Community mangrove management: A case study in coastal Demak District, Java, Indonesia
Coastal mangrove forests are unique in many ways, and due to the complex nature of their geography and ecology, they can present a substantial challenge to land managers. Mangroves are generally situated along the coastline between land and sea, where they thrive in brackish water. In most countries of the world, and Indonesia in particular, this area of the coastline is also generally a hotspot of human activity. Between the desirability of living close to the ocean, and the potential for resource extraction activities like fishing and aquaculture, these forests face serious competition with other land use activities. However, the interaction between humans and mangrove forests is not a zero sum game, and varying degrees of intervention in the system can result in benefits both for society and the forests themselves. This page explores varying degrees of human intervention in mangrove forests in Java, and examines how community based management interventions can result in societal benefits both on the local and global scale. The specific case of four coastal communities, with different approaches to community based mangrove management (CBMM), and how their management decisions affect outcomes in terms of improved livelihoods, and the ecological integrity of their local mangrove forests.
Java is a part of the chain of islands comprising Indonesia, and is extremely populous. As a whole, Indonesia holds an estimated 20-22% of the mangrove forest worldwide. However, over the course of the last thirty years or so the country has lost an estimated 40% of its mangrove forests, for a large part to conversion of the land in aquaculture Many local coastal communities rely on mangroves as a source of income, either through the semi-conversion of the land into ponds for shrimp aquaculture, or through the gathering of fish and non-timber forest products that occur naturally in these biodiverse and productive coastal forests. Community level decisions made in relation to mangrove management in Indonesia also have the potential to spillover globally. A recent paper outlined how the large spatial extent of coastal forest in the country, and the productive nature of the ecosystem, has the potential to draw huge amounts of carbon from the global atmosphere, providing an exceptionally high-quality terrestrial carbon sink. The researches estimated that by cutting down on mangrove degradation, Indonesia could reduce its land use change emissions by 10-31%.
The borderline position of mangroves along the coast, where they can not be identified completely as either forest or ocean, creates complexity in the social circumstances surrounding these ecosystems. Government in Indonesia has historically struggled to define exactly which department should oversee policy surrounding mangrove forest use, and there persists a general confusion around this topic, which each region tends to solve in its own way.
In particular, this case study will examine the development of four villages located along the same coastline. These villages are located in the Demak district, Seyung subdistrict, in Central Java, Indonesia. The names of the villages are Bedono, Swirulan, Timbulsloko, and Surordadi. Each of these villages adopted different CBMM schemes, and began from similar extremely degraded baseline ecosystem conditions. Damastuti and de Groot (2017) conducted a retrospective analysis of the benefits and flaws of each management scheme, and the type of results generated for both mangrove conservation, and community livelihood. The results will demonstrate how CBMM can benefit ecosystems and society at large, as well as provide some insight into some of the better systems for mangrove management in Indonesia.
Mangrove forests provided a huge array of ecosystem services to coastal dwellers. Some of these services include:
Mangrove forests can only provide these services when they remain intact to at least some extent. However, the largest ecological concern may in fact be due to competing land use activities, specifically aquaculture development. Historically this has been the cause of most mangrove degradation in Indonesia, but this does not necessarily have to be the case, as some investigators have outlined systems of less invasive aquaculture development that in the long term can lead to the sustainable production of fish, and less degradation on the landscape. Unfortunately, this adaptation of sustainable aquaculture practices did not come to central Java in time, and all the forests in the case study are in the process of recovering from a severe state of degredation for destructive land use practices in the past.
The following is a brief time line of land use practices in central Java
Technically speaking, the state holds radical title of all forested land, however the government respects customary usage rights to a certain extent. The state is the original author of all regulations surrounding mangrove land use, although it does show favour to community based management plans, as outlined below. There are four separate government agencies that are legally responsible for mangrove management, depending on the geographic circumstances of the forest in question. These agencies include:
Currently, there are two policies put in practice with regards to the government national policy related to mangrove management. These are "Presidential relation 73/2012 concerning the National Strategy of Mangrove Ecosystem Management", and "Minister of Environment regulation 201/2004", regarding the criteria and standards for determining mangrove destruction". Taken together these two pieces of legislation have important consequences for our communities of interest. Specifically, they identify that main priority of the Indonesian government is promote mangrove conservation and rehabilitation, while still affording for sustainable use, especially by local communities. In these regulations government actually explicitly encourages the development of community based organizations to manage local mangroves, citing the fact that national coordination on the issue is very difficult, especially given the situation regarding overlapping jurisdictions, and recognizes that in other instances CBMM has had proven results.
In practice what the legislative landscape looks like is that all mangroves that fall under park land are in the jurisdiction of MOEF, and for mangroves that do not, it is up to the local provincial government to make decisions related to their management. With regards to non-procted lands there exist at least two national level pieces of legislation that help to specifically encourage community development of mangroves at a local scale. Village Law 6/2014 is focused around the idea that in the case where communities exist next to mangroves, they possess a certain set of usufruct rights which they can exploit with the aim of developing the community economically, and for subsistence gathering.
The encouragement of economic development is counter balanced by Environmental Protection and Management Law 32/2009, which basically outlines certain rules related to environmental conservation, and maintaining the integrity of mangrove ecosystems, that a community must adhere too if they wish to engage in economic development within mangrove forests . As can be seen below, these laws both help facilitate CBMM, and demonstrate that the government on the whole is very supportive of customary tenure rights, even though the ultimate tenure rights still are in the hands of the state. These rights are written into law, and will endure until the law is changed. The following includes a breakdown of the rights associated with each village from our case study in central Java, and their management schemes:
The management practices that actually occur are bounded by the regulations set out by the government, but for the most part the extent to which a village participates in CBMM is up to the discretion its community members. Technically speaking, the government frames many of these projects as "mangrove rehabilitation" which involves frequent replaying of new mangrove seedlings in degraded areas, and developing these areas over time so that the economic resources, like mud crab, begin to return. In practice, to continue with replanting and maintenance of the forest it takes resources, and comes associated with an opportunity cost for local villagers who may not have much time to draw away from other livelihood related activities. Therefore, the most significant portion of engagement with CBMM is driven by compensation directed towards community associations for rehabilitation projects . Most of this funding comes from government agencies, however Mangrove Bahari, in Bedono, is affiliated with an NGO named OISCA (The Orgnanization for Industrial Spiritual and Cultural Advancement International), which provides a substantial amount of funding for rehabilitation.
In Central Java, the stakeholders affected directly by changes in mangrove management are the villagers who depend on the mangrove forests for their livelihood. A survey conducted in Swirulan, Bedono, Timbulsloko, and Surodadi, found that on average, of the local people interviewed, nearly 70% stated that they felt mangrove forests were "important to strongly important" for their livelihood . The majority of the contribution to local income from mangroves comes from the capture and sale of wild mud crabs, a type of gathering most practiced in Indonesia . In terms of actual benefits to individual households that mud crab fishing provides, for most villages in the study it was around 40% of their annual income, but in Swirulan the figure was closer to 70% .
Interested stakeholders include mainly the government of Indonesia, and an the NGO OISCA. Indonesia is a country with high relief topography towards the interior of many islands, so a lot of the human settlement, particularly in Java, is located towards the coast. This means that coastal erosion is a huge threat to the settlements and infrastructure of the country, and as such the government is motivated to find cost effective means of promoting the retention of the coastlines . Mangrove "green belts" are viewed as a way of accomplishing this goal, while also encouraging local economic development, and these goals are made explicit in the legislation outline above.
OISCA is self described as an organization that "contributes to Humanity's environmentally sustainable development through a holistic approach emphasizing the interconnectedness of agriculture, ecological integrity, and human spirit.", and their involvement in the community of Bedono is related to their efforts to achieve these outlined mission objectives.
The outcome from the adoption of CBMM, for the villages and mangrove forests together, is overall quite positive. Up until the time of surveying in 2014, the villages managed to plant some 5.7 million mangrove seedlings, leading to a net reforestation of around 240ha of coastal forest . Even though this forest cover is likely not comparable to historical standards pre-clearing for aquaculture, for local people dependent on mangroves for substance needs and livelihood supplementation, any increase in cover that can promote the return of the ecosystem services is valuable. The following list highlights the categories where each village was successful.
In terms of economic returns to local livelihood, it appears that the bottom-up collaborative management scheme organized by Kaya Makmur was the most successful strategy out of the four village's approaches to CBMM. Per household, mangroves in Surodadi contributed nearly $2200 USD in supplementary income, a fairly substantial sum .
The results for Swirulan were not very promising. The mangrove re-establishment was very low (4ha out of the total 204ha for all the villages), this is potentially due to a unfavourable geographic location that exposed the area to lots of waves, inhibiting the proper re-establishment of planted mangrove seedlings .
The CBMM strategy adopted by Bedono was the most succesful in rehabilitation, and resulted in the most improvements in mangrove cover. In fact, about half of the total 240ha of resorted mangrove forest is now located in Bedono . Bedono is also the only village to have partnered with an NGO (OISCA) with previous experience in this type of work. This demonstrates how valuable additional technical and administrative can be for communities trying to improve their rehabilitation techniques.
Timbulsloko was fairly successful, and ended up increasing their mangrove cover by a total of 52ha, and providing an additional $1462 USD per household in income .
Based on the previous status of mangroves in this region prior to rehabilitation intervention, it would seem that any practice aimed at increasing mangrove cover, and community access to this resource can be considered progress. Overall, the national level legislation aimed at mangrove tenure and usage rights seems highly encouraging, and provides a solid legal basis for villagers to take action in their communities and being making improvements in their local mangrove forests. There remain however, a number of challenges that must be overcome for this progress to remain sustainable, and continue to provide ecological benefits to future inhabitants.
One of the main challenges is the dissemination of information, both related to best practices for planting and rehabilitation, and to the diffusion of knowledge surrounding village mangrove policy into the local community. In all the villages in question, a maximum of only about 50% of the villagers were even aware of the unique regulations surrounding mangrove use present in their community . This poses problems for the potential future exploration of the resource, if even local people are unaware of how they are expected to behave with regards to fishing and gathering NTFPs in the mangrove forest. An awareness of the rules could also potentially help build a stronger foundation of engagement for local people in mangrove rehabilitation activities.
Another major issue is the large amount of dependence on outside sources of funding to stimulate interest in mangrove rehabilitation in the communities. In the long run this could prove potentially problematic in terms of the community associations remaining intact and continuing to participate in mangrove rehabilitation.
Improving the successfulness of community associations is a complex issue, which many researchers have attempted to address. A meta-analysis of community forestry systems worldwide concluded that the factors most conducive to success were "well-defined property rights, effective institutional arrangements, and community interests and incentives". Of particular importance to the institutional issues present in our Java case study is the factors surrounding community interests and incentives. One way of improving community interest in mangrove rehabilitation activities could be to transform the mangrove rehabilitation societies into more of a producers collective for the sale of mud crab. Given that mud crab is the most valuable product extracted from the mangrove forests, and that villagers generally only get 40% market value for this product through individual sales to a middleman, forming a producers collective could allow the community to negotiate more bargaining power, and perhaps extract more monetary returns from the resource without increasing production. This could potentially stimulate community interest in rehabilitation. Some of this additional income could then be channeled into rehabilitation efforts. Such an arrangement could help to improve the value of the forest for all stakeholders, by providing an increase in income for the villagers, and more efforts allocated towards mangrove conservation to address government concerns.
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