovery (PEN) program, which sought to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic through several national policies, including the implementation of labor-intensive initiatives to absorb the rapidly-growing number of unemployed persons.
For the mangrove ecosystems, under the supervision of the Coordinating Ministry for Ministry and Maritime Affairs, the government has committed to rehabilitate 600,000 hectares of damaged mangrove which will create thousands of jobs.
An official from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry told Maritime Fairtrade this labor-intensive program has already employed around 40,000 persons since starting in October 2020.
“We started the PEN programs in October, and we have covered almost 17,000 hectares. There were about a thousand groups of farmers involved, which worked to around 40,000 people,” Acting Director General of Watershed Management and Forest Rehabilitation at the Ministry, Helmi Basalamah, explained.
Basalamah added that the works included planting activity and wave-breaker installation, among others. The Ministry has allocated US$21 million to be paid to the farmers and coastal communities involved in the project.
Aside from creating jobs and positive environmental impact, another goal of the government is to turn the mangrove ecosystems into ecotourism destinations.
Basalamah said the government has been encouraging the coastal communities to optimize benefits from the healthy mangrove ecosystems, including tourism potential.
“Now that the mangrove ecosystems are in better shape, the communities have started to focus their attention to turning them into ecotourism destinations so that the locals have a mean of ongoing and sustainable way of making a living.
“Also, the locals have been using materials from the mangroves as natural dyes to make eco-friendly batik (traditional fabric from Indonesia).
“People are now more aware of multiplying the benefits of mangroves.”
More needs to be done
While the effort to create jobs during the pandemic was appreciated, more needs to be done to save the mangroves, according to Yayasan Wahana Mangrove Indonesia (WAHMI), a local mangrove rehabilitation and conservation organization.
WAHMI executive director Nurul Ikhsan told the Maritime Fairtrade that the government program should be extended to several areas in Indonesia that are currently not included.
One example is the southern coast of Java, which is, in fact, very prone to natural disasters like tsunami due to the fact that the island lies on the Pacific Ring of Fire. Mangroves can provide protection against tsunamis by acting as a natural barrier.
Ikhsan said it was likely that the government did not base their plan on a set of integrated data, like a comparison of mangrove areas that are in more critical condition. Such lack of data, he added, affected decision-making on the recent programs and also lessened the impact of the national effort to rehabilitate mangroves.
“Some of the most pressing action for the mangrove restoration effort is the creation of a detailed country-wide mangrove map with priority levels for rehabilitation so that funding can be given first to critical areas,” he explained.
Stronger collaboration with NGO’s and experts is also necessary as provide valuable input to improve the government’s plan.
Basalamah said that for the long term, the government does have a plan to develop a system to record the data of the mangrove swamps and on the various ways to manage them. A registry monitoring service, where communities can independently submit report on the development of their mangrove areas, is also part of this plan.