Planet Indonesia is Scaling Up: Phase 1 of the Darwin Initiative

To scale-up up a program and expand impact-driven model takes a lot of work.

For the past two years, our coastal team had been implementing the pilot project of our programs and services to the coastal village of Sungai Nibung situated in the threatened mangrove forests of West Kalimantan.

Although our program has originally been utilised in rainforests, we always believed through experience that our socio-economically conscious approach to conservation could be applied to a variety of settings and for a variety of conservation agendas. Because of that, in 2016 we decided to rigorously test our model in both a terrestrial rainforest site and a coastal mangrove forest.

The pilot in the coastal regions of West Kalimantan made that belief a proven reality.

In Sungai Nibung 200 households enrolled to receive business and literacy services, and in the two-year period, the village fisheries experienced a 100% increase in harvest form period closures. This translates to roughly 5,000 hectares of mangrove forests protected through our Conservation Cooperative approach. 

With new funding awarded to us by the UK Government through the Darwin Initiative we will have the resources to scale up that success to reach an additional 600 households and 10,000 hectares through 6 more villages.

This is what we launched earlier this month when Oceanwise Australia joined us to survey the mangrove forests around Sungai Nibung.

It isn’t an easy journey. Rural communities have a history of being exploited and gaining their trust can be a delicate endeavour, especially when you’re asking them to attempt new natural resource management methods.  

The concept works like this.

Ecosystems can become dilapidated from overfishing. This not only throws the environment out of balance, it leaves the community that depend on these natural resources for food and money at a loss.

The village of Sungai Nibung, pictured here, relies on fishing and the surrounding environment for food and economic stability.

The village of Sungai Nibung, pictured here, relies on fishing and the surrounding environment for food and economic stability.

This causes an ecosystem collapse and as villages experience decreased harvest rates from the ocean, they turn to other activities like illegal logging or selling their forests to monoculture oil palm and logging companies.

The long-term solution is to ensure that those natural resources can be relied upon for generations to come by engaging communities in conservation.

To do this, our method uses temporary closures which work by periodically banning fishing and usage of an area during set months to allow the population to restore itself and mature.

Sungai Nibung was the first coastal village our fisheries team tried to convince that the temporary closure system could restore crab, fish, and shrimp populations while protecting important forests. 

After engaging in numerous meetings and discussions the village leader decided to implement their first crab closure during the months of October 2017 – January 2018 

We conducted intensive monitoring, lead by local villagers who we trained in research methods. Our local heroes spent weeks collecting harvest data at landing sites and speaking with villagers about their harvests to get hard results regarding the effectiveness of these methods.

Afterwards our team went back to ask them to make it a permanent practice, armed with our results which showed that on average fishermen caught 2x more crabs and fish in rivers closed vs rivers not closed but the village leader had already decided to implement another closure between the months of May and July.

Now, they are currently planning for their third closure which will take place between November 2018 – February 2019.

“[The village] sees the results, you don’t have to convince us anymore.” said the leader of the Conservation Cooperative Planet Indonesia.

To explain in hard numbers, that 100% increase in harvest means the average monthly income was just USD 80 before the closure and after the closure - that figure now exceeds USD 200.

This isn’t a fishing method we came up with, it’s a traditional one that was practiced in that area and had been lost due to a variety of social factors. It demonstrated to the community that if their environment thrives, then they’ll blossom with it.

A fisherman sifting through his catch of the day in the ports of Sungai Nibung.

A fisherman sifting through his catch of the day in the ports of Sungai Nibung.

We also have implemented literacy programs, financial literacy training, and have created Village level savings and loans programs to improve economic security. These programs uplift the community who in turn protect the surrounding mangrove forests and ecosystems.

In the next 3 years, we will also implement our new Community Health Program. This will focus on improving access to reproductive services, family planning, and conducting trainings on nutrition and diet for villages who struggle to have access to anything besides fish and rice.

On the 4th of September, we held a meeting with all 7 coastal villages who would benefit from our services to show them the results of our pilot project in Sungai Nibung and ask them if they would like to join.

Based on our results, all 7 villages made a pledge to enrol in our programs and services.

Together, these villages are now talking about creating a Locally Managed Marine Area, which is a landscape wide agreement that utilizes a number of zonation and management techniques to restore forests, improve food security, and ensure that their natural homes will be around for generations to come.

And this is only one of the programs currently ongoing at Planet Indonesia. We have many more ongoing and many to be launched… stay tuned.


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Adam MillerComment