Reconciling conservation and development interests for coastal livelihoods
: understanding foundations for small-scale fisheries co-management in Savu Raijua District, eastern Indonesia

  • Pia Louise Harkness

    Student thesis: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - CDU


    Small-scale fisheries provide important income and food contributions to coastal livelihoods in tropical developing nations, and operate within complex livelihood and development contexts. However, coastal ecosystems are being impacted by local and broader scale factors including overfishing, climate change and pollution. Efforts to address these threats are required to ensure that small-scale fisheries can continue to support livelihood outcomes. However, research shows that considerable international investment into prevailing marine conservation approaches in tropical developing nations has not resulted in proportional, long-term, sustainable fisheries or livelihood outcomes.

    This PhD research explores the implications of an NGO-driven marine conservation process (establishment of the Savu Sea Marine National Park) and district government development initiatives in Savu Raijua District, eastern Indonesia. The research was guided by four objectives: 1) to document and understand coastal livelihood dynamics and vulnerabilities in Savu Raijua, focusing on marine-based activities; 2) to investigate community participation in, and livelihood implications of, the Savu Sea Marine National Park’s establishment; 3) to examine district government coastal livelihood programs aimed at poverty reduction, their outcomes, and local strengths and weaknesses in program delivery; and draw from this case to 4) identify opportunities and barriers for the establishment of small-scale fisheries co-management to address local marine resource management and livelihood challenges.

    The research applied participatory and case study approaches, used mixed methods, and adopted a community participation lens and livelihood perspective. Fieldwork took place over 12 months in three villages in Savu Raijua District. Primary data collection methods included semi-structured interviews, focus group discussions, participatory mapping and field observations with communities; and semi-structured interviews with from government and local and international NGO representatives. Secondary data was gleaned from reports, government documents, legislation and peer-reviewed literature.

    The research findings showed that Savu Raijuan coastal households were highly dependent on small-scale fishing for income, food and as the primary fall-back livelihood activity; however, reports of declining catches indicated a need for local management. Negative livelihood impacts from the national park were only avoided by a lack of enforcement and community awareness of its existence. While district government programs were aimed at addressing livelihood vulnerabilities, including market exposure and seasonality, poor design and implementation inhibited the attainment of program goals. Co-management offers a more holistic approach to marine conservation and community development challenges than the existing externally and locally driven policies and practices, which were not aligned. However, weak local capacities and disjointed legislation present two key barriers to the establishment of a co-management regime.

    Knowledge from this case study confirms that top-down marine conservation models are unlikely to achieve conservation or livelihood goals in remote, developing settings such as Savu Raijua. In these settings, long-term sustainable ecological and livelihood outcomes are more likely to be achieved through investment in developing skills and capacity for co-management, both locally within communities as well as in sub-national (government and non-government) implementing agencies.
    Date of AwardFeb 2020
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorNatasha Stacey (Supervisor)

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