CASE STUDY: Community based ecological mangrove rehabilitation (CBEMR) in Indonesia from small (12-33 ha) to medium scales (400 ha) with pathways for adoption at larger scales (> 5000 ha)

Ben Brown, Ratna Fadillah, Yusran Nurdin, Iona Soulsby, Rio Ahmad

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While successful examples of large-scale (5 000-10 000 ha) ecological wetland/mangrove rehabilitation projects exist worldwide, mangrove rehabilitation efforts in Indonesia, both large and small, have mainly failed. The majority of projects (both government programs and non-government initiatives) have oversimplified the technical processes of mangrove rehabilitation, favouring the direct planting of a restricted subset of mangrove species (from the family Rhizophoracea), commonly in the lower half of the intertidal system (from Mean Sea Level down to Lowest Atmospheric Tide) where mangroves, by and large, do not naturally grow. Aside from lack of appropriate technical assessment, these lower inter-tidal mudflats are often targeted for rehabilitation because true degraded mangrove forests are frequently linked to tenurial issues that require significant effort and investment to resolve. Ecological Mangrove Rehabilitation (EMR) has been implemented and well documented for the past several decades in New World mangrove systems (Lewis, 2005, 2009b) and was selected as a best practice for adaptation and trials in Indonesia. Whereas in the US, the five-step process primarily focuses on biophysical assessments and eco-hydrological repair, when applied to the Indonesian scenario, EMR requires both lower-cost biophysical approaches and greater attention to socio-cultural-political approaches common in sustainable development and coastal resource management programs. The adaptation of EMR was initially tested in small-scale projects, ranging from 12-33 ha in sites from the islands of Sumatera and Sulawesi. Biophysical adaptations included use of low-cost biophysical assessment methods, reliance on manual labour, strategic breaching of aquaculture ponds dike walls, manual construction of tidal channels, and human assisted propagule dispersal while socio-political adaptations included land tenure settlement, increased use of training of trainers programs, gender assessments and sensitisation, enhanced community organising, coordination with numerous government agencies and participatory monitoring. Initial projects succeeded in rehabilitating mangrove coverage and diversity, while catalysing community-based or collaborative management. The most recent Community Based Ecological Mangrove Rehabilitation (CBEMR) project took place on Tanakeke Island, South Sulawesi, where 1776 ha of mangroves were reduced to approximately 576 ha over two decades due to development of 1200 ha of aquaculture ponds. At least 800 ha of ponds on the island were disused as of the start of a four-year project to restore 400 ha at a cost of US$590,000 and initiate adaptive collaborative management. Local communities from six villages willingly made their ponds available for rehabilitation, as their main livelihood had switched to seaweed mariculture and they recognised the urgent need to restore mangrove coverage for fisheries value and storm protection. The initial site restored (43 ha) has naturally recruited to an average density of 2171 stems/ha., 32 months after initial restoration. Three more recent sites have already demonstrated natural recruitment between 767-1450 seedlings within 7-10 months after restoration. Local communities have developed mangrove management groups and regulations for both remnant mangrove forests and rehabilitation areas, which have been acknowledged at higher levels of government. The implementation of gender analyses, gender sensitisation and the development of Womangrove groups have been crucial to ensure the equal involvement of women in the process of mangrove rehabilitation and management. The process of CBEMR at this point is being considered for upscaling and replication, and has been included as a best practice in both the South Sulawesi Provincial and Indonesian National Mangrove Strategies. The CBEMR process has been recommended by the Ministry of Forests - Natural and Protected Forest Management Agency (PHKA) as a requisite practice to restore the 4000 ha in the Tanjung Panjang Nature Reserve in Gorontalo Province, which nearly completely and illegally converted to aquaculture ponds over the past two decades. CBEMR and strategic breaching is also being considered for restoration in Indonesia's largest contiguous converted mangrove forest, which includes 60 000 ha of largely abandoned and disused shrimp ponds in the Mahakam Delta, East Kalimantan. The proven effectiveness of the CBEMR process at small and medium scales relies on its ability to resolve both biophysical and socio-political issues underscoring mangrove forest degradation in Indonesia. If and when this is applied to large-scale restoration, it is sure that continued attention will need to be paid to both biophysical and socio-political approaches.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


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